As among the most successful independent artists in the music game today, R&B powerhouse Ray J is leaving both major label artists and independent artists in the dust! Having matured before our very eyes as an actor and singer, there is no question that multi-faceted entertainer and fiercely independent entrepreneur Ray J is both grown and a superstar following the success of his top-selling 2005 CD Raydiation.
It was the third CD of his career but, more importantly, the first he unleashed as the master of his own destiny via his own Knockout Entertainment company. That album contained the single that changed the entire direction of his career, the galvanizing ballad "One Wish", marking his defiant state of liberation after two albums on "major" labels. As an independent artist, Ray J earned his first #1 single on the R&B charts with "One Wish" which helped push his Raydiation album over the 400,000 sales mark, phenomenal for an indie release in today's retail climate. Now with All I Feel (in-stores April 8, 2008), Ray J flexes even harder - partying, loving, and sharing reflections on life and growing older all set to the soundtrack of next level acoustic music and electronica tracks. Without a doubt, Ray J has his finger on the pulse of what his audience wants.
"Sexy Can I," the first single from All I Feel, came out roaring from its corner of the ring breaking records as among the fastest rising singles ever by an independent artist, serving up sexy musical TKOs to an audience of millions on radio and video charts. Charting Top 5 after a mere month in circulation, "Sexy Can I" (featuring rapper Yung Berg) is indisputably the fastest growing record in distributor Koch's history! Ray J composed the song with his partner out of Detroit, Detail. "My friend, Victor Carroway, gave me the beat, and I was feeling really good when we wrote that," Ray J remembers. "We felt it could crank up the engine for what we were trying to do. R. Malcolm Jones directed a video filled with honeys in Miami just before Christmas. We leaked it and when we came back from the holidays, it was on fire!"
After a year of well-documented personal trials, Ray J decided it was time to focus even stronger on his music, putting his acting and TV hosting duties on hold. Ray J wrote 90% of All I Feel with handpicked production collaborators. The album will be released as part of a 3-way venture between Ray J's Knockout company, Shaquille O'Neal's and Money Mark's Deja 34 entertainment company, and marketing/distribution powerhouse Koch Entertainment. Respected industry tastemaker DJ KaySlay is among the A&R people for the project. "This time instead of trying to do music to fit different areas of the marketplace, I'm just doing me!"
Ray J and Detail also crafted another sexy number simply titled "Gifts". "On that one, I'm talking about all the things that make a woman alluring - her lips...her hips...when I'm up in the club she makes me wanna give tips!" And there's more where that came from on songs that feature special guests, including The Game ("Where You At") and Styles P.
The title track, "All I Feel", is one of the few songs Ray J did not write. However, the epic feel of the track and the theme of the lyric summed up Ray J perfectly. "All I Feel" was written by Johnta Austin and Rodney Jerkins," he explains. "It's a strong, very emotional love song that I think will connect with everyone. The set up of the song says, 'Two days ago, I felt like a star / But two hours ago, I just lost my heart...' After that, I poured my heart out sharing all I feel."
Even more intriguing are some songs that reveal deeper layers to the real Ray J - the man behind the star. First is "I Can Feel It" which sports a more alterative rock sound musically. "That one just features me playing acoustic guitar and spilling my heart out over a Moog bass line, he shares. "It's the last song on the album and very different from everything else. I did that with Dave Pasarow, a rock n' roll guy I jam with in the Valley."
Instrumentally, Ray J is doing a lot more playing these days. Fans can look forward to seeing him take his performing chops to the next level accompanying himself on guitar and piano on new songs such as "All I Feel", plus older hits like "One Wish" and "Melody" on his upcoming tour. In fact, the most profound song composed at the piano titled "It Was Good to Know You" (Bonus). "That song is about me reflecting on my life on my last day on Earth. I put myself in the mindset of a senior citizen, singing to myself about going off to the next life. It's a little sad, but it's strong." Pressed about the inspiration behind this song, Ray J continues, "My grandmother on my dad's side and my grandfather on my mom's side both passed away in the last few years. When I went back home to McComb, Mississippi to be with my family, I heard all these classic Johnnie Taylor and Otis Redding records. That old soul sound kinda made me zone out, flashing back on memories we shared. Later back here in L.A., I bought my dad a new piano. I was playing it one day with him sitting next to me and this song came pouring out."
Life milestones such as this got Ray J to thinking even more seriously about his future. So when one of his workout buddies, Stutterbox, started talking to him about business one day on the way to the gym, the conversation turned into a multi-million dollar joint partnership that united Ray J with Shaquille O'Neal and Money Mark's Atlanta based entertainment company Deja34, with marketing and distribution of the music being handled by Koch Entertainment). Ray J's next power move will be breaking his new artists Shorty Mack, Max Lux and The E.O. E.
Close proximity to family buoyed Ray J (born Willie Ray Norwood, Jr.) as he ascended from a co-starring role on comedian Sinbad's sitcom Sinbad, followed by Moesha (starring his sister Brandy) and "One on One" (starring Kyla Pratt), plus independent film roles. This led to his first two albums: Ev'rything You Want (Elektra - 1997) and This Ain't a Game (Atlantic - 2002), the latter of which proved Ray J's cutting edge instincts by being among the earliest hit productions by The Neptunes.
It also featured Lil' Kim on the blazing hot single/video "Wait a Minute." Then, after meatier roles in movies such as Envy and a high-profile stint as host of Black Entertainment Television's (BET) The Source Sound Lab, and BET Countdown, Ray J came back stronger than ever with Raydiation in 2005, a Knockout Entertainment release (via Sanctuary Records) featuring production by Timbaland and R. Kelly, guest spots from Mya and Fat Joe, and the BMI Award-wining radio/video/ring tone smash "One Wish," a Rodney Jerkins production.