Raheem Devaughn: 99% Creative Control

Although having been in the music game for a good number of years, Raheem DeVaughn is still not largely recognised as a worldwide household name. However, with his harmonious voice and impeccable talent for songwriting I struggle to understand why this is the case.

DeVaughn, the son of jazz cellist Abdul Wadud, was born in Newark, New Jersey and raised in Maryland by his mother Imani Smith. It has always been expressed that Raheem, from an extremely young age has projected his love and talents within music often taking control and conducting musical events from pre-school upwards. It was in his teens however, that Raheem decided to envision his career as an artist.

Before commercially emerging in 2005 with the release of his debut album, The Love Experience (which featured singles such as “Guess Who Loves You More” and “You”), Raheem set upon his journey performing in numerous clubs and participating in many competitions gaining the attention of many veteran producers which eventually led him to meeting his now long term manager and also signing a recording contract with Jive Records in 2002. His sophomore album Love Behind the Melody was released in January 2008. featuring the singles “Woman” and “Customer”.

DeVaughn has been compared to the likes of Dwele, D’Angelo, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder in the past to name a few. Rather than shy away from the financial, physical and emotional challenges so many of us face, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Raheem DeVaughn tackles them head on with The Love & War MasterPeace, his most ambitious album to date. I was privileged enough to have a quick catch-up with the man himself to explore his views and feelings about the current state of the music industry, society and conquering the world of showbiz.

For those who don’t know, who is Raheem DeVaughn in your own words?

I am the R&B hippie neo-soul rock star aka Radio Raheem.

You have had many comparisons but what do you feel differentiates you as an artist to others?

I am a socially conscious artist/entertainer. My voice is distinct, I may have the comparisons but I champion my individuality. In addition, I would say my penmanship. I write powerful anthems, and songs that are empowering and uplifting, especially for women

How much input did you have with the writing and producing of The Love And War MasterPeace?

I had 99% creative control in terms of this project. As with all my other projects, I like to be as involved as possible. I find that is how you get the message you want to portray across. I think within my career the only songs I co-wrote on was ‘Text Messages’ and ‘I Don’t Care’.

How long were you working on the project before you released it?

I had been working on this most recent album since the second album (Love Behind The Melody). So that would be since 2008.

Do you tend to base your music on real life experiences or is it just a matter of whatever mood takes you, as there are many relatable strong messages within them?

My music is most definitely based on my personal experiences, and the experience of those around me. Every situation is an inspiration for new music. It is what I live.

On the album one of my many favorite songs is ‘Mrs. Right’ is there one in your life at the moment?

Nah I am 100% a free agent. I don’t have the time to focus on anything more at the moment. It’s hard to get a minute to myself and to share time with my family and friends and so it wouldn’t be fair to neglect a woman by not being able to give her all the time and attention she deserves. Soon though, who knows!

Also, you have the word Love in the title of all of your albums, is there any particular reason for this?

It’s my thing. Everyone has his or her message and beliefs; one of mine is to spread love. It’s the hippy theme I think I’m going for like a tribe called quest had there thing, it stood out to me and Love is my thing, some peeps thing is money, but mine is something you cannot buy and I enjoy expressing that

Love & War MasterPeace is your third official album – what changes/growth have you made as an artist since your 2005 debut with The Love Experience?

Well this album I’d say is real reminiscent of the first. I have kept it socially conscious and tried to stay consistent with my messages and expressing the growth in my maturity as a man and socialist and also a singer.

Your songs as we have already discussed, often has a social message, like the new single ‘Bulletproof’. Do you feel it is an artist’s responsibility to try to shape/guide society?

I definitely think that as artists we affect a lot of how people eat, think, drink, dress, speak, act and behave. Not that we control it but we have a major influence on these things. Its all radio programming and image projection. If a boy’s favorite rapper talks, or acts a certain way, it is a natural reaction for the boy to try to aspire. That is another reason why there are so many deep and meaningful messages within my songs. I want those who listen to take, positivity and knowledge from what I say, and to think about it.

What are the issues going on in the world today that you feel most strongly about?

All the negative things going on at the moment, the wars, worldwide poverty, social divisions with faiths and religions, things like that are what I feel most strongly about.

Raheem Devaughn ft. Ludacris – “Bulletproof”:

What impact did performing [Love & War MasterPeace single, ‘Bulletproof’] at this year’s Grammy’s have?

Performing at the Grammy’s was amazing, it was fulfilling knowing that my musical piers were watching as I documented my history. Everything I have worked for from the very beginning was being appreciated by so many so to get that recognition, it made a huge impact.

You have been nominated twice for Grammy’s in the past – how important a goal is winning one?

I can’t say it isn’t important because that wouldn’t be truthful! For the amount of work I have and continue to put in, I feel worthy of winning a Grammy. It’s the fact of acknowledgment for my art but its very political so I won’t allow winning one or not to make or break me as a man or artist

Would you consider writing songs for other artists?

I have written for other artists before such as Usher on the track ‘Gently’ and two tracks on Ghostface Killah’s album to name a couple, so it is definitely something I have no reservations with.

What are your plans for 2010?

Well my biggest plans are to just keep working hard and doing what I do. I have a movie coming out about the story of Chess Records – Chess was probably the most important record label in blues history. It revolves around the owners and artists who made it happen which will be dropping g in the states early spring.

Can we expect any shows from you anytime soon in the UK?

Well actually, I will be touring abroad in June this year so will definitely be hoping to touchdown that side sometime soon

What are your three favorite tracks of all time?

That’s a hard question as there is so many tracks in the catalogue of my mind but I would have to say Stevie Wonder – ‘Joy Inside My Tears’, Marvin Gaye – ‘I Want You and Prince – ‘Free’.

What are the biggest lessons you have learnt so far on your journey?
The biggest lesson I have learnt so far is that you need to stay consistent also another would be to always find new ways to tell a message.

Finally, is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
I would like to obviously thank them for there support and for giving me an outlet to be heard and hopefully they will all go and pick up a copy of the album and keep supporting and showing love.

To keep up with Raheem’s latest movements follow him @RadioRah or raheemdevaughnmusic.com.

The Love & War MasterPeace is out now. BUY: iTunes | Amazon | HMV

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