Ray Lavender: Doing Doing

Over the years, Atlanta has introduced more than its fair share of artists into the spotlight. However, it is safe to say that there have been none quite like Ray Lavender. From the A by way of Monroe, Louisiana, this country crooner has finally surfaced for the masses with his sexy, bold, and enticingly edgy sound. It was a chance meeting with Atlanta businessman Andrew Bryant that changed Mr. Lavender’s life forever. At the time Ray was in a group called Collabo. Meeting Bryant built momentum toward the path of a solo career and eventually saw Ray working with the likes of Teddy Riley, Jazze Pha, and Dallas Austin to name a few. However, it was his introduction to then up and comer Akon that blew the doors to his future wide open. Ray became the first act signed to Akon’s joint venture with Geffen, Kon Live Records. So what is it exactly that makes Ray Lavender different from the laundry lists of artists from Atlanta? Perhaps it is his willingness to be different by being real, as he weaves his musical tales directly from his life experiences. With his first single “My Girl’s Got a Girlfriend” based on a true story and his debut album titled X-Rayted, Ray Lavender may be the new sexy that R&B is looking for. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Last time we were supposed to talk you had to postpone. Why was that?Ray Lavender: I had a baby, a little boy.AHHA: Congratulations! Tell me about your path in this industry. How did you end up in this building (Geffen/Universal)?Ray: I’m from Monroe, Louisiana originally. My father moved our family to Atlanta for better job opportunities. It just was a coincidence that the music industry was popping there at that time. Once I got there, it was kind of hard to get noticed, because Usher, Monica, Babyface, TLC – they were making too much damn noise! [laughs] It was kind of hard in the beginning. I had to wait my turn. So I was entering talent shows. Then one day this guy saw me, and he told me that he had somebody he wanted me to meet. It turns out the guy he wanted me to meet was Akon. When I heard his music, there was nothing out there touching what he had. Then he heard me sing, then immediately we clicked. We formed a brotherhood, and he told me that when he gets his record label deal he wants to sign me. A lot of people had told me this in the past, but I really believed him.AHHA: So is that where your fairy tale began?Ray: Not exactly. Right after this, Akon got locked up. Kinda left me high and dry. I’m like what the hell am I going to do now? So I started working with Teddy Riley. That was a milestone in my life. I was like I’m going to go ahead and work with Teddy Riley so as soon as my brother [Akon] gets out, I go to him. I just knew I was going to be big by the time he got out. [laughs] I wasn’t big when he got out. So he got, and he already had a situation already ‘cause he was signed to Elektra.AHHA: Did you think that now that Akon was out and had his new situation that he would forget about you?Ray: No ‘cause as soon as he got out he was like, “Ray, I got you.” He was like, “I got this movement I’m about to start – Konvict music.” One thing that Akon knows how to do well is turn negatives into positives. So it took him about two years to pop. Then he took T-Pain. He told me to hold on for a minute. “Let me show you how I can do it. I just want you to watch us.” Which was cool ‘cause it gave me time to do my album. Then finally he let the building hear my songs, and they went crazy.AHHA: So was music something you always wanted to do?Ray: I always wanted to sing, since I was a little boy. My parents had me in basketball. I can ball my butt off. I went to Life College for basketball. I could have went to any college in Georgia for basketball but I went to Life cause I knew that eventually I wasn’t going to be playing basketball. I ended up only being there for about a year and half. I quit to do music.AHHA: So with all these experiences, who would you say Ray Lavender is today?Ray: I’m a well-rounded determined, hardworker. I love beautiful music. I am music.AHHA: Who is Ray Lavender the artist? Is he any different from Ray Lavender the person? Ray: [There’s] so much to that. See, I’m a person who deals in reality. So with that, I’m an artist that deals in reality. I’m a realist. Like Tupac was a realist. Biggie, we loved his stories, but Tupac was a realist.AHHA: Give me an example of what you mean when you say you are an artist that deals in reality.Ray: For example. I don’t drink or smoke. So you are not going to hear anything in my music about drinking or smoking. I say what I do. Akon wrote a part in one of my songs that mentioned something about Patron and I was just like, “Why am I gonna say that?”AHHA: Is there a reason why you don’t smoke or drink?Ray: You know what? All my uncles growing up were drinkers. All of them smoked. All my friends smoke weed. And just watching them, what they did made me not want to do it. Plus I don’t want smoke by my mouth anyway. [laughs] It’s just not sexy! And drinking…I’ve seen what that does. I’ve lost some guys in car accidents to drinking. I’ve sipped some wine once before, and I thought it was nasty. Maybe if it tasted like Kool Aid I would drink it.AHHA: Considering you don’t smoke or drink, what are your own personal vices or addictions?Ray: Music, man! I work too much, man. And it’s destroying all my relationships. My mama is probably going to punch me in my face when she sees me. I do this so much. I’m so dedicated. Music is my crack!AHHA: If somebody were to ask you who is Ray Lavender in 20 years, what do you hope the answer would be then? Ray: A great man and a great artist. I want my children to be able to live in the positivity of my legacy.AHHA: You’ve mention how R. Kelly inspired you. Can you talk about that? Is there any particular reason you feel you gravitated toward him?Ray: His story was kind of similar to mine. His mom died while he was pursuing music. My dad died while I was pursuing music. My dad is probably all of what my hard work and determination is. He was the guy that was buying me basketballs; he was the one telling me I could sing. He was always bragging on me. The love that he had for me was impeccable. He passed away in a tragic car accident. And R. Kelly used his mom as inspiration to pursue his music – to keep going, ‘cause he knew that’s what she wanted. I can remember driving and hearing “I Believe I Can Fly.” On that day [my father died] that song hit me kind of hard because you can hear all through that song that he is talking about his mom. My heart will forever be broken because of my father’s death. And I use that and put it all into my music.AHHA: Describe your style. What makes you different that a lot of other R&B guys that are out there?Ray: I say whatever I want. Who would have ever said, “My Girl Got a Girlfriend” in R&B?AHHA: Speaking of your single…what inspired you to write that song?Ray: My girl had a girlfriend. Simple as that. I was working at UPS at the time. I was paying all the bills. She didn’t have to work. That lets you know that I cared for this girl. I got off early and came home. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew something was wrong. I hear moaning, and I know it’s my girl moaning ‘cause I make her do it. I bust in the door and it was my girl and another girl. I was mad, wondering what I did. And she called me and asked me where was I going. She said she was trying to find a way to ask me if I wanted to join in. She was trying to find the right way to ask me, but she didn’t know how. I said you should have just asked me! [laughs]