Although Raheem DeVaughn is the product of a musical family (his father is jazz performer Abdul Wadud and R & B chanteuse Chrisette Michelle is one of his cousins), the soul crooner is considered a late bloomer compared to many of his R & B peers. The Washington, D.C. native wasn’t bitten by the music bug until he began attending college at Coppin State University.
“My father definitely gave me the opportunity, but I really just wasn’t interested in learning instruments,” admits DeVaughn. “But now, the good thing is, I can have conversations with my father where he can relate to certain things, or I may tell him I performed at a certain venue where he may have performed at before. It’s just that type of thing, so I still have that support, which is important.”
Once DeVaughn set his sights on a career in music, things moved quickly, but success did not come overnight. He began his pursuit for R & B superstardom by entering talent shows and open mic competitions at various clubs throughout the D.C. area, many of which he won. After walking away from one of the contests with $2,000 in prize money, DeVaughn invested in a CD burner and began putting together his own mixtapes. The buzz that followed caught the attention of Jive Records, the label that ultimately inked him to a deal.
Since then and despite his initial reluctance to embrace his musical roots, DeVaughn has managed to consistently produce quality music, attracting a fan base that transcends gender and age. “I get two to three different generations at my shows,” he said. “I get the younger generation, my generation, and like my mom’s generation.”
The Love Experience, DeVaughn’s debut album, was overwhelmingly well received by R & B fans who had grown tired of the genre’s blatant sexual imagery and lyrics. “I feel like as far as the lyrical content and the sexiness of it, I think it should be encoded, and I’m about doing things tastefully, regardless of what it is or what the message is, it needs to be done tastefully,” DeVaughn explains.
Selling over 250,000 copies, The Love Experience earned DeVaughn a Grammy nomination for the single “Women” in 2008. He received a second nod the following year for “Customer,” a track off his sophomore release Love Behind the Melody, which went on to sell nearly 300,000 copies.
Outside of Grammy nominations, DeVaughn’s music has generated comparisons with the music of other purveyors of the grown and sexy sound, including Dwele and Van Hunt. “It’s cool,” says DeVaughn. “I take all comparisons. I really don’t get caught up in it. I think people tend to compare you to artists they like. So if it’s something that they like, or if they get a certain emotion, and then they hear you and it gives them the same emotion, they tend to compare you to that. So it’s cool, it’s all good.”
Fans will get to experience more of the emotions sparked by DeVaughn’s music when his third studio effort drops early in the New Year. “Right now the focus is my new album, which is coming out in February,” DeVaughn acknowledges. “It’s called The Love and War Masterpiece, and it’s going to be a double CD, so it’s a lot of music to absorb at one time. I’m kind of just preparing for that, trying to get ready for all the music lovers to embrace that.”
Sticking to a tried and true formula for the new album, DeVaughn worked with several of the producers he’d worked with on his first two projects, including Kenny Dope and Carvin & Ivan (Karma Productions). “I’m pretty consistent with the people I always work with,” he said. “I believe that if it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it.”
The Love and War Masterpiece also boasts appearances from Wale, Damian Marley, and Ludacris, the latter who appears on “Bulletproof,” the album’s first single currently making the rounds.
Other highlights from The Love and War Masterpiece include the tracks “XO” and “Mr. Right,” songs that fall in line perfectly with DeVaughn’s mission of providing the soundtrack to the bedroom – something he takes so seriously, that he’s admitted to testing his music in his own bedroom before it’s released to the masses. “Not to be vain, but I definitely will test out the music to make sure the product sets the mood and invokes the spirit of love and love making, and all that good stuff,” DeVaughn insists.
If The Love and War Masterpiece is anything like his first two albums, then mission accomplished.