Last night, I was revising an essay and decided to queue up a playlist of Raheem DeVaughn songs on YouTube. Big mistake. To my surprise, three minutes and thirty seconds later, I was nine months pregnant. Like, full as a tick, ready to pop, bullet-bellied and knocked up. I should’ve known. I’ve been listening to Raheem for a smooth 10 years now and he remains one of my favorite body roll n’ B artists. Buyer beware: He makes immaculate conception music, songs that will get you pregnant on his voice alone.
Why Raheem DeVaughn is my musical baby daddy
I can’t believe I’ve never written on Truly Tafakari about my love for this dude’s music! I fell in love with it back in 2005, when I used to download so much random torrent music just because I could. (To the Feds: I’m reformed now!) “Guess Who Loves You More” played from my iPod on a road trip and I remember the bass in the Earth, Wind & Fire sample striking an elemental chord. Musically, I came home to his voice. So much of his production is a bop, a groove, a mood; his songwriting gives you old-school R&B. He is a master at the slow jam and he knows it. That effortless falsetto hits you in all the right places.
After five albums, you can consider him a veteran, but his first three albums really contain the most jewels in his discography. He sings a lot about sex, at times with the corniness of Kellz in a silk mask and straight-back cornrows. The metaphors try to do too much. But Raheem performs his best work when he finds the balance between sensuality and sagacity. Some of his classic (to me) tunes have nothing to do with sex at all. I like him because he can sing about love and sensitivity with the maturity of a man who does not flinch at vulnerability with his partner. Raheem DeVaughn’s music reminds me of why I married my husband: love that lifts.
I’ve only seen Raheem once in concert, which I need to rectify now that I live near his hometown of D.C. He does a great live show. But in case you’ve never heard his stuff, I got you. A friend of mine asked me to give her a list of my favorite Raheem joints because she’s unfamiliar with him. So, for her, you, yo mama and yo cousin, too, here’s a quick Friday rundown of baby-making music from my musical baby daddy. If you can listen to these songs without hitting a body roll, we can’t sit together. Because I’ll be body rolling over here.
The Definitive List of Raheem DeVaughn “Half on a Baby” Music
10. “Four Letter Word”
This song is obviously meant to be one of those wedding playlist fillers and it doesn’t disappoint. It hits all the lyrical and sonic notes you expect until about the 3:25 mark, where he puts in a nice cascading vocal arrangement. The last minute and a half makes you give “Four Letter Word” four more spins.
You need a good body roll? Get one in here. “Breathe” is the quintessential slow jam with a man spitting compliments and talking up his stroke game. (Raheem makes it worth the listen, though).
8. “Closer (Won’t Be Long)”
The bass and vocals on this track go so hard. To be honest, I had a hard time putting “Closer” this far low on the list. It’s sexy AF.
“You” is one of Raheem’s most popular, well known singles; it still gets relatively frequent airplay in the DMV 12 years after its release. It’s the most upbeat of the songs on this list. I included it because it’s classic Ra, sweet-talking you into bad decisions in under four minutes.
Here’s another Raheem DeVaughn classic, his highest charting and most popular single from his second album, Love Behind the Melody. It’s so much fun. He takes the metaphor to the moon and stays there for the entire trip. Is it corny? Yes. BUT HE SELLS IT. If he didn’t sound good on it, the whole thing would flop. Instead, he made a bop. And I made a rhyme. Oops.
No fancy metaphors about this one, just a candid tune about telling somebody you want them. The refrain simply repeats the name of the song, but it’s so pretty and sexy at the same time. I love the arrangement and the movable parts on “Desire.”
So, at the time this came out, I was pretty heavy into the spoken word scene. Having Malik Yusef do poetry on a mainstream R&B album was huge. I don’t think the spoken word segment has aged well, but this remains one of my best-loved Raheem DeVaughn joints. He weaponizes the falsetto on the track. As much as we talk about masculine fragility, here is a man saying “I’ll be fragile” (even if I think he’s using it wrong) and making it sexy.
Raheem DeVaughn has a fondness for making small mixtapes in between his albums. I’m not a huge fan of R&B mixtapes, preferring their more polished, longer bodies of work. But Ra puts quality on his mixtapes. He’ll take currently popular tunes and cover them, or even remix old favorites from other artists to put his spin on it. “Prototype” is one of my die-hard loves from OutKast/Andre 3000. Andre made it a hot song; Raheem burns the house down with his version. This came from the mixtape “Heemy Taught Me,” which is more than worth a listen in its entirety, even with the Sexy Voice Girl talking over the first two seconds of every melody.
If a guy tells you, “Believe me, I ain’t like most men,” run for the hills, because he’s lying. Unless he’s Raheem DeVaughn. Okay, so Ra is probably lying, too, but this slow jam truly does make you believe the words that are coming out of his mouth. The guitar strumming in the background puts it over the top. It’s a love letter for people who still want to believe in it.
1. “Mo Betta”
This is my anthem, my go-to when I’m feeling awash in cynicism about the ways Black men and women can treat each other. “Mo Betta” invokes our rose-colored sensibilities about what love is, but asks us to make them reality. Be the love you want to see in the world. It’s an incredibly romantic, seven-minute ode to commitment and one of my favorite R&B songs of all time.
Bonus Raheem? Oh, yes.
Even though Raheem DeVaughn’s specialty is the romantic, sexy slow grind, he puts out an uptempo jam or two every album. Here are the most spin-worthy ones:
- “I Don’t Care”: a summery declaration of love against all odds and haters. It knocks.
- “Woman”: Ra’s family-friendly praise of strong women everywhere.
- “Love Connection”: a fun, smooth joint that was woefully underrated
- “Make Em Like You”: he incorporates a bit of chopped and screwed ad libbing for this bop.
- “Guess Who Loves You More”: this modern spin on a classic EWF tune belongs in the pantheon of great R&B of the aughts.
I hope ya’ll enjoy listening to my playlist as much as I did making it. Just make sure you wear some kind of protection over your ears so he doesn’t get you pregnant on the first song, too.