RAY J Biography
To those who THOUGHT they knew Ray J, think again. Though he has released two albums, starred in sitcoms and films, and is currently gracing TV as a celebrity interviewer for BET, Ray J has only scratched the surface of what makes him tick as a man, entertainer and budding entrepreneur... until now. Once he breaks the world off with his third and finest album to date, "Raydiation," prepare to be introduced to the heart that beats beneath the image.
Don't get it twisted. Raydiation is loaded with blazin' hits like the Timbaland-produced "Unbelievable;" the R. Kelly-produced "Quit Actin';" a steamy strip club duet with Mya titled "Sexy" and the Rodney Jerkins joint "Keep Sweatin'" (featuring rapper Fat Joe). However, the essence of the 15-song Raydiation lies in the revelation of Ray J's hardcore street past, the more romantic and introspective spot he's reserved for the ladies, and - most importantly - the fact that his big sister Brandy isn't the only powerful soul-singer in the family. Raydiation unveils a fully developed Ray J that's destined to surprise and satisfy.
"On this album," Ray J explains, "I strayed away from the hip hop edge and stuck with what comes natural for me. I love rap, and hip hop is still a part of what I'm doing, it's just that my singing is more prominent now."
"I love my last album," he continues, referring to 2002's "This Ain't a Game," "but the singles I chose AFTER 'Wait a Minute' did not capture what Ray J is really about. People saw me as a rapper instead of a singer who loved to do it all. On "Raydiation," I'm letting my R&B game shine."
Ray J proves that out of the box with "Raydiation"'s first single, "One Wish," a dynamic ballad that he co-wrote with Rodney Jerkins, Fred Jerkins and LaShawn Daniels, reflecting a newfound maturity and sensitivity. "I'm blessed to be a part of the history that's in the making of my main man Ray J. I worked with him before and this time I am more impressed with his growth vocally and as an artist," says Rodney Jerkins. "I've worked with the best of the best and Ray is probably one of the best male artists I have ever worked with. One Wish proves that his voice is the real deal and that all the other cats in the game better step up their game the way Ray J has."
While "One Wish" puts the world up on the fact that Ray J is a persuasive writer and singer in the emotive, high tenor style of New Edition's Ralph Tresvant, key selections on the album peel back a more personal layer to show the experiences that tested his fortitude and shaped his unwavering spirit.
"KnockOut producer Noel "Detail" Fisher had the idea of calling the album "Raydiation." It was perfect because I felt like I had to destroy and rebuild - eliminate all of my negative thoughts to embrace a more positive way of life," Ray J shares. "I moved from Mississippi when I was 2 and grew up in Centerview (a section of Carson, California a mere three minutes from the place that N.W.A made a household name: the City of Compton). I had a very street mentality. I just wanted to be cool with my friends in the hood. Then I looked in the mirror and realized I could still have that mentality yet elevate. I saw that I could flex my responsibility as a grown man with the power to effect change in the world, with all I have and all my family has."
The shockingly autobiographical "Centerview" reveals frankly how Ray J dealt with his feelings of being neglected and left behind as his mother focused on his sister's career. "I was only 12," he confesses, "and I wanted all of my mother's attention. I couldn't get it so I sought comfort and camaraderie in the streets, like so many other young guys in the neighborhood. I had money from doing commercials and being on (the TV show) Sinbad, so I had a little power in the hood. But I can't tell you how many times I got shot at. Having a near death experience brought things into focus for me, and I called my mom and said, 'I need help.'" Hearing all of this emotion packed into one track is so moving that the first time Ray J's mother heard "Centerview," she sat down and cried.
Ray J engages the metaphor of battle to illustrate the universal struggle of walking a righteous path on the song "War is Over," a duet he co-composed and sang with Brandy that houses the opening lyric, "My brothers and sisters, get some courage and some wisdom / As you go on life's mission, hope you make the right decisions." As the album progresses, one realizes he's fortifying himself as much as he is aiming to inspire others.
On the album's closing song, "Anytime" - Ray J's most galvanizing and soulful vocal recording to date - he lets his fans living desperate lives know that they will see a brighter day. "Anytime you need a friend, listen to my songs and look at where I've come from, compared to where I've been."
Ray J has truly arrived on Raydiation, an album that represents his right of passage as an artist and as a businessman. Rolling up his sleeves, Ray J has adopted an attitude very much in line with something powerful that the great James Brown once signified: "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothin' (Open Up The Door, I'll Get It Myself)!" At the same time, he has learned about strength in numbers and the unique allies he has in his family.
That process started from ground zero. Six months after he was granted a release from Atlantic Records, the Norwood family invested start-up money to get KnockOut Entertainment up and running, a dream he had since age 13. With his family's support and a new attitude, Ray J started working on a new album. He flew to Miami and holed up in a small upstairs wing of the super busy Hit Factory recording studios. Once he and his producer Detail got a song down that they felt was strong ("Melody," an ode to the power of music with a great guitar solo by Isaac Phillips), Ray J played it for mega producer Tim "Timbaland" Mosley -- who happened to be recording in another part of the studio. Impressed with the song's soaring vocals, Timbaland let Ray J write to four of his beats. "I could only afford one, though," Ray J admits, so he picked the banger "Unbelievable," which showcases KnockOut artists Shorty Mack and Detail, plus a blazin' new Jamaican female artist named Gangsta Girl. "Encouraged, Ray J flew to Chicago, stepped to R. Kelly and came back with the club heater "Quit Actin'."
Raydiation goes on to expose a string of storyline songs about Ray J's quest for true love - a journey not without its hot and spicy detours. These include the island hopping escapades of "Exotic," the tender "Let's Play House," "What I Need" and the dark-n-steamy Mya duet "Sexy." "We recorded our parts in the booth together - the only way to get that heat," Ray J shares. "The things she is saying to me on that song are crazy!" Ray J tells the ladies how he likes things done in the bedroom on "In Tha Mood," and he also lets the world in on his secret crush for a Hollywood movie star on "Blue High Heels." "I was at the piano with Boomerang and Prince on my mind, and had a vision of 'Halle Berry-Norwood' struttin' in a fur coat, a blue dress and blue high heels to match!"
"Raydiation represents every mood of me," Ray J states. "I love clubs and hangin' out with my friends, but when all the fun is done you want to go home to somebody you love, can take over the world with - have kids and live your life."
Ray J concludes, "From all of the bad situations I've seen and experienced, I've learned to never give up and consider God first in your life. Mistakes are great if you learn from them and get stronger. Raydiation shows the strength that I've gained so far from my life. And with God, I will keep growing, keep learning, keep building…and keep singing about it!"
Arriving on the heels of big sister/R&B star Brandy, rapper Ray J parlayed his success on television into a music career at the age of 14. Born in McComb, MS, Ray J's family moved to Carson, CA, when he was still a toddler, landing him in the center of the entertainment industry. He started auditioning for commercials at age eight, scoring several gigs until he caught the eye of comedian Sinbad, who was casting children for his upcoming TV show. Ray J got the role playing Sinbad's foster son until the show was canceled in 1993. From there, he began acting in movies, appearing in the films Steel and Mars Attacks! in minor roles. At the same time, he was also itching to try his hand at the music industry, inspired by Brandy's early successes. He signed with Elektra in 1995, recording Everything You Want the following year with a set of superstar songwriters and producers behind him. In 1997, he performed in a television special with his sister, but despite the mainstream attention, he was dropped by Elektra soon after. His easygoing image and boyish looks appealed to the producers of Brandy's television show, Moesha, scoring him a role on the popular UPN series starting in 1999. He also started producing, putting together the music for several commercials and a few of the demos for his second record. Still, when he stepped back into the studio he called on the Neptunes, Rodney Jerkins, Brycyn "Juvie" Evans, and several other hitmaking producers to help him compile This Ain't a Game, a pop-oriented record that featured more of his singing than his debut. The album dropped in 2001, but despite a strong promotional push from new label Atlantic Records, it wasn't the breakthrough success it seemed designed to be. It would be four years before he returned to music, but despite the lengthy absence, his high profile still commanded an all-star gust list. With help from Timbaland, R. Kelly, Mya, and Fat Joe, Ray J resurfaced with Raydiation (released on Sanctuary). All I Feel, issued through Koch, followed in 2008. Bradley Torreano, All Music Guide
RAY J lyrics and albums