Jersey-born, Maryland-raised singer Raheem DeVaughn had an epiphany early in his college career at Coppin State University, when he saw a group of street corner singers and began harmonizing with them. It turned his life focus to that of becoming a professional singer, and he attained relatively quick success, winning local awards and successfully releasing some independent work in the D.C. area over the next few years. He ultimately gained the attention of veteran producers D.J. Jazzy Jeff and Kenny Dope and signed a recording contract with Jive Records in 2002.
DeVaughn's first single, "Guess Who Loves You More," hit urban radio in early 2005 and won for him an immediate following. It also set up the release of his major label debut album, The Love Experience. DeVaughn grew up listening to his mother's classic soul albums, and on The Love Experience he wears the influences of 70s and 80s soul greats on his sleeve. Even a cursory listening to the disc reveals liberal doses of Earth Wind & Fire ("Guess Who Loves You More"), Curtis Mayfield ("The Love Experience"), the Isley Brothers ("Until"), Marvin Gaye ("Breathe"), and, most notably, Prince ("Who," "Ask Yourself," "Cadillac"). However, while Raheem's strong leanings toward these artists make the album a bit derivative musically, it is nonetheless quite enjoyable -- to his credit, DeVaughn was influenced by the best.
Radio jumped on "Guess Who Loves You More" for good reason. It was an excellent midtempo and DeVaughn nailed it vocally. And his Prince-influenced rocker "Cadillac" and the nearly a cappella "What If" were just as good. Perhaps the album's highlight, though, was "Who," an infectious uptempo number in which DeVaughn challenged the next generation of leaders. It is indicative of the generally strong lyrical content on the album - especially on the disc's socially conscious songs that follow in the tradition of classic artists from Mayfield to Gaye. It also provided a microcosm of what is best about Raheem DeVaughn on The Love Experience: he may may have relied a bit too much on his musical elders, but he appeared to have learned very well.
In late 2007, DeVaughn released "Woman," the first single from his album Love Behind the Melody, which became a top 10 hit in early 2008. The album followed into the top 5 and moved DeVaughn to the A-List of modern R&B singers. And ffter a two year wait, DeVaughn released The Love and War Masterpeace, his most ambitious album to date. It hit the streets on March 2, 2010 to uniformly great reviews. Again, DeVaughn combined his insightful lyrics with strong melodies and ever growing depth as a singer.
by Chris Rizik