Q&A With Raheem DeVaughn
Dressed in a white tee, a pair of classic Converse and donning his trademark sunglasses, Raheem DeVaughn finally hits the stage at Birmingham, Ala.’s Old Car Heaven, a relatively new music hall located near the historic industrial park known as Sloss Furnaces, to give his adoring fans a taste of his live luster. And he proves he needs no dependance and reliance on Auto-tune; showcasing his strong falsetto leaps and sultry crooning like a young Marvin Gaye influenced by the beats of hip-hop. The crowd goes wild as he journeys through his classics like the urban AC swan song “You” and “Guess Who Loves You More.” Crowd participation elevates when DeVaughn gets the crowd to chant out the chorus of his best-selling R&B single “Woman” and even a little impromptu magic works its way into “B.O.B” as he explains, before the live crowd for the Curious Georges, what it really means. One thing is for certain: DeVaughn loves music. And he conveys his passion like a Baptist preacher getting amped up at a tent revival when he hits the stage.
During the middle of his set, he asks the crowd, “How many have never witnessing me live for the first time?” Probably more than half of the room shouted in response. With three albums on Jive Records and a number of Urban AC sizzlers up his sleeve, also coming from a gent that frequently stops in Birmingham, DeVaughn infactedly knows that his fan base is growing with increasing numbers.
On dazzling uptempo numbers like his second single from his latest album release, “I Don’t Care,” the crowd rushes from their comfortable chairs to the front to get in on the party. They were just as in engaged as DeVaughn echoed a familiar “I know” chant from Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” as he slid into his social protest-war anthem “Bulletproof.” For a concert that started almost two hours late, DeVaughn did his best to work his fired-up ball of energy on the restless crowd and showed no signs of half-steppin’. At one time in the show, RadioRah proclaimed, “Enjoy yourself tonight. Have a good time. Make sure you get your monies’ worth.”
Lucikly at 1:35 AM, after a very long night, the talented singer/songwriter sat down to talk with us for a brief second after the show.
R&B Neosoul Hippie Rockstar. When did you start calling yourself that?
It’s something I came up with to really just describe my music, ya know what I’m sayin’, to categorize my music. To define my music, I felt like that I had to put a tag on it. It might not be something that you necessarily like, ya know what I mean, but I wanted to make sure that people understand what my music is. It’s a fusion of music and there’s just so many different ways in describing it.
I remember reading years ago that you had some frustration with your music label, Jive Records. You are now three albums on the label. Has your relationship with Jive Records changed for the better?
I won’t say it was frustration. With the message and the movement and what it is I got going on out here, I don’t feel like they will ever fully understand it. I don’t think they will ever fully understand me. But at the end of the day, we’ve got an agreement, you know what I’m sayin’. You know their holding up to theirs and I’m holding up to mine. We’re working it out.
When I first heard “Bulletproof,” I was like “wow.” You talk about some heavy stuff in that song, man. I call it the “What’s Going On” of our generation. Still, I felt that your song didn’t get the exposure and visibility it rightfully deserved. Do you think the social issues embedded in the lyrics were too sensitive for pop radio.
I can’t speak for pop… for Middle America…because their lifestyle isn’t necessarily ours. My lifestyle is for my people who connect with my music, ya know what I’m saying. My music is for the inner city, the ghetto and the hood. And the truth is, that my music deals with all aspects and walks of life. But I know this…the more realer I identify with the people on the street, the more realer the music is gonna have to be. That’s what my music is for.
What was it like collaborating with Dr. Cornel West?
It was cool. He popped up at Limelight [Nashville, TN] last night at our show, came up on stage and just allowed him to do his thing and turned the house out, man.
In fact, I remember seeing a post on Twitter that you’re planning on going on tour with some big names in R&B. Can you tell us a little bit about that.
Anthony Hamilton, Lyfe Jennings, Kem, Jaheim. Starting in July. (The tour, known as the Budweiser Superfest plans to make two stops in Atlanta, Ga. on August 20 and September 2). And then I’ll be abroad overseas, gonna perform for all the soldiers.
Do you have a favorite song on MasterPeace?
Nah, I can’t really narrow it down to one. it’s like twenty tracks total with the Deluxe version of the album…
The Deluxe CD. That’s only available online, right?
Nah, not just online. you can get it like at Target, I don’t wanna speak incorrectly on something, but you can definitely get it on iTunes. Amazon too.
I gotta ask you…what’s your feelings about Auto-tune?
Um, my feelings are the same about Autotune are the same about anything. Like…it’s a different way of expressing yourself. With music, to me, people have to be fun and creative and to just do whatever. I just got through working with Ghostface Killah on a track (“Baby”). When you’re doing like seven records in one day for one person, you know what I’m sayin’, for sessions like that, you don’t wanna be repetitive and redundant. When I use Autotune, I use it for the sound. It’s not because I need it. Like everything else, if not overdone, it can be a good thing.
You are such a cool guy. Mr. Suave. The ladies I’m sure they wanna know, are you still an eligible bachelor?
Yeah man, definitely single. I’m still a free-agent.
RAHEEM DEVAUGHN // I DON’T CARE & BULLETPROOF