When people first think of Ray J, they picture his thuggish image or him as Brandy’s brother, but with his new album, he opened up to fans and critics to show his full character. After a lot of doubt that he didn’t have the vocal talent to put together an album with hot singles, Ray J scorched the radio rotation with ‘One Wish.’ It is seldom that people are given a second shot but when artists embrace themselves and allow fans to see their full vision and emotions, they win not only more fans but loyalist. As Ray J tirelessly balances his time between music, acting and business, know that he is laying the foundation for a long-standing extraordinary career in entertainment with loyal fans.
It has been several months since you released the album, how do you feel about the outcome of the album?
Ray J: My goal starting out was to sell 100,000 units. Being independent, that is one of the goals you try to reach to make some money and share profit with everybody. That was my goal but we ended up selling almost 400,000. I was happy about that and I was happy with the outcome of coming out with a ballad and shooting up to the number two spot on the [Billboard] charts. It was a blessing.
On this album you laid off of the thuggish image and showed the other side of you we did not know about.
Ray J: Yea, I just laid off of the hardcore smoking weed all the time, drinking all the time, partying real hard; I kind of slowed down on that. I started focusing on the emotional side of my life and what I’ve been through. Pain and emotions is basically what I focused on this time.
Do you feel like you have changed as a person?
Ray J: Don’t get me wrong, I still put it in the air and I still party but for the most part I’m more focused on the positive side of the grind and not only put out music people can go out and party to, but music you feel and relate to. It could be anything from relationships and so on. I didn’t want to be type-casted as one certain artist or trying to be a rapper or all the other things people say. I really wanted to showcase my vocals this time around.
What was the reason for the big break between albums?
Ray J: I shook Atlantic Records. I started working with Death Row and Suge [Knight] and a couple of other projects. It just took me a while to get back on my feet and get the contracts right and make sure I secure myself financially. That was the major setback of everything. When I drop everything else from here on out, I got to make sure I make some money; bottom line.
Did you work with Matthew Knowles to distribute this album?
Ray J: Nah, I didn’t even work with Matthew. Matthew brought me to Sanctuary because he heard my record; it was already done. He was trying to get me a royalty deal and I needed a joint venture deal, because a royalty deal is the same as being an artist; as an artist you don’t make no money off cds, you just get points. I needed a joint venture deal, I need to make money off the cd. I had already put about $100,000 out of my own pocket into the album. I went straight to the CEO of Sanctuary and then to all the big dogs in London. They gave me my joint venture deal and that’s how everything unfolded.
You have not been in front of the camera as much, are you just working on Ray J the artist now?
Ray J: Right when I launched my album BET.com was on, ‘One on One’ on UPN was a TV show I was on and then I had the album out. I felt like I took over the TV waves for a minute and I need to be in the studio now and maybe come out with a movie next year. I just want to stay on this independent; just keep this money elevating, because there is a lot of money out here to get. Once you tap into and get a little bit you always want more. I am going to keep throwing out independent projects, making $500,000 here , $800,000 here just to keep the money flowing.
I here you talk about the money but do you still have the passion for music and the art form?
Ray J: That is the easy thing, the passion and all that is a natural thing you have inside. It’s like a basketball player, if you’re good – you’re good, but then it’s like what is up with my contract. I might be the best, dunking on fools, but if ain’t nobody paying me nothing, why play. Singing is my talent but where the money at; that’s what happened to me last time. I was singing and going out on tour, singing in the studio till one in the morning. After your album comes out and it does what your label wants it to do, you don’t make no money. I went through all of that and it was a real hard time for me to watch that all go down and not really eat off my talent. This time around I wanted to really focus on making money cause as far as the talent, I naturally sing, host and act. I just want to make sure the money was good.
What is the difference between the Ray J on TV, Ray J the actor and Ray J the artist?
Ray J: The Ray J on TV as far as when I’m hosting that is me. When I’m hosting I try to keep it as simple as possible. I don’t try to do too many “Yo Yo Yo” clowning the artist or making jokes about people’s songs. On the acting side whatever character it is I’m just playing that role so it’s gonna be different from who I am inside because I’m challenging myself to be somebody else. Ray J the artist I just try to keep it low key, I just try to put out music and judge the music for what it is.
As an entrepreneur where are you trying to take your company?
Ray J: I just want to go straight to the top; that is the only place to go, straight to the top. I have my artist Shorty Mack the Purp Man; his album will be out January. We’re also trying to push Brandy’s album next year.
How does it feel to be the CEO and working with your sister on your own label?
Ray J: It feels good. She is one of the owners and I listen to a lot of stuff she says to me more than anyone else. But as far as the vision I have, sometimes your vision gets hindered when you have people coming in trying to tamper with it. So I just ask for them to let me run my business, let me show you my vision. Like Brandy’s new show ‘America’s Got Talent’ is the number one show on TV and I was one of the people who encouraged her to keep going with that, don’t let somebody tell you “if you do that TV show you will looked washed up.” I just inspired her in anyway I can to elevate her as an artist.
You have been criticized a lot throughout your career, what inspires you to be yourself and continue your vision?
Ray J: I stick with family and pray to God everyday. I stick with my mom, my sister and my Knockout team. A lot of people will say “You just Brandy’s little brother” or “You can’t make it.” I don’t listen to that, I look at what I got in the bank. I look at what home I’m living in and I look at all the fans screaming and saying “Ray J and Brandy.” I base it off that! —— By: Interview by Adeniyi Omisore/Gary Gentles