There's a good reason why Raheem DeVaughn's photo doesn't appear on the cover of his latest album, Love Sex Passion, released last month. It dates back to his days working for legendary music retailer Tower Records. Then, he learned that album covers were an essential aspect of selling a record.
If retailers like an album cover, they were enticed to give the CD featured placement in the store, because music-buyers were sometimes drawn to albums based on the appeal of the artwork. "I learned about position," Raheems tells Yahoo Music about working as a cashier and in loss prevention at Tower. "That's why every album cover from this point on is going to be incredible."
Such fine details are especially important to independent artists. Love Sex Passion is released on Entertainment One, in partnership with Raheem's 368 Music Group. "Being an indie artist, you have to fight for position against a major," he continues. "If my album is next to Kanye's album, who I know is going to look like some art and be dope, [I want mine to look great as well]. … My last two album covers, probably my dopest album covers. I'm not on them two."
Raheem's album graphics may have helped Love Sex Passion enter the R&B charts at No. 1, but there's no discounting the impact of his consistent, quality music and lead-up singles "Queen," "Temperature's Rising," and "When You Love Somebody." Still, Raheem also credits business savvy will helping him continue to find success.
"I planned for this moment," he explains. "I'm learning how to do better planning and preparation. For the most part, life is about crafting those moments, connecting the dots. You got to use your heart and your basic instincts."
Nearly 20 years ago, Raheem was forced to change his perspective on life and his career after being a victim in a near-fatal shooting. "I was shot and left for dead in the streets of Baltimore," he says about the incident that happened in 1996. "I could have lost my life." Afterward, he decided to make socially conscious music that would have an impact on his community. In 2002, as part of Urban Ave 31, he released the compilation album The Healing.
Even with his solo pursuits, Raheem would continue to include socially conscious music on his albums, his 2005 Zomba/Jive debut, The Love Experience, and 2008 sophomore set, Love Behind the Melody. But for his 2010 album, The Love & War MasterPeace, one of his best to date, he made a bigger political statement, using his platform to tackle social issues as well as relationships.
On "Nobody Wins a War," he enlisted more than a dozen artists (Jill Scott, Bilal, Anthony Hamilton, Ledisi) to join him for the powerful message. Jill closes the song with a poignant poem that includes the lines, "You send my children to war/Without exasperating dialogue to get to the meat/An equal understanding, as if there isn't even a possibility for peace."
"I requested her," Raheem shares about the singer and actress. "I knew she was the person for that. I love her as a person, as an artist, as a vocalist. She's a poet before anything.… She was in tears when she did that."
Raheem says he has more message-oriented songs in the vaults and hints that he's "been paying attention to what's happening in the community" and has a sixth album in the works.
In the meantime, he's keeping busy promoting Love Sex Passion on Ledisi's Intimate Truth Tour.