Neo Soul Today

Neo Soul Today is an authoritative source for informed and intelligent opinion, reviews, news, and other content about neo soul music, its artists, culture, and industry.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Raheem DeVaughn A Neo Soul Artist? Not So Fast.

By Sean
Editor-in-Chief, Neo Soul Today

To-date, this has been my most challenging post to pull together in terms of piecing together research and drawing conclusions -- thus, the reason for the length of time between this and my last post. Enjoy and please post comments.

"An artist offering mature, conscious, and/or innovative soul-rooted music is not always a neo soul artist."
--From the July 17, 2005 post, "
Neo Soul Lexicon: Neo Soul Artists vs. Contributing Artists"

Many may jump at the opportunity to consider Raheem DeVaughn a
neo soul artist. If you fall into this category, please consider this post objectively. Also, please remember always that Neo Soul Today is positioned for current or aspiring neo soul listeners. Thus, this discussion comes purely from the neo soul perspective in order to give neo soul listeners more information to make purchasing decisions and to avoid confusion.

Setting the Stage for Discussion
I like Raheem DeVaughn and his music -- enough to write this post. I have been following DeVaughn since 2003 which included seeing him live with some friends at Suite 450 in Philadelphia. Since then, the man has been impressively inching his way onto the midstream scene with the release of his debut album entitled "
The Love Experience" (2005, Jive). He is a prime example of why it is not wise to draw conclusions about someone who wears cornrows and baggy clothes. Indeed, DeVaughn's music is intriguingly mature, raw, articulate, vintage, and conscious. "Every scab is peeled fresh and every open wound is salted," remarks his bio on the album's website. However, you may or may not be surprised to know that DeVaughn's overall sound does not fall within the neo soul sound range. This is not to say that none of his songs would be fine additions to a neo soul compilation album or your neo soul playlist. He just is not a neo soul artist by trade.

After Listening to DeVaughn's Debut Album, You May Think He is a Neo Soul Artist
Solely considering the 14 non-interlude tracks from "The Love Experience," I consider half of them to be neo soul (italicized below) based on their
sound (take a listen for yourself).

2. Love Experience (neo soul sound:
R&B) - Listen
3. Guess Who Loves You More (neo soul sound:
R&B) - Listen
4. Who (neo soul sound: none) -
5. Where I Stand (neo soul sound:
R&B) - Listen
6. Breathe (neo soul sound:
R&B) - Listen
7. You (neo soul sound:
R&B) - Listen
8. Sweet Tooth (neo soul sound: none) -
9. Ask Yourself (neo soul sound: none) -
10. Believe (neo soul sound:
R&B) - Listen
11. Is It Possible (neo soul sound:
R&B) - Listen
12. Catch 22 (neo soul sound: none) -
13. Until (neo soul sound: none) -
14. Cadillac (neo soul sound: none) -
15. Green Leaves (neo soul sound: none) -

A 50% ratio of neo soul tracks to non-neo soul tracks on DeVaughn's debut album is not significant enough to consider (or not to consider) him a neo soul artist. Especially with a new artist, a fairly high ratio (at least 70% or 7 out of 10) on a debut album is needed to initially consider him a neo soul artist with relative confidence. So why, then, do I not consider DeVaughn a neo soul artist when half of the songs on his debut album have a neo soul sound? Please read on.

Assessing DeVaughn's Previous Underground Work Suggests Otherwise
Although DeVaughn considers himself new to the industry side of the music business, he has actually been making music for a while. A few years ago, he along with vocalist Tennyson Richards and multi-faceted producer Omar Retnu founded
Urban Ave 31 -- a Baltimore/D.C.-based underground group of musicians, vocalists, and artists. Prior to "The Love Experience," DeVaughn hosted, was the lead singer on, or collaborated on seven CDs released by the ensemble (listed below).

1. "The Healing - Daily Dosage"
by Urban Ave 31
(Universal People Improvement, 2002)
2. "The Antidote - The Healing Volume 2" by
Urban Ave 31
(Universal People Improvement, 2003)
3. "Limited Budget, Unlimited Quality"
by Crossrhodes
(Urban Ave Music, 2004)
4. "The Street Experience - Volume 1"
by Urban Ave 31
(Urban Ave Music, 2004)
5. "The Street Experience - Volume 2"
by Urban Ave 31
(Urban Ave Music, 2004)
6. "The Street Experience - Volume 3"
by Urban Ave 31
(Urban Ave Music, 2004)
7. "The Invitation: Crossrhodes Volume 2"
by Crossrhodes
(Urban Ave Music, 2005)

Although DeVaughn was not the lead singer for all of the tracks on these albums, he contributed to most of them. I urge you to take some time to listen to these albums' tracks (full-length audio available at the
Urban Ave 31 web site). A track-by-track analysis of these CDs shows that although some of the songs' sound fall within the neo soul sound range (particularly, Hip Hop and R&B), most do not. Of these works, only the two Crossrhodes CDs (in conjunction with W. Ellington Felton) have the highest ratios of neo soul tracks to non-neo soul tracks involving DeVaughn. The remaining CDs have ratios well below 50%.

The Takeaway
Raheem DeVaughn is not a neo soul artist. Rather, he is a talented individual who contributes to the art form. Admittedly, before conducting the research for this post, my first impression was that he was a neo soul artist. See, most of the tracks on DeVaughn's debut album under Jive are purely enhanced, re-releases of tracks that were already on Urban Ave 31's "The Street Experience" mixtape series. Most of what I previously heard was either from Volume 3 of "The Street Experience" (which features somes of the original tracks on his debut), XM Channel 61 (The Flow), and Liquid Soul Radio. This led me to believe he was a borderline neo soul artist. Thus, I'm glad that I put the work into writing this post for you because it turns out that he is not and hopefully you will not be as confused as I was after discovering that he is not.

DeVaughn is definitely an intriguing artist. His work is extremely diverse from a genre perspective. When someone's work is this diverse, I err on on the side of not considering him or her a neo soul artist. It takes a body of work to draw a sound conclusion. As I said in my July 17, 2005 post on neo soul artists vs. contributing artists, "a neo soul artist is defined as such by a combination of the sound of the songs he makes and the general consensus of mature, rational neo soul listeners." The post goes on to say, "A neo soul artist is not defined as such by himself, record labels, the media, or any other party." DeVaughn's bio on the official website for his debut says, "Forget about placing Raheem DeVaughn in the neo-soul category." This is one time where I agree.

I hope this post helps you in assessing DeVaughn as a neo soul artist in the future and whether to make a purchasing decision based on this assessment. We will definitely keep an eye on him.

Please post your comments.

Related Neo Soul Today Content
Neo Soul Lexicon: Neo Soul Artists vs. Contributing Artists
Neo Soul Lexicon: The Controversial Phrase "Neo Soul"

Related Internet Content
"The Love Experience" Official Web Site
The Urban Ave 31 Web Site
Watch DeVaughn Perform on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live (high - low)


At September 07, 2005 7:00 AM, Blogger Elvin Armond Knight said...

Sean, this is a great article. I was browsing albums on iTunes looking for any hidden gems. Since you only get 30 second sound clips, I decided to pass on Raheem (I didn't like half the tracks). Now that I've read this post, I'll go back and focus on the neo soul tracks vs. the others. Thanks again for sharing your passion!


At September 08, 2005 5:12 AM, Anonymous Pru said...

I love to read your articles, and all I have to say is wow. Keep up the good work.

At September 13, 2005 10:50 AM, Blogger Clay said...

i have to check out this artist - good post. thanks for the post on my blog about India -- good to know others fans of "soul" see the same thing!

At September 14, 2005 4:58 PM, Blogger MecQa said...

Sean, came across this post completely randomly and frankly, you nailed it. There is a leprecaun on my left shoulder whispering into my ear 'eh danny boy: what's the point of these here classifications anyways?' but I think there are quite a few artists to whom this kind of analysis applies. Which does not detract from any of them per se. It just means I won't get chumped into buying any more Chico DeBarge albums. Thanks.

Oh, and I couldn't help but enquire whether you've come across a neo-related website I'm a part of: Might be of interest. Keep it up.

At September 14, 2005 5:11 PM, Blogger Neo Soul Today Staff said...


Thanks for your insights. I'm glad you can relate. Please become a regular Neo Soul Today subscriber and pass the word along to your friends, family, and connections. With regard to Amplified Online, if you browse to the main Neo Soul Today page, it is listed as a link on the right-hand side. I have used Amplified Online as a resource for new neo soul artists for years.


At October 30, 2005 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that is funny to have this whole thing about Raheem being neo-soul, since Neo-Soul is something that has just been created for marketing please... stop this non sense...

At December 24, 2005 9:49 PM, Anonymous IMKENT said...

I heard Raheen De Vaughn on the Michael Baisden Show , and he sounded real good .I`m glad I saw this and can by and checked your blog out.


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