Ray J Talks New Headphone Line, Diabetes Scare And Returning To School
Ray J is making moves in Silicon Valley with his new line of headphones, but he also has other challenges on the way: fighting prediabetes, returning to school, and fatherhood.
If there are only a few things that have been synonymous with the R&B star/reality TV trailblazer Ray J in recent years, they are insane controversy and big business. These days, despite his infamous sex tape with Kim Kardashian making headlines again (and again), he’s looking to keep it moving and focus on his push into the booming tech world.
Two years after Ray J struck gold with Scoot E-Bikes back in 2015, he and business partner Ray Lee of Cowboy Wholesale worked out a $31 million dollar deal to launch Raycon Global. While they have put electronic transportation plans on ice until later in 2019, Raycon has been making plays in the audio market with the release of their own wireless headphone and earphone lineup, including their budget-friendly model E50 Eardrums ($79.99) and larger, more flamboyant X90 Titan ($119.99).
“We’re in Silicon Valley looking at what [the future] is going to be for computers and we just wanted to make a cool wireless earbud that people can love and that you can switch colors from and fits better than the products that people are buying,” Ray J said. “I love Apple, I love Samsung, no disrespect. But the way we created these with the different styles, and colors, the bass, and the mic embedded into the headphones giving you this clear sound where you don’t ever have to pick up the phone, everything is hands-free. I can change the diapers, I can put [Melody] to bed while listening to 2Pac. The Raycon Earbuds, they give you a sense of peace.”
VIBE caught up with Ray J to talk about his journey into the tech world, his recent diabetes scare, returning to school, and how parenthood has changed his perspective on women.
VIBE: How did you all craft these to make them stand out from other wireless earphones?
Ray J: The way they fit in your ear, we try to make them like in-ear monitors for performers. We tried to do the mold exactly like a human’s ear and we did them in a few different ways so if you get the X90s, they might fit in a different human’s ear [perfectly]. The E50s and the E80s, they’re going to be snug in any ear because we got this [gel-tipped] piece that feels like it magnetizes into your ear and then you can pull them out a little bit and still have oxygen in your ear where it’s not just all sound, and you can keep them in your ear all day and never take them out.
How long did it take for them to be perfected?
We’re still working on perfecting them. It’s like working on a car, the S-Class; [we’re] working on the 2019 S-Class. Every quarter we try to come out with a product that’s [delivering] a better sound. We listen to what consumers say in the notes and what professional producers and people who study these headphones [say]. They give us their opinion on what it is, and we just try to keep upgrading until people really feel like they’re perfect. Every year, even if we have the greatest product, we upgrade it anyway to make it better.
I noticed your prices for the earphones and headphones are budget-friendly. What made you focus on affordability rather than pursue the high-end market like other companies?
I think our earbuds are better than all the other companies. It’s a fact [considering] the way they fit, the way they sound, the way they feel and make you feel. I don’t think you have to take it to these levels of $190 and $150. It’s a bit much for something that’s really dope, high in demand, and high quality so we felt like we could dominate in the headphone space under $100 and it’s starting to work.
How involved are you when it comes to testing everything?
I’m [testing] all day, I got two more new ones in my hand I’ve been working with all day and trying to make sure we put these different color patterns to the headphones, too. When you have a jacket on you could put the red ones on, or the yellow ones on, or the black and gold ones on, or the blue ones. We don’t want to just make it about the headphones. We want to make it about the style and the synergy behind the look, too. So, it’s all important for me to just give my input to the experts that’s making them for us and they do what’s realistic, so I’m hands on. I’m hands on so I can be hands off, feel me?
Do you plan on expanding to wireless speakers at some point?
We’ve got the dopest wireless speakers coming. It’s magnetic, it’s see-through. You can almost see the music touching the speaker as it plays so I got something that’s going to change the game coming up real soon. Probably in January, we’re going to start promoting them crazy—and they’re under $100 as well.
Do you record with a lot of Raycon equipment?
Absolutely! I really record in a big studio on the Raycon H50s which is a bigger headphone that blocks the sound and gives you this dope comfort. With a lot of the studios, they got these old, busted down, big headphones with the leather rubbing off and so for me, I just want all the new studios to get the H50s if they can. Wherever I go, I always try to bless everybody with the H50s in the recording studios because that’s all I record with. Everything I promote and sell, I use on a daily or I wouldn’t sell it.
For you, what’s the difference between the music business and tech business when it comes to investing?
Running this Raycon business and all of the money that I put behind marketing, social media, and making sure everyone gets their product on time, it’s a real business. To put this music out, you have to put a real business plan behind it and that’s the only thing that [makes it different] from this music. You have to put the money behind the music, but how much money can you make from the music off the money you put behind it? It’s very risky and it’s something that my investors would tell me not to invest in because it’s just not as profitable as technology. But when you’re a musician, you still go in there, give it all you got and you let the spirit make the success for the music. In real business, there’s spiritual success and then there’s facts and just hard work and making sure you’re on point with the product. And with the music, it’s coming from the spirit so you never know what’s going to happen. That’s why these artists, when they come out, a million people might not like them over here, but 10 million people might like them over there. You just don’t know how it’s going to go and that’s a very dangerous business to be in for investors.
Are you still planning to attend Philander Smith College in January?
Yeah, I am. I’m trying to figure out if I want to get a house out in Little Rock or if I’m going to stay there and live in the dorms for a little while. Just for a little while [at least] because I want to feel it. When I went to PSC, they were the only school that really embraced me and listened to me and really was inspired by my story. That really touched me. That was the first speech that I ever did for a college and for them to embrace me like that was real emotional. I felt like I had a family and I had people that—no matter what my past is or what people say about certain things, they really just opened their heart and doors to me. We had a great weekend. I stayed five extra days and on my third or fourth day of just meeting everybody at the school I said, “You know what? I really want to be here and educate myself.” It’s a lot of big colleges out there, but again this college is bigger than any college to me because they embraced me [harder] than any organization on that level. It [has] inspired me to want to learn more and learn with them.
What brought you to them in the first place?
Well, they invited me to come to their homecoming and actually do a speech for them to inspire the students and I’ve never got that kind of invitation before. So I prepared for it and when I got there, it was much more than what I thought it was going to be. I had home studied my whole career and I stopped going to regular school when I was in [the] seventh grade. This gave me a sense of schooling and bonding with the people. It’s never too late to learn more.
You’ve had a diabetes scare recently. How have you been managing your health lately?
It’s still scary! I’m pre-diabetic and if I keep going the way I’m going, I’ll be diabetic. Some [medical experts] say I’m diabetic because I’m [at a] 6.5 [A1c] and [other experts] say I’m 5.9 so it's just their preferences. I’m just in the gym and I created a new team called the Limitless Team. We got a new fitness powder called Limitless Pre-Workout and then the Limitless pill that’s kind of like in the movie [Crank], but it’s a natural, organic pill that’s like—if you in a Honda, when you pop a Limitless pill then you’re in a Ferrari no matter what, and then you end up in a Ferrari.
Does diabetes run in your family?
I’m sure one of my family members had it before, but it’s not strong. It’s just me, I was drinking too many sodas and not getting enough sleep. Most people’s symptoms of diabetes are they either pass out or get tired. With me, I’m losing all my vision, I can’t really see as good anymore, so I keep my shades on. My shades is on all day because my future is so bright, so I’m happy. As long as I can see my baby, I’m happy.
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Since you’re a full-time father and businessman, how do you manage your health? How do you schedule that into your busy lifestyle?
I just do three times a week in the gym, so I stay up two days in a row. I stay up two days, then I sleep for 10 hours and [after that] I’ll stay up two days straight, no naps and then during the weekend I’ll sleep a full 18 hours. After that, I’ll go back to either two or three days up, no sleep, and then a good [eight to 10] hours of rest. When I’m up for the three days I really don’t work out because I need a lot of water and it’s draining when you stay up that long, so when I sleep, next morning I get up and hit the gym.
What advice has your doctor given you so far?
The doctor, he was talking about my thyroid at first. He told me I needed to take these thyroid pills to get my thyroid right but that was easy. He said that the bad thing is that I’m pre-diabetic, I was eating too much sugar and I gotta slow it down, I got to hit the cardio every day. I was depressed by it and a little shocked by it because when you look into it a lot of people die from diabetes. It’s the fifth leading cause of death, not just in America but everywhere. You know I got to live right for the baby and slow it down. [But] it’s not intense because I’m not overweight, I just got a belly. Look like I’ve been drinking Heineken. I just got take it seriously and maintain my sugar.
Has being a parent changed how you view technology?
It gives me more time to create. When you’re a parent, you spend time with the baby. You look at the baby’s face and envision her future and what you have to do as a parent to make sure she’s financially good and that she’s comfortable inside of the family and that she’s positive and learning every day. It inspires you to go to work really hard because you know you’re working for something special and something new that really doesn’t have anything to do with you anymore. It’s all about the kids so it makes me work harder.
How has fatherhood impacted you as a person?
It changed my whole ways, fam. It changed the way I think about women, the way I think about life, It’s given me an opportunity to be more respectable in my brand, it changed the whole lane. Having a daughter, too, is even more special because when you’re young and lit, your moral values are all over the place. When you have a baby like Melody, it puts everything back into a positive perspective, to where even the crazy stuff you were attempting to do in the future, you cancel all of that. You just really start to see how important a woman is to society and how much you should respect them and embrace them in a very positive way. To me, they are the most special beings in the whole universe and you see that after having a baby. It’s a very spiritual revelation, [what] you have with your baby and with your wife, and once a baby comes out, you look at her like she’s the greatest in the world.
Considering how a lot of men say that they mature or gain respect for women after they have daughters, do you think that women should be more patient with men or vice versa?
I think men should be a little more compromising to women and know when it's time to hang it up. It’s a time where you are done with the first phase and it’s time for the second phase, and a lot of these men are scared to go into the next phase. They know that its time and when God is telling you that it’s time, don’t fight the feeling and don’t fight your intuition. Women can be as patient as they can be, but the more a man is disloyal, unfaithful, and really just not caring about how a woman feels in her day to day life…I’m putting it on the men because the men need to do better.
How does your wife Princess Love feel when she sees the sex tape back in the news?
I think it’s just old and I think she wants us to now start turning the page saying, hey, I’m done talking about it, I’m done even entertaining it, and now it’s time to start putting it to rest. Not just “to rest for now” but have a funeral, get it cremated, and then move on, dump it in the beach and let the sunset and leave the ashes in the water.
Do you think it’s that easy, though? Do you think you all can control it?
No, we don’t have control over that. We only can control how we react and how we comment and move about it. And for us, my job is to be a parent right now and to make sure my baby is seeing a positive image in what we’re doing. People ‘gon bring it up or have certain things to say, but for us we just got to keep staying focused on the prize, staying focused on the baby, and putting it to rest ourselves. Whatever somebody else does is on them.