Raheem Devaughn: Mr. Independent [INTERVIEW]

Raheem Devaughn

Cupid ain't dead! He's from DC and he's trying to get you chose this Spring. Three-time Grammy-nominated, R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn is spreading love from coast to coast, as he promotes his latest studio album  and his  philanthropic effort, The LoveLife Foundation. Love,Sex, Passion debuted at #1 on the Billboard  R&B Albums chart, DeVaughn's second charting album in a row as an independent artist. In the ultra-competive "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" music industry, Raheem DeVaughn is one of the rare artists to know what his customer wants and consistently deliver upon that–no 5, 10 year hiatus necessary. 

The DC native is currently hard at work traveling the country on Ledisi's "Intimate Truth" tour, working on his next album, hosting a radio show, and much, much more. EBONY spoke with "The Love King" to speak on love, his many projects and what he'll miss about Marion Berry. 

EBONY:  How is 2015 treating you so far?

Raheem DeVaughn: Blessed. It's great, man. Having the # 1 R&B album in the country, #4 R&B/hip-hop album in the country, #no.2 independent album in the country–you know on the Billboards. We're definitely off to a great start with this new album. My team philosophy is, 'It's not about where you start, but its where you finish.' We're definitely off to a great start with this new album and the feedback has been tremendous.

EBONY: This is your 5th studio album. Where is your mind musically today, in comparison to the other works you've dropped?

RD: I'm more focused than ever on my craft, I'll say that. I stay in the studio diligently. I'm always trying to create. My mind is always wandering on creating that next day. In my mind, I'm already trying to figure how to continue to be consistent…you know, what's the sixth album going to sound like? I kinda got myself into a pattern, once the album comes out, I kinda detach myself from it immediately. In a sense of, you're as great as your last body of work. In my personal opinion, you're as great as your last song, your last hit, and your last body of work. So its important to me to maintain consistency.. to be great, be creative, be innovative and work within the means with what I have. And make something out of nothing. Not out of nothing, but out of what is to be independent. Being independent isn't as flashy as a lot of people may think. It's a lot of hard work, its a lot of investing your own money. And to creatively time to make your day work—it's on you to make it work, and no one else. That keeps things in perspective for me, too.

EBONY: With these new metric systems–streaming, twitter analytics, etc–influencing the way records are being promoted and sold, how do you navigate the industry? 

RD: Oh man, I'm still understanding it, I'm still deciphering it…I'm still building a following. Because my fan base tends to be a little older I always get the 'youngins along the way and grab new fans. I know the majority of the numbers, the highest numbers, when I saw the numbers today was streaming. Unfortunately, as artists we don't eat off the streaming like we should. There's certain laws that are trying to be fought for that will better dictate how we get paid off of streaming and how it's counted towards album sells and stuff of that nature. That's a part of understanding the digital world and where its going. We don't have a choice. If you're not controlling the change, you know. You have to make new creative ways to get the music out to the people. The challenge is to become more creative in your marketing. Once again, its music, its art. With that being said, you gotta work hard. And I think where the connection is made, above and beyond, is putting out music, is being live on stage.

EBONY: What's your take on the state of music right now? Who are you listening to?

RD: I think its great. It's definitely a resurgence of music. It's a whole new wave of music coming out of L.A, Atlanta, DMV area same situations. You know cats are getting old, it's time to pave the way and start helping the young boys. Its growing, its a movement brewing that you can't quite explain what it is or what it's called. It's like something in the water.. It's definitely brewing. I'm heavily involved in that. Like Phil Ade. Like Chaz French. He's an artist being courted by a lot of different labels right now. He's actually signed to me and my partner, Dre The Mayor. We put out his project in October. I'm heavily involved with the music and culture. Many nights, different cats will hit my phone and confide in me about the moves they're trying to make and know that those conversations are good with me. I always try to be a mentor or an example of what our culture should be and how you should rep it being where I'm from.

EBONY: Love is always a central theme in your records, what does that word mean to you?

RD: Love is the highest frequency we can operate on. Its one thing in life…it's emotion, its a feeling, its not always a happy thing, you know what I mean. I just want to touch on all that as an artist. It's really, once again, about being consistent. When I call myself "The Love King," it aint cuz I'm trying to lure your lady in the bedroom its more in the sense of I love my people. I'm a people person…I genuinely love people, I love my fans– people who support my music and the culture. And I want people to feel that in the music. I think of myself as a modern day hippie, or how I would describe myself in the past as an R&B hippie, Soul rock star. It's a hippie movement. A good vibration of love and exchange of positive energies. Music is a weapon. And proof of that is you can take a room of people and play different music and get two different results. You play some of my shit and it might be love connections or some indecent proposals [Laughter]. Music is a frequency. And my frequency when I put it out there is on the love vibes. It's not always sappy. Like "Bulletproof" is a love song. It's a Black love song. I made it for my people. I made it for the world, but I made it for my people in particular.

EBONY: There's a line in a song on the new album that stood out where you mention 'going to her mama's crib' [laughter] Care to speak on that one?

RD: Yeah, you're talking about "Baby Come Back." Yeah, sometimes you can't be too proud to beg for that. That's one of those Chicago player lines. I can't take credit for that line right there. I gotta give BJ The Chicago Kid all praises due. He's a hell of a talent. I've toured with BJ in the past. Its so great to see him getting his just due as an artist. He represents that new wave for the soul. That edgy soul. That real shit. I had called BJ up while I was working on the album, after I heard BJ's Pineapple Now-Laters project. He had this one cut on there that was just so cold. I told him I didn't care if he wrote the whole song, he was like I like your process too so let's just get it in and see what comes from it. 

EBONY: Tell us about your non-profit, The LoveLife Foundation?

RD: I care about people. It's a lot of things I think should be different in the world. With The LoveLife, Foundation is about the fight against domestic violence. Particularly which happens with women. It's about feeding the homeless. Education with the youth, arts in the schools. Those are some of the immediate initiatives we're hitting the ground running with.

EBONY: Mayor Marion Berry passed late last year. I know he held a special place in the hearts of many DC natives, what stood out to you about him?

RD: Marion Berry was one of those people that cared about people, like genuinely. He cared about what was going on in DC. He was one of the first guys to create summer programs for the youth and helping them find jobs. Mentoring for the youth back when DC was on fire as far as the murder rate and all the challenges we had. He was the first one to build and create opportunities for the youth. He was very much about the youth and education and making sure that they get a way out. In his passing he deserves total, utmost respect. I think it was totally disrespectful what took place, with TMZ and what not, but at the end of the day we're not gonna acknowledge that. We remember the legacy. He was a great man. 

EBONY: Ultimately, what legacy would you like to leave?

RD: I'm still writing it. I learned to humble myself.  If that's God's will…What will be, will be. I would love to have a Nobel Peace prize or a communist activist award, NAACP award, that's more my focus. That's more of a realistic goal to try to have as someone who cares about people and what I'm doing. We're writing history everyday. I want to be remembered as someone who cares about people, that made great music, a person of integrity, a leader, a owner, and someone who was well-respected, by the gangbanging OG to Minister Farrahkhan. I've been in all different types of circles and the love is always the same. It makes you wonder sometimes what your full purpose is. I don't think I've reached my full purpose for what it is I'm supposed to be doing, but I guess it'll be revealed to me in due time.


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