Raheem DeVaughn has had enough of all the talk about R&B needing to be saved. The Newark, New Jersey-born talent simply wants his fellow rhythm and blues artists to just be true to their art.
“I just feel like there’s a lot of great R&B songs out there with nobody to sing them,” DeVaughn tells VIBE. “There’s a difference between making the music for a check vs. what you think you should be doing artistically and creatively. It’s not about being a savior. I’ve never fell into that trap.”
Indeed, DeVaughn—who first made his major label debut with his 2005 critically acclaimed release The Love Experience, and went on to find further success with the Grammy-nominated releases Love Behind the Melody (2008) and The Love & War MasterPeace (2010)—is making music on his own terms. His latest effort, the sexy mid-tempo single “Love Connection,” a track that was recently unveiled last week on Valentine’s Day. DeVaughn, who has always had a flair for the dramatics, says he’s just glad to be back on the music scene.
“It’s a great feeling…long overdue,” DeVaughn details of his new music, which is being released via a joint deal through his own 368 Music Group and Mass Appeal Entertainment. “I think there’s always been a lane for me. Timing is everything. With 368 and Mass Appeal, it’s looking really bright.”
DeVaughn adds that “Love Connection,” the first single (produced by Carvin & Ivan) from his upcoming summer album A Place Called Loveland, represents a new musical direction for the soulful singer. “I’ve been stepping outside of myself for this particular project,” he says. “This time, I wanted to do an up-tempo record…something feel-good with a Marvin Gaye spin on it. Very futuristic—but still with sex appeal.”
One reason DeVaughn is happy about his current state is the artistic freedom he now has as head of his own label company. In the past he says his music had been boxed in by limiting categories.
“In some cases if you are not happy with a certain scenario you have to give it a makeover you know?” he explains of his last recording home. “I was frustrated in the past like, “Wow, why do they have to throw me in the R&B urban adult contemporary lane?” “Woman” was a no. 1 hit at Urban AC, so there’s no disrespect to that lane. But did it get a fair shot at urban radio? No, I don’t think so. But the company I was in bed with at the time, I never felt like they fully believed in me. They didn’t understand what my brand was.”
One subject that peaked DeVaughn’s interest was his former Jive Records label mate Justin Timberlake. There has been a lot of talk surrounding the blue-eyed soul performer’s latest comeback. Some critics have hailed Timberlake’s return with groove-heavy, R&B-fueled tracks like “Suit & Tie” and “Pusha Love Girl,” while others claim that the singer’s race allows him to find mainstream success within a style of music that would be deemed “old school” if it were coming from the likes of R. Kelly and Usher. DeVaughn bristles at the latter suggestion.
“Maybe its safe to say that Justin is just influenced by soulful cats,” he says. “He’s a brother in his own skin. I look at him as my white brother. I feel like he’s worked extremely hard to be where he’s at. Justin’s not a fly by night success. He came out of the boy band and being on Disney. He was my label mate at Jive at one point. I think that the production and marriage that was created sonically with him and Timbaland years ago proved that it worked.”
For now, DeVaughn is finishing up A Place Called Loveland, tentatively due August 6. He’s ready for a meticulous build-up to what he calls his best work yet. “I don’t believe in dropping “Love Connection” on Valentine’s Day and then turning around the following week to drop an album,” DeVaughn says of his plans. “We are really going to really work on this one.”—Keith Murphy (murphdogg29)