Raheem DeVaughn: The Man Behind the Melody

The tide has changed in the music industry, and as it’s been said, you can either sink or swim. Raheem DeVaughn does neither. The self-proclaimed “R&B Hippie Neo-Soul Rock Star” has managed to stay afloat by changing the current. He’s just waiting for the world to get on board.  Since amassing a cult-like following in […]

The tide has changed in the music industry, and as it’s been said, you can either sink or swim. Raheem DeVaughn does neither. The self-proclaimed “R&B Hippie Neo-Soul Rock Star” has managed to stay afloat by changing the current. He’s just waiting for the world to get on board.  Since amassing a cult-like following in his hometown of Washington, DC from his widely popular mixtapes and the release of his debut album The Love Experience, Raheem DeVaughn has created a name for himself in the seemingly forgotten world of neo-soul. It’s been a long road, but refusing to be pigeonholed or categorized, DeVaughn is prepared to reach new heights with his follow-up album, Love Behind the Melody. In the midst of preparing for the release of his sophomore album and concluding a nation-wide tour with Erykah Badu and Common, DeVaughn found time to show face at VH1’s Hip-Hop Honors in New York City on October 4th. He even woke up early the next morning to speak with us about his experience in the music industry, collaborations on the upcoming album, his marital status, and the burgeoning DC music scene. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Alright, so Love Behind the Melody comes out November 27th, right? Are you excited?Raheem DeVaughn: Yeah, November 27th. I don’t really get too excited. I’m happy. I mean, it’s a blessing. Not too many people get to put out a second album these days, you know? AHHA: In a previous interview with us, you said that this album would be consistent with all of your other stuff, but different at the same time. Tell me about some of the differences.Raheem DeVaughn: I don’t want people to think I’m doing something totally left, so it’s still going to be consistent. You can just hear the growth, that’s all, in the arrangements, vocally, the harmonies, and the choice of producers I worked with. It’s a lot of A-list producers. I worked with Scott Storch, Mark Batcher, and Bryan Cox.I remember when I first signed with Jive [Records], one of the executives said, “The better the producer, the better artist you become.” AHHA: Very true. So from a business perspective, what type of growth have you experienced with this album?Raheem DeVaughn: I mean, business wise I have more stuff intact. With the first album, it was about getting the label behind it, and understanding the actual movement I have going on in the world. Now it’s about developing the right marketing strategies and stuff like that. But outside of that, you just have to have the right product for the people.AHHA: Lately, artists like yourself, Dwele, and Van Hunt, don’t necessarily get the accolades that you deserve. Why do you think that is?Raheem DeVaughn: I can’t speak on their thing, because what they do and what I do are two different things. With me in particular, I don’t think you can put me in one specific genre of music, technically. That’s why the theme “R&B Hippie Neo-Soul Rock Star” was created, because my music is very much R&B, but it’s also very much neo-soul, and also a splash of rock star, you know? It’s about just really tying it all together and bringing attention to the lane that I’ve created. So I think really it’s about more means of exposure.AHHA: And what do you think contributes to that?Raheem DeVaughn: I can’t really pinpoint it. I mean, don’t get it twisted. Ain’t really nobody sellin’ records right now. It’s only a few, and that can easily be a smoke screen. If you listen to the radio and hear someone’s song playing 50 million times, you might think this person is selling ten million records, and they ain’t even went Gold yet. So in that right, I’m still successful, you know? My success story is that I’m still sellin’ CDs and approaching having a gold record, and approaching having a platinum record. Some of these cats have albums out that ain’t gonna sell five years from now. I can probably say that The Love Experience and Love Behind the Melody will be projects that cats buy or want to download 20 years from now.AHHA: You gained popularity off the strength of your mixtapes. It’s been a minute since you’ve released one. What’s the deal with that?Raheem DeVaughn: Yeah, but… it’s Volume Five out. It’s a double CD. It’s available at the shows and stuff, but I’m starting to get away from that and just focus more on the two albums. I think I’m gonna do one last joint to ride through the winter, and that’ll be that.AHHA: So on this particular album, are they any featured guests? I know you didn’t have that on your first album.Raheem DeVaughn: Yeah, right now I have Floetry and Big Boi from Outkast on the album.AHHA: That’s what’s up.  You’re just wrapping up the Red Star Soul tour with Erykah Badu and Common too. What was that like?Raheem DeVaughn: Oh, it was great sharing the stage with both of them. My leg of the tour is over, but it was good. Erykah did some new songs. I like a lot of the new songs. I did some new stuff. Hopefully there’ll be some more of that down the pipeline. AHHA: Now, you’re known for your live performances. How do you prepare on the day of a show?Raheem DeVaughn: I rehearse. I mean, it’s just normal; nothing out of the ordinary. I like to get there right before the show, because I don’t like to wait. Then I just get on stage and that’s it. I try to make all my sound checks though, which a lot of artists don’t do. They have a sound man and you got certain things and whatever. When it gets to a certain point, maybe not, but right now, for me, I definitely like to go to the venue I’m performing at, get a vibe for the building, and then go back and tear it down.AHHA: Your new single, “Woman,” is doing really well right now on radio. Raheem DeVaughn: Yeah, it’s doing well. It’s just heating up. It just charted on the urban radio, in the R&R.AHHA: Congrats! Now you do a lot of love songs. What’s your inspiration behind those songs? Are they personal experiences, second hand experiences?Raheem DeVaughn: For me it’s all of the above. And then you know, all my stuff ain’t love songs. I’m actually known for a lot of political songs, but I won’t argue that [I have a lot of love songs].AHHA: Alright, but with the love songs…are you involved with someone? Is that the catalyst? I’m speaking on behalf of the girls, just so you know. [laughs]Raheem DeVaughn: Oh, just on behalf of the girls? [laughs] Nah, I’m available. Free agent in the draft.AHHA: Okay. So tell me, what’s up with the hair cut, because we’re used to the braids?Raheem DeVaughn: You know, gotta keep revamping my s**t. Plus I feel a little sexier like this. AHHA: As a DC native, tell me about the music scene there, from an insider’s perspective. Raheem DeVaughn: I think DC is just on the rise as a whole, with me kind of being the spearhead of it with the success of my underground movement, and crossing over to a mainstream movement. There’s a strong movement out there right now, and not just with R&B and soul, or whatever you want to call it, but in the Hip-Hop community too. You got artist like W. Ellington Felton, Bilal Salaam, One Way, Tabi Boney, King Pin Slim, Wale, just to name a few. And there are also some mainstream cats. For me personally, if you’re an artist coming out of DC, and you ain’t done the real DC grind through the street, you’re on thin ice, artistically.