It's one thing to get the public to like an artist's music, and quite another to get them to love the actual man. Yet, Cleveland native Ray Jr. has seemingly excelled at both, and has been dubbed the unofficial "Mayor of Cleveland" by his music constituents. With a 2011 smash hit "Sloppy" and a 2012 remix featuring Big Sean and 2 Chainz, Ray has making waves both for his music as well as his deeds off wax. We checked in with the "Mayor" to hear more:
AllHipHop.com: You had one of the hottest songs out of the Midwest in '11 with "Sloppy", which featured 2 Chainz and Big Sean on the remix. Do you think the spotlight is finally returning to Cleveland?
Ray Jr.: I'm just trying to show the music scene here. From Avant, to Bone Thugz, and even Machine Gun Kelly, everyone that comes out of Cleveland comes out big.
AllHipHop.com: The term "New Cleveland" has been used recently. How do you define it?
Ray Jr.: I think the term came when Lebron left, because that really took the heart out of the city. You can't really be mad that someone decides to leave, but it was like sports weren't great anymore, so now let's focus on the music.
AllHipHop.com: So, how do you feel you fit into this new movement?
Ray Jr.: I'm from East Cleveland, which is really poverty stricken; but its not about glorifying the money or the streets, I'm just trying to show the struggle that we have going on.
AllHipHop.com: You've gained enormous recognition for your philanthropy throughout the city. How did you earn the unofficial title of "Mayor of the City?"
Ray Jr.: The people gave it to me. I'm out in the streets giving back to them. I'm not a rapper. I'm a person that uses music as a way to get my message out and raise money to give back.
AllHipHop.com: You've become known for your big acts of charity in the city, feeding thousands during the holidays alone. Do you have plans on expanding these efforts outside of Cleveland?
Ray Jr.: I actually do an annual food drive every Thanksgiving. This year, I'm making it bigger and going to other cities. You can not like a song, not like an artist, you can hate on me, but you have to respect the things that I do.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned using your music as a way to help your charity endeavors. How do you incorporate the two?
Ray Jr.: Shows, tour money, a percentage of the funds from these are taken out and used for my work in the community. You can't help or clothe everybody, but being able to say I helped feed a family is better than hearing my song on the radio or in the club to me. I make music work for me. For example, it brings groupies. Instead of having them on us, why not have them come help out at an event?
AllHipHop.com: Your new release, Welcome to Legit Paper, is already creating a buzz for your potent portrayal into your city. What's your next move?
Ray Jr.: I'm actually going to add a few more songs to it and re-release it. Coming from where I'm from, we've struggled, and I like to put that in my music. But I will be adding a few party songs.
Already on many people's radar, Ray seems destined to make his mark in one way or another. Be it with music, or by reaching out to touch directly through philanthropy. Be on the lookout for this man with a plan.