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Interview:
R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn seeks balance in his music
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Balance is Raheem DeVaughn’s watchword these days.

And his third album, “The Love & War MasterPeace” — which has been out since March — is the R&B singer’s primary example of that.

“For me, personally, I try to have a level of consciousness in my music,” explains the New Jersey-born DeVaughn, 35, who’s the son of jazz cellist Abdul Wadud and made his way up through the Washington, D.C., club scene before signing a recording contract in 2002.

“I’m known for the love songs and the bedroom songs and all of that, but it feels good to be able to talk about some stuff, socially conscious issues similar to what Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield used to do — Let’s not forget about the soldiers in Iraq. Let’s not forget about the homeless people or the people who are unemployed. They need a voice, too.

“I just try to tie all of that into the music.”

But, DeVaughn acknowledges, it can be a bit of a struggle to realize those ambitions.

“People in the club, they want to hear club music,” he explains. “They want to hear something that’s going to make them party. Or in the bedroom, people want something to create the mood and create the ambiance or whatever. And that’s OK. That music is ... relevant, and it’s needed. I feel like those are important, too.

“Really, man, I’m just big on bodies of work. I want to have a lot of different kinds of (topics) on there, and I want you to be able to listen to my album from beginning to end and enjoy each song and appreciate each song for its own message and purpose.”

That strategy has worked well for DeVaughn so far. His first two albums, “The Love Experience” in 2005 and “Love Behind the Melody” in 2008, have sold more than a quarter million copies each, while the singles “Woman” and “Customer” from the latter were nominated for Grammy Awards. “MasterPeace” debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and lunched the hits “Bulletproof” (with rapper Ludacris guesting) and “I Don’t Care.”

“I think the more music that you put out, it defines the artist you are becoming,” notes DeVaughn, who says that many of the third album’s songs were written during the making of “Love Behind the Melody” but held back when he decided against making that a two-disc set. “I think (‘MasterPeace’) is some of my best work today. I think it’s a good reflection of what I represent, what I believe in, where I feel like music needs to be right now as a whole.

“The support and the feedback has been overwhelming, so I’m just riding the high of it all, man. The main thing is to stay consistent.”

DeVaughn, in fact, is already looking forward to his next album, which will be titled “A Place Called Loveland” and out in 2011. Culled from “a vault of songs” he continues to build between projects, DeVaughn promises that it “will definitely be consistent with what I’ve put out so far” and even “sum up” where he sits as an artist right now.

“I feel like every artist has a place in their mind ... that they exist artistically, and my place is called Loveland,” explains DeVaughn, who also runs his own label, 368 Music Group, and harbors acting ambitions for the future. “And in Loveland, there is no war and there’s peace, and of course there’s beautiful women and lovemaking and all those good things. It’s kind of like my planet in your eardrums.

“When you make timeless music, and I like to think that’s what I’m doing, the fun part is picking the songs. You can clip and flop and mix and match, and when the record is timeless and it feels good, you know it’s going to have the same appeal whether you put it out now or 10 years from now. That’s what I’m about.”



Raheem DeVaughn, Kindred the Family Soul and Monica Blaire perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, at the Music Hall Center, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $29-75. Call 313-887-8500 or visit www.musichall.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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