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(Soundbite of song, "Woman")

Mr. RAHEEM DeVAUGHN (Singer): (Rapping) This is official right now in 4 minutes or less. We're…

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

It was back in the mid-80s when Raheem DeVaughn first flexed his singing skills at his elementary school talent show.

Eight years ago, DeVaughn took the cash he'd won in another talent contest and used it to put out a series of independent records. Later, he signed with Jive Records, a label that's rep acts from KRS-One to Britney Spears. His new album with the label is "Love Behind the Melody," and it's brought to him a new level of exposure, including a Grammy nomination for Best Male R & B Vocal Performance for the song "Woman."

(Soundbite of song, "Woman")

Mr. DeVAUGHN: (Singing) Hey fellas, If you aint got one better search the world to find woman, woman, woman, strong woman, woman…

CHIDEYA: I spoke with Raheem DeVaughn shortly after a CD signing. He said the line was around the block and the fans were definitely showing him love.

Mr. DeVAUGHN: I was a little tardy. I guess that means it went real well, you know, a lot of them rapped around the building.

CHIDEYA: How does it make you feel to interact with your fans like that?

Mr. DeVAUGHN: I love it. That's what I do. That's what I'm known for, actually, and the support has been overwhelming. I think the more the word spreads, it -and I'm a meet-and-greet type of person, you know, after the show and, you know, CD signings and what have you. It's all good. They embrace it. I think the fact that I talk about something of music, you know, a message, music with a value, I think it makes people intrigued and really want to meet me and pick my brain, you know, sometimes.

(Soundbite of song, "Love Drug")

Mr. DeVAUGHN: (Rapping) I'm a lovaholic for you. Plus the fact that my love is, my love is dope. You got me hooked…

CHIDEYA: If you listen to your album, it sounds like you're walking in the footsteps of Curtis Mayfield and Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye as well as people who are more contemporary. Who do you like?

Mr. DeVAUGHN: I (unintelligible) Curtis, Marvin, Jay-Z, Dave Matthews Band, you know, just to name a few. They are inspiring as writers and, you know, prolific writers and artists.

(Soundbite of song, "Love Drug")

Mr. DeVAUGHN: (Singing) Ooh, I'm your drug, yeah. And you can't kick it (you can't kick it).

CHIDEYA: Your father is a musician as well. Did you grow up in an environment where that was important?

Mr. DeVAUGHN: Well, I was raised by my own mother so - but my father was inactive in my life, so I would spend primarily like my summers with dad and would move around with him as, you know, him being a jazz musician and a cellist. And I, you know, go with him on gigs and stuff like that. My pops is definitely been supportive, and I think I got the sense of independence from him. He put out his own album back in the day and, you know, just kind of very stubborn with it and did it his way, you know? And I think I've done - I've adopted that same behavior.

(Soundbite of song, "Mo Better")

Mr. DeVAUGHN: (Singing) See life ain't so bad after all (see life ain't so bad after all). You make it better, better, better, better…

CHIDEYA: Now, considering that you put out independent albums as well as label albums, do you ever think, well, I love the music but I hate the game? I hate the, you know, all of the trappings that go with, having to deal with, you know, travel, executives, you know, this and that?

Mr. DeVAUGHN: Well, I love the game. I feel like a politician. I feel like I'm a hustler at heart, you know what I mean? Like, I'm passionate about what I do and, you know, I just come from a background of that hustle, so I love the game, you know what I'm saying? I love everything it brings. I love the highs and the lows, you know? And we have good time. When the times are good, they're good, you know? It's not many bad times, you know what I mean? It's what you make it every day, somebody new is realizing, you know what I mean?

(Soundbite of song, "Customer")

Mr. DeVAUGHN: (Singing) You can find it all in me. I'll fill you up for free. If your heart is hungry, you can place your order here with me. Let me serve you up, lemme, lemme serve you up. See, you can have it your way. You're the costumer. If you…

CHIDEYA: You've got so many things coming up. You're going to be watching how "Woman" does at the Grammys. I understand you might be doing an after-party performance on Grammy night and BET. So what excites you about this time in your life?

Mr. DeVAUGHN: Is this all movement, a machine is running, you know? So now, this is the moment I've been waiting for, this is the moment that I have been waiting for as a hustler, you know what I mean? I feel like, you know, for those who've seen "American Gangster," I feel like I got to Blue Magic and it just hits the street, you know?

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DeVAUGHN: It's the opportunity I've been waiting for so, you know, I've been properly planning and building a proper team around me. And, you know, now the machine is running, feels like it's running on properly and now, we're off to the races. And of course, you know, you have to seize every moment.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DeVAUGHN: (Singing) We got a match that's made of love. We got the next best thing to heaven girl. We got a match that's made of (unintelligible We got the next best thing to heaven girl. You and I…

CHIDEYA: So Raheem, you're going to be touring with Jill Scott. Are you excited? How did that come up? What's - what are you going to do?

Mr. DeVAUGHN: I'm very excited, you know, with the Grammy night and all and is leaving to go on the road, February 5th. That's when the tour date starts and I'm pumped, you know? We're going to be actually be in L.A. for the tour and Grammys at the same time, so it's cool, man. It's just a cool experience. It's like the plan. It's all aligned and then everything's coming together.

(Soundbite of song, "Friday (Shut the Club Down)")

CHIDEYA: Well, Raheem, thanks a lot.

Mr. DeVAUGHN: Well, thank you all. Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "Friday (Shut the Club Down)")

Mr. DeVAUGHN: (Singing) It's Friday night and I've got stacked. The club is (unintelligible) jam-packed…

CHIDEYA: Raheem DeVaughn's new album is called "Love Behind the Melody." You can hear songs from the disc at our music site npr.org/music. He spoke to us from NPR studios in Washington.

(Soundbite of song, "Friday (Shut the Club Down)")

Mr. DeVAUGHN: (Singing) Come around three, loose your girlfriend and you can leave with me. Just round up your friends, jump in the car, take it to the club, take it to the bar, take it to the floor let them know who you are. Party like a rock star. Let's shut the club down…

CHIDEYA: That's our show for today. Thanks for sharing your time with us. To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit our Web site nprnewsandnotes.org. No spaces, just nprnewsandnotes.org. To join the conversation or sign up for our newsletter, visit our blog at nprnewsandviews.org.

NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow, a look back at how the Republicans fared in Florida's primaries.

(Soundbite of song, "Friday (Shut the Club Down)")

Mr. DeVAUGHN: (Singing) Friday, Friday, Friday, ooh, Friday, Friday, man. I like my beat down low, I'mma drop so, let that men open up…

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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