DeVaughn, Raheem

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Raheem DeVaughn

Singer, songwriter

The son of an accomplished avant-garde jazz cellist, Raheem DeVaughn is an urban R&B singer and songwriter who gets inspiration from the great crooners of the past such as Marvin Gaye, to more contemporary singers like D'Angelo. With two albums and a Grammy nomination, DeVaughn's musical style leans as much as it does towards neo-soul and R&B as it does towards a timeless soul sound he hopes to create through his musical legacy. Rather than having critics or record labels define his sound, DeVaughn came up with his own genre which he describes as, "R&B/hippie/neo-soul/rockstar in a hip-hop world," he affirmed to Vibe writer Shayla Byrd. A DeVaughn fan and fellow musician, Alicia Keys, told journalist Clarence Waldron of Jet, "Raheem is a gem …. He embodies the soul and raw honesty of the legendary artists we long for."

Born Wasalu Muhammed Jaco in Newark, New Jersey, but raised in Maryland and the D.C. area, DeVaughn's father is the noted experimental jazz cellist, Abdul Wadud. DeVaughn undoubtedly had music in his genes early on, and when he went to study at Coppin State University in Maryland, it wasn't long before he joined an a cappella group. Soon writing and recording songs for the group had more value to DeVaughn than his classes. The singer began to venture out on his own and ended up recording and releasing for independent albums before any labels were interested in him. It didn't take too long for the labels to take notice, and DeVaughn signed to Jive in 2002. Of course, being in ties with a major label, things didn't work as fast as DeVaughn hoped they would. In the meantime he released a set of mix tapes for a series he titled The Street Experience. "I like to constantly just jump out of the box and just try different things," DeVaughn told Lauren Carter of The Boston Herald. "So I've always been the type when somebody says, ‘You can't do that’ or ‘You're not allowed to do that,’ I find a way to do it." While mix tapes are generally a part of the rap and hip-hop world, DeVaughn's edgy R&B is influenced by that culture and its strict motivation as much as it was by his father's eccentric jazz scene and great R&B singers of the past.

In June, 2005, Jive released DeVaughn's first official major-label album titled The Love Experience. The record hit the Top 50 of the Billboard 200 album chart and the singles "Guess Who Loves You More" and "You" made a dent in urban radio. Artists like DeVaughn ride a fine line between urban contemporary and the refined soul of the past, which often makes his music hard to place. He spent time on tour with Brian McKnight, New Edition, and Gerald Levert, but could have easily opened up for the Black Eyed Peas or Jill Scott. The Love Experience faired decently, but DeVaughn wasn't set back; he had his plans, ideas, and future already set up in his head. Referring to himself with his own lengthy genre of R&B/hippie/neo-soul/rock star, is part of DeVaughn the artist and DeVaughn the wannabe legend. "I stepped out of myself and looked at myself as a product, not as Raheem DeVaughn the artist," he told Carter.

Two years after his first album for Jive, DeVaughn began work on its follow up. Set for release in early 2008, Jive issued the album's first single "Woman." Before the record was even released, DeVaughn earned a Grammy nomination for a Best R&B Vocal Performance for the song. A month later, Jive released Love Behind the Melody, which debuted at number one on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Mariel Concepcion of Billboard described DeVaughn's second album, "[He] offers a flawless blend of serene, soulful music with emotion-filled lyrics …." Within his music, especially in Love Behind the Melody, DeVaughn steadily enforces his feelings of love and honor for all the types of women in his life. He wants every female listener to feel special when listening to one of his records or attending his live performances. "It's therapeutic, you know, for a broken heart," he stated to Nikki Drag of "People have said that the music has helped them rekindle an intimate moment. I've had people tell me they were contemplating suicide and lost their children, all types of situations. People have told me they have fallen in and out of love to my music."

DeVaughn undoubtedly takes himself, his music, and his lyrics quite seriously. Concepcion declared him "underrated." Another reason Love Behind the Melody stood out from The Love Experience, was that for his sophomore affair, a respectable team of musicians and producers joined DeVaughn in the process. Floetry appears on "Marathon," while hip-hop, king-pin producer Scott Storch came in for the track "Energy," featuring Big Boi. "This album definitely shows more of my R&B side as well as my growth as an artist, writer and producer," he told Gail Mitchell in Billboard. "I don't just make music for one audience, I'm constantly trying to create timeless music that many people can gravitate to." DeVaughn set sail on a tour with Jill Scott to promote his second record. His friend, painter and artist Demond Peekaso, came on tour with DeVaughn and painted on canvas as the singer performed. By the end of the show, Peekaso's paintings make each show DeVaughn plays truly unique. The singer continues to plan his path. He has hopes for a third album with lyrics and songs that move beyond personal relationships and into a wider consciousness. He has a handful of songs for a forthcoming album he wants to title The Love & War Masterpeace. DeVaughn references Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and Bob Marley for their ability to mix social consciousness with popular music. He told Waldron, "I'm going to take it there."

For the Record …

Born Wasalu Muhammed Jaco in Newark, NJ; son of Abdul Wadud (jazz cellist). Education: Attended Coppin State University, Baltimore, MD.

Signed to Jive Records, 2002; released debut album, The Love Experience, 2005; nominated for Grammy, 2008; released Love Behind the Melody, 2008.

Addresses: Record company—Jive Records, 137 W 25th St, New York, NY 10001. Web site—Raheem DeVaughn Official Web site:

Selected discography

The Love Experience, Jive, 2005.

Love Behind the Melody, Jive, 2008.



Billboard, January 12, 2008, p. 35; January 19, 2008, p. 33.

Boston Herald, March 7, 2008.

Jet, March 3, 2008, p. 46.


"Raheem DeVaughn - Love Prolific,", (June 23, 2008).

"20 Things You Should Know About: Raheem DeVaughn,", (June 23, 2008).

—Shannon McCarthy