I’m fortunate to say this is the second time I’ve had a chance to talk with Raheem in an interview. Our first interview was just prior to the release of his last album “The Love & War MasterPeace,” so this time around we discussed how the album fared compared to his others, his transition to the business side of things and developing talent on his 368 Music label, how he feels he stacks up against his peers in soul music today, and his progress on his next album “A Place Called Loveland.”
YouKnowIGotSoul: The last time I spoke to you a bunch of months ago, you were preparing for the release of your new album “The Love & War Masterpeace.” Now since it’s been months since the release, I just wanted to get your opinion on how happy you are with how the album was received by your fans?
Raheem DeVaughn: It was received great. It’s never about the fans that are already with me, I’m always trying to win new fans over and expose people to my music that haven’t heard it because I talk about a variety of different things, not just love songs, your typical everyday stuff. So I feel like I got a message that I want everybody to hear, especially in these days and times. I just try to find new ways and new methods of reaching out to that audience, and I appreciate you doing the interview.
YKIGS: Yea no problem. Do you feel you were successful in reaching that new audience? If you could put a letter grade on it, how successful do you feel you were?
RD: I think definitely people always listen, but since I’ve been on Jive my sales have declined with each album. This was probably my most…probably my best effort yet as far as an album, in my humble opinion. I managed to see some parts of the world that I haven’t seen yet as a result of this body of work and my previous albums as well.
YKIGS: Yea I agree, I definitely feel like you’ve grown over the course of your albums, and I feel like this effort you put out was very strong and I enjoyed it.
YKIGS: I know you recently simultaneously released videos for “Greatness” and “Bedroom,” did you put those out on your own?
RD: That’s something I did on my own, and something I’m going to continue to do. At the end of the day, we live in a world that’s content driven now. The type of artist that I am, you gotta keep constant content, keep people talking. That spills over onto shows, spills over onto radio play. I’ve actually been working the song “Greatness” on my own as well, it got over 600 spins last week. So it’s pretty much a thing you learn the system, and make the system work for you, grind it out.
YKIGS: I know on Twitter I know you do a lot of promoting with your projects and everything and you reach out to the fans a lot. At one point I know you were going by @RadioRah on Twitter, and then you changed your name to @368Hustlers, because I had lost touch with you and then later on I realized “Oh, where is Raheem?” Just talk about what made you decide to do that and if you felt like you’ve lost some fans along the way, like fans might have lost touch with you.
RD: Just rebranding myself, and just personal issues, people just abusing the privilege of you being so open. Sometimes you make yourself a target for ignorance and all kinds of stuff. You got people that become infatuated with you to the point that it becomes kind of like a stalker. So just a lot of different things. I’m pretty open as far as loving my fans and doing what the average artist don’t do, so I felt like the privilege was kinda being abused a bit. But since then, I decided to take a different approach, so it’s all good. I don’t think I lose anything, it actually shows you how many people pay attention too. Slowly back building now, the word is getting out, and I’ll be cool, I’ll be back strong in no time. A lot of my core audience is probably not on Twitter anyway. That’s actually my target…the younger fans, like the hipsters and what not, involved in what I’m doing.
YKIGS: Going back to your videos real quick, I know earlier this year you made your acting debut in the film “Who Do You Love.” Do you feel that making your music videos over the years had prepared you for that type of a role in a film?
RD: Definitely, that’s typical type casting situation, me being a singer and playing a singer and what not. But it was definitely fun to do, hopefully that will be something I’m able to do down the pipeline as well. I think everything prepares you for everything. How serious you are about it, how focused you are going into that particular situation.
YKIGS: I want to talk to you now a little bit about the mixtape you recently released with DJ Booth, “368 FTW Vol. 1,” which has your whole roster of your 368 label. For those who aren’t familiar with the mixtape, what can they find on there?
RD: Well this is a hip hop mixtape, this is not a Raheem DeVaughn mixtape, although I’m using myself to kind of branch and expose people to some of the artists I’m working with. It’s hip hop based, I want people to know it’s something on there for everybody, everything aint for everybody. But going into the business side of it now, and finding artists I want to invest in and kinda help them take their thing to the next level. We can make bread together, break bread together. Everything isn’t for everybody, they got their mission. I already tried going through the situation not really censoring anything, like they need to be this. Overall, I think it’s a great representation of the artists that I’m working with, hip hop and rap as a progression of where I hear it going as far as artistically how I’m involved in these guys’ careers. I think it sounds a lot better than a lot of other stuff you hear out right now. *Laughs* We are just putting our best foot forward. The main artist, the poster child for 368 Music Group has been Phil Ade, so I thought he was a great look coming out of the gate of what we are trying to achieve and attention we are trying to draw to the brand. And then we are just going to continue to do so.
YKIGS: All artists who appear on this mixtape, did you discover these on your own? How did you find them?
RD: Yea, well not on my own, I have a partner, I got cats internally to bring me things, that have a feel for what we looking for. It’s not a label that I’m solely running on my own, I do have a partner, Dre “The Mayor,” and we do all of the day to day stuff regardless of where I’m at in the world, communicating, piecing it all together.
YKIGS: So will Phil Ade be the first to release an album coming off of your label?
RD: Technically he has two albums out right now in the last year and a half. The first project was “Starting on JV,” and the second project was “The Letterman,” which was released this past summer and hosted by DJ Don Cannon. Although we tend to call them mixtapes, it was all originals, twenty songs of originals. It’s being received pretty well, he has over 5,000/6,000 followers on Twitter now which is great for an indie artist. It’s humbling actually to see how people are going out and supporting what I do, supporting my artists. His whole situation has taken a life of its own, he’s on the Sneaker Pimps tour right now, he just did Hustlepalooza. I did a showcase with 9th Wonder which featured all of my artists and all of his artists which he was a part of. Feedback has been great man, had a record out here in D.C. at 93.9 WKYS for like the last month and a half which is unheard of, adding records is…they played this record more than they played some of my records. *Laughs* Which is all good man, it’s just wonderful just to see the whole thing come to life. I’m at a place in my life where I want to invest in somebody else’s dreams.
YKIGS: Many may not associate the DMV area as one that produces a lot of talent, but coming from someone who was raised there, can you comment on the talent you’ve seen in your time there?
RD: Yea I’ve seen a lot, I’ve seen cats start, I’ve seen the rise to stardom, I’ve seen the whole 360. I’ve seen some rise, I’ve seen some fall. Out here, I’ve worked for some of the individuals and I’ve seen the whole transition so it’s real humbling to be part of it, be part of the legacy in the music and culture that this area has to offer. I remember when I first met Wale, he was working for a sneaker store. I remember when I first saw Tabi Bonney when she was first part of a group “Bonney and Carter.” And being one of their early supporters and buying a physical hard copy cd from them, like “yo man, yall gonna be it!” To now, where if I need a video look, I can call Tabi, or if certain stuff I want to know that I might not be hip to from the circles he in now, he can hit me with some things and what not. So that’s what it’s all about man, it makes you feel old though after awhile, you begin to feel like an O.G. or something. *Laughs*
YKIGS: Going back to your last album really quick, I was reading in your bio about the song “Nobody Wins a War” how you had assembled a wish list of artists you wanted to appear on the song, and obviously you got a great cast on that song. But I was reading in the bio there were some names you wanted but you couldn’t get for the song. I was just wondering if you had your wish who else would you have had on there?
RD: I would have loved to have Maxwell on the song, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Sade, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, 2Pac Shakur. I think I would have ultimately…Michael Jackson…that would have ultimately made it like my dream, dream, dream record, you know?
YKIGS: It was huge the way you did it, but I was just curious.
RD: Oh thank you, yea yea no doubt. I mean it’s like my version of “We Are the World” I guess, or another record I think that was a really big record back in the day that was really dope was the “You Will Know” record that D’Angelo put together along with I think Brian McKnight.
YKIGS: Earlier you mentioned that you felt “The Love and War Masterpeace” was your best album, and I know in 2008 at the BET J Awards, you won Album of the Year for “Love Behind the Melody” and Male Artist of the Year. Did this type of thing make you set the bar higher, winning that type of award?
RD: Yea, but I’m learning how not to get attached to the accolades of it all, because when you don’t get nominated for a Soul Train Award, you be like “huh?” I aint blowing my own whistle, but I’m probably one of the most soulful dudes out in my generation right about now. So to not be recognized for that by Soul Train, which is like BET and what not, you can’t have them all, but at least like a nod or something. I feel like my contribution to mankind is great, as far as what I’m talking about in my music. You just try to learn, even with that it’s all humbling, it’s like you just try to take it all in stride, it really puts certain things in perspective. At the end of the day, you just want to make yourself proud and you want to make sure you leave a legacy alive as far as the type of music and the message 20 years from now. That’s pretty much what I’m on.
YKIGS: Let me just say from my perspective, I don’t think they usually ever pick the right people for those awards anyway in these shows, so I wouldn’t let it get you down, because you put out good music and it shouldn’t bother you.
RD: Yea, no doubt.
YKIGS: I just want to ask you point blank, do you feel “The Love & War Masterpeace” deserves album of the year?
RD: Yea, and I aint necessarily saying it because it’s my album. I feel like knowing what I put into, knowing the feedback that I received on it, knowing the purpose that it serves, yea why not? I deserve my look just like anybody else.
YKIGS: About a month ago I had a chance to interview Teedra Moses, and I brought up the collaboration you guys did together “Get Yours,” and if I could quote her for a second, she told me “Raheem is dope as sh*t, and he’s extremely determined!” So I just wanted to share that really quick, but what do you remember about making that song?
RD: I remember it being at Battery, and I want to say she had a room, she was like in a B room, and maybe I was like in the A room, or vice versa. Basically, I’m pretty much like spontaneous, we had been talking about working together for some time now and the opportunity presented itself and it kinda just went down like that. She was there, I was there, let’s just do it now and get it out of the way. *Laughs* I know she had started something that I liked, and I heard it and went in the booth, I don’t write stuff down, so I went in the booth and recorded it, and that was pretty much it. Shamefully, I still haven’t fully heard the full version of the record, I need to go online and just download her mixtape. But after hearing about it, I kind of like to just plant seeds, and once I plant them I keep them moving.
YKIGS: I like the way it came out, it’s an amazing collaboration, and it’s actually one of the top requested songs on my site, so I had to ask you and her about it.
RD: Yea, that’s what’s up.
YKIGS: On Twitter, I see you already mentioning your next album “A Place Called Loveland,” how far along are you with this album and when do you plan to release it?
RD: I am about 75% done.
YKIGS: Do you have a tentative release date for it yet?
RD: Nah I don’t have a release date for the album just yet. I’m not even dead set on the fact if it’s going to be an album or an EP. One thing I can say it will be dope and be very consistent with my last bodies of work and what not.
YKIGS: In terms of artists who are making music now, who do you like to listen to?
RD: I’ve been listening to a lot of the new artists that I’ve been working with and working on. Like old stuff, Marvin, I’ve been listening to D’Angelo’s first album lately. A lot of different things.
YKIGS: That’s all I had prepared, is there anything else you’d like to add?
RD: That’s pretty much it, I definitely want to thank everyone for the continuous support of the music and the movement. Push the new Twitter and hit me on Facebook, I’m headed for like 100,000 fans on the fan page. Just thankful for everybody that’s supported the music and the message. If you want to see anything that’s going on with me, just Google it, because 9 times out of 10 you’ll be able to find it. The internet is the new TV pretty much.