Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter comments on whether the industry is ready for message music and explains why he titled his new project “Love and War: MasterPeace.”
April 16, 2010
Singer-songwriter Raheem DeVaughn
Raheem DeVaughn turned his focus to music during his early college days. The son of a renowned jazz cellist, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter cut his teeth performing in DC-area clubs. He took his earnings from a talent contest win and released independent work that led to a recording contract with Jive Records. DeVaughn's '07 CD, "Love Behind the Melody," won several honors and earned him a slot on tour with Jill Scott. The self-described "R&B hippie neo-soul rock star's" new release is "The Love & War MasterPeace."
Tavis: Raheem DeVaughn is a talented singer-songwriter whose much talked about new CD is called The Love & War MasterPeace which features an introduction and interludes by our friend, Dr. Cornel West. From the new project, here is some of the video from the hit Bulletproof, Ludacris.
Tavis: So I leaned into you while that video was playing and said to you, “Radio is loving this thing.” I hear it on radio all over the place, this song Bulletproof, and you started to say “That’s interesting because” and then the clip ended. So what were you about to say?
Raheem DeVaughn: Well, I think, first of all, when I created the record, I wanted to make something that reflected upon the times, you know, current events that are going on now, you know, in this country and throughout the world and also touch on the past and just how they, you know, coexist with one another. But I figured when I first did the record, there would be a big urban AC record, but as far as syndication, it’s been great.
You know, a shout out to Michael Baisden and Steve Harvey and, man, everybody that has a syndicated show. Tom Joiner, I mean, like they’ve been going in on the record to a point where, you know, it’s been doing well. And it was received at urban radio real heavy, so I think we’re definitely onto one of those records that will last the duration.
Tavis: We’re gonna talk about it in just a second. I want to stay on this track, this Bulletproof track. Tell me more about that track and why you think that Black radio, given all that’s happening inside of Black America, would embrace a song called Bulletproof.
DeVaughn: You know, I think it’s a catch-22. You know what I mean, with the title being what it is. Once again, when you get into the content, in the lyrical content of records, there’s not a lot of records that have the substance now these days.
I feel like there’s definitely some artists out there that are still waving the flag, but I wanted to show that, you know, you can do this as an artist. You don’t have to compromise your art or compromise your message or, if you feel like you have something you want to say that’s empowering, you know, to your people, you can do that.
Once again, it’s been interesting to see how everybody’s embraced the record. You know, Luda jumping on the record, definitely I feel like that helped a lot. You know what I mean? You know, reaching out to him, and it gave him a platform to say some things that he’s been wanting to say and touch on the topic that he may have been wanting to touch on too.
Tavis: The lyrical content of that particular song, in short, is what? The message –
DeVaughn: – Bulletproof is my modern day sign of the times, you know, by Prince or my modern day Marvin Gaye What’s Going On? in short, you know. And it’s really not to pass judgment on anybody. It’s really just to say basically like this is a statement. These are things that need to be better. You know, we need a healing for this. It’s time for a healing and let’s move forward from there.
Tavis: What do you make of the fact, Raheem, to your earlier point – and this is my phrase, not yours. But what do you make of the fact that a record that is message music in fact is working and everybody around the country is talking about this thing and playing it?
Again, it’s one thing for Marvin Gaye to have been able to do that back in the day. I mean, the times were very different then. Not to say that we don’t have challenges today. Indeed we do, but Marvin wasn’t the only person putting message music out at that time.
But nowadays, everything is so simple and formulaic. What do you make of the fact that this message music has been able to crash through?
DeVaughn: I think history has a way of repeating itself.
Tavis: Kind of cyclical.
DeVaughn: Yeah, definitely. Let’s take hip-hop for example where you have, you know, the essence of hip-hop. Then where it became a little commercialized. Then you had to –
Tavis: – that’s a generous read, a little commercialized (laughter). It sold out, man. It wasn’t just a little commercialized.
DeVaughn: Well, I didn’t get to that point. I’m just saying just the evolution of it all, you know. Then you had what was like the bling era. You had the violent era, the gangster rap era, then you had the self-destruction, let’s get it together, you know, fight the power, public enemy era. You know what I mean?
I feel like at the height of that which was probably the most positive that, you know, we ever saw hip-hop in that movement, that it was neutralized. And right now at the height of where music is and, you know, the misogyny and whatever you want to call it, I think that is now about to be neutralized. You know what I mean?
Unemployment is on the rise and we have a lot of things to tackle in this country, so cats can relate to certain things. I mean, there’s no budget to bling right now. You know what I mean?
Tavis: (Laughter) No budget for blinging (laughter).
DeVaughn: (Laughter) So it’s coming back to the essence, man, and I think that, you know, we’re going to see more and more artists start to, you know, just spread their wings and come with the message. Message music is back. It’s coming back.
Tavis: Even before I heard the first track, I knew you were working on it. Our friend Dr. West caught me one day and he had just left the studio working with you. We’ll come back to him in just a second, but he was just raving about the project from inside the studio.
Before I’d even heard the first track, he had shared with me the title of the record which I think is pretty masterful itself. So tell me why you called Love & War MasterPeace”and MasterPeace is spelled P-e-a-c-e for those who don’t have the CD in front of them as I do right now. Tell me about the title of Love & War MasterPeace.
DeVaughn: Doing the album and creating it, the process is always for me to really decide what the theme is going to be. You know, signing with Jive Records in 2002, you know, this being my third album in five years, I wanted to have something that was conceptually – I always try to put out something that’s conceptual.
Like when you put it in from beginning to end, you know, exudes a spirit of love and embody. You know, they’re songs that you don’t have to flip through. I mean, you just basically put it in and go on with whatever your routine is while it’s playing.
The Love & War MasterPeace, in particular Peace, I feel like I’m in a place, that we are all in a place, we all come to a place in our life where you try to master peace eternally. You want to master, you know, peace and move forward and elevate on the workplace. You want to master that peace within your personal relationships, you know, to find that soul mate.
You want to constantly master your faith with the Creator, you know what I mean, and get closer to God. Definitely the signs of the times and where we are, you know, just create a soundtrack for the times that we’re living in right now.
Tavis: Play on words here. If this turned out to be – I know you’re a long way from being done with music, obviously – but if this particular project, this double CD, turned out to be your masterpiece, p-i-e-c-e, would you be cool with this if this turned out to be the masterpiece?
DeVaughn: I feel like it is. You know, I feel like I put a lot of work into the music, into the writing. It’s something that I put together over a period of three years. I actually started working on this album while I was finishing up the Love Behind the Melody album, which was my second album which I had two Grammy nominations for, one for Woman, one for Customer.
I really feel like, if I didn’t make any more music, I could be cool with this album being out. I feel like it’s definitely set me up for that Frankie Beverly and Maze run.
But I’m back in the studio and I’m constantly making more music and, you know, trying to find more creative ways to tell a story and collaborations, you know. The song Nobody Wins a War, for example, was like one of my dream songs.
Tavis: Everybody’s on this thing.
DeVaughn: Not everybody. It’s a gang of –
Tavis: – everybody but me (laughter).
DeVaughn: It’s a gang of artists that I wish I still could have had, but we parted a record.
Tavis: You got a bunch of them, though.
Tavis: Jill Scott, Bilal, Anthony Hamilton. Chrisette Michele is your cousin?
Tavis: Chrisette Michele.
DeVaughn: Dwele, Citizen Cope.
Tavis: You got enough on there.
DeVaughn: Yeah, got some soul.
DeVaughn: It leaves room for, you know, part two, man.
Tavis: You mentioned earlier, Raheem, that this is your third album in five years.
DeVaughn: Five years.
Tavis: So you’ve been busy, obviously. Part of this new sound, this message music, put another way for those who hate that phrase, music that’s really saying something, part of what’s allowed that to happen for you is that you happen to be with a record label, obviously, whether you all were fighting or not, you won and you got to put this thing out.
I raise that only to ask whether or not you think the industry is ready for the flip. Are they ready for the switch?
DeVaughn: I think, you know, a lot of times, the label can catch a bad rap. Ultimately, it’s a business. They’re a machine. They put out what you allow them to. They put out what you turn in to them. You know what I mean? So this is what I turned in.
Being with Jive Records, in particular, is a label that knowing the history of Jive from a tribe called Quest to the other end of the spectrum to Too Short, those are all artists that have put out, you know, their own music. They came to the label with the sound of like this is my thing, this is what it is.
They market it, they package it, promote it, you know what I mean, to the more current artists, R. Kelly, Justin Timberlake, Raheem DeVaughn, Anthony Hamilton, you know, Chris Brown. So I think it’s where you want to be as an artist. You know what I mean? It’s definitely going back to the essence of it.
I don’t necessarily agree with, you know, the old school mentality of how they do things. Like I’m in the street constantly and I have what you call a grassroots movement. So that’s built off of word of mouth and –
Tavis: – and dropping mixtapes (laughter).
DeVaughn: And dropping mixtapes, which I have eight mixtapes as well. So between eight mixtapes, the three major releases and four independent albums, 13, 14 CDs over the last eight years, you know. It’s enough music out there for a lifetime, but I enjoy what I do.
Tavis: As I said earlier, Raheem is a long way from being done, but I think he’s gonna look back on his career as all of us will who are fans of his and say that, if this is not the masterpiece, it certainly ranks at the top of whatever gift he has to share with us.
I know it’s early in the air, but if there ain’t – pardon my English – if there ain’t but one record you get this year in this genre, this is the one you have to have. Trust me, and that’s why he’s on the show. Raheem DeVaughn is his name. It’s called Love & War MasterPeace. Go get it. Raheem, good to have you on, man.
DeVaughn: Thank you.
Tavis: Congrats on a great piece of work.
DeVaughn: Thank you.
DeVaughn: Thank you.
Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm