|Label:||Just Us Music Group|
|Next Project:||A Breathe of Fresh Air (Mar '08)|
|Twitter:||Razah on Twitter|
Presidential hopefuls Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama feel as though 2008 is their year. With due respect to these fine political leaders, Def Jam singer/songwriter Razah feels as though ’08 is his year as well.
Born in the small town of St. Andrews, Jamaica, Razah was raised by a single mother who gave up everything for her children. After coming to America, realizing his dream to perform, and later perfecting his craft, Razah spurned an offer from Akon to sign with L.A. Reid at Def Jam.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Razah steps inside the booth to talk about the positive influences of his mother, why a Boyz II Men song can make a grown man cry, and how the success of label mates Ne-Yo and Rihanna have upped the expectations for his debut, “A Fresh Breath of Air.”
Listen to the Interview
Razah Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: It’s your host, DJ Z, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a 23-year-old Jamaican-born singer who will release his debut album off of Def Jam this coming March. Please welcome Razah – how you doin’?
Razah: I’m good. How you doin’, man?
DJ Booth: I’m doin’ great. We talked in the pre-interview, you said ‘08’s your year, is that correct?
Razah: Yes, ‘08 is mine, I’m makin’ it clear, that’s my statement that I’m makin’: ‘08 is my year. L.A. Reid told me that, Jay-Z told me that, Steve Bartels told me that, so that’s what I’m goin’ with.
DJ Booth: I think some of the presidential candidates might argue, because they’ve been using that slogan for a couple years now. But I’m gonna argue with them that Razah is right, and ‘08 will be your year.
Razah: Yes, it’s my year. I’m not gonna take it from them; I just wanna be a part of the ‘08 movement. I don’t wanna hog it up and it be all mine. I just want mine in ‘08, basically.
DJ Booth: Okay, well I think you’d agree that a successful ‘08 would be a multi-platinum album and a new president in office.
Razah: Oh man, that’d be beautiful.
DJ Booth: Razah, you grew up in the small town of St. Andrews, Jamaica, raised by a single mother, who was responsible for not only nurturing you and your siblings, but also holding down a job and going to school. Explain what it was like, growing up in that environment.
Razah: I knew that it was hard, but my mother would never show that; she would never sit around and pout and cry, “Oh, I can’t pay the bills this month.” She would just go out there and do it. That’s where I get my mentality from – like, when stuff don’t go right with me, I don’t sit around like, “Oh, man, yo, this ain’t happenin’, my song ain’t bein’ played here…” I’m just a go-getter. She instilled that in me: when something’s goin’ wrong, don’t just sit around and expect it to go right – you gotta make it go right. So that’s my thing: I’m gonna make it right for ‘08.
DJ Booth: Razah, where would you be today, without the persistence, responsibility, and love that your mother gave you?
Razah: Honestly, I would probably be in jail, or I’d be dead. ‘Cause the things that I was getting myself caught up into – and that’s stuff I really never talk about like that – she caught me before I even got in too deep. That’s the good thing about my mother: she sits me down. She’s my mother, but we have a brother-sister, type of best friend relationship. We can talk about anything. She told me, “You know, listen: you shouldn’t be doin’ what you’re doin’. If you wanna do the music thing, do that, stick to what you’re doing.” I’d be nowhere without my mother.
DJ Booth: When your mom found out that you inked a recording contract with Def Jam, what were her first words to you?
Razah: Ah, man, I can’t even remember – I just know she was excited.
DJ Booth: Well, that’s good!
Razah: [laughter] She’s Jamaican, so she was like, “Okay, I’m gonna cook a big meal.” We sat down and we ate, and she was askin’, “So, what’s next?” ‘Cause she really don’t understand the whole process of makin’ an album or doin’ a video or goin’ on tour. So I was tryin’ to explain to her what’s next and what’s the plan. We just sat down and ate some oxtail, some steamed fish, some curry goat…
DJ Booth: Well, that sounds great, but I haven’t eaten lunch yet, so let’s stop right there. Razah, your new single is entitled, “Rain.” Of course, your label mate, Rihanna, released her smash single last year, “Umbrella,” and I heard that together you recorded a song, “Where Do We Go from Here?” I’m thinking, it’s probably inside a building, away from stormy weather. Would both of you agree?
Razah: [laughter] It’s funny how that came about. She got the “Umbrella” joint, I got the “Rain.” You know how that record came about? When the guy emailed me the beat, that’s the name he named [it]. It was “Rain,” so I just kept that name, “Rain,” and I just wrote the song to it.
DJ Booth: Well, speaking of rain, let’s talk about tears. In your bio, it states that you feel no one wants to cry on a record any more; people are not willing to show their emotions. How can artists show more emotion in their music, and how will it benefit them if they do?
Razah: Artists nowadays, they’re not really writing their own stuff, so I kinda understand why a lot of people are not cryin’ in their records: because they’re not writing the records. It’s kinda hard – I don’t wanna call any names for artists that just be cryin’ on the record that someone else wrote. You know what I mean? That’s what I think the problem is? I write all my records, and I tell true stories. Like, the record, “Dear Dad.” I don’t know my father, I just wrote a letter to him, and I sang it. And when I was recording that record I was cryin’ – I had to stop for like twenty minutes to get myself together, and then go back and finish the record. I think a lot of artists are not writing, so that’s why it’s so hard for them to really show their emotion. And when you show that emotion, other people out there, the fans, the people that are listenin’, they can feel that. When you listen to that record, you can feel it like, “Damn!” You can actually feel it. That’s how it benefits – you get the people closer to you.
DJ Booth: Definitely. There is a connection that needs to exist. The fans that purchase music are smart enough to figure out when a song is really being written by the song’s artist, and when it’s being written by someone else. There is that disconnect – you’re completely right. I’m man enough to admit that I’ve cried when listening to music, and I know that whenever I hear Boyz II Men “A Song for Mama,” I shed a tear. So what’s the first song that you remember hearing that made you shed a tear or two?
Razah: I think it was a Boyz II Men song, too. [singing] “Although we’ve come, to the end of the road.” Remember that song?
DJ Booth: “‘End of the Road,” oh yeah.
Razah: My homeboy had just got shot, when I was in Brownsville, he died. When I first heard that, like, damn… I was really young when I heard that record, and that made me shed a tear, first time I heard it.
DJ Booth: There’s something about a Boyz II Men record that just makes grown men cry – I don’t know what it is.
Razah: [laughter] ‘Cause you feel the soul and the emotion of it – you feel it, you know what I’m saying?
DJ Booth: Definitely. It reaches deep down; it’s not on that surface level.
Razah: Yeah, it’s not like, “Oh bling, bling bling bling.” All that’s cool, but it’s like, damn!
DJ Booth: You could tell right away, and that’s what’s really important. Razah, I remember first hearing your work on the song “Changes,” from Juelz Santana’s last album. Explain the life changes the you’ve had to undergo, since being signed to a major label deal.
Razah: I can’t do the same thing that I used to do, because now I got a major record company, they’re gonna invest millions of dollars in me, now I gotta be safe. I can’t put myself in the same situations as I did when I didn’t have a deal. I can’t be reckless; I can’t be running in and out of clubs. I can’t put myself in dangerous situations. So that’s really the only change –I haven’t really changed like that. It’s just like, I’m bein’ more cautious now.
DJ Booth: Do you spend money differently? Do you not go certain places, other than the club? Do you hang out with different crowds?
Razah: I hang out with the same people. I’m not a clubber; I wasn’t a clubber before the deal, so I’m not a clubber now. I hang out with the same people, I spend money the same way – well, not the same way, ‘cause I got a little more now. [laughter] But I’m just real cautious right now. I don’t put myself out there like that, to get in trouble. Where I’m from, I’m from Brownsville, and it’s hard down there, and it’s very easy to get in trouble. Just walking outside the house, you can get in trouble. Walkin’ down to the corner store, police can run up on you – you never know. So I just try to stay in and keep myself out of harm’s way.
DJ Booth: Well, you seem very grounded right now. If you’d like, I can play back this interview for you in a year, if anything has changed.
Razah: [laughter] I’m not gonna say that I’m not gonna change. I’m pretty sure after you sell a couple million records and you start livin’ a different lifestyle; I guess your whole mindset would be different. But my mama, she’s gonna keep me on point.
DJ Booth: She’s gonna keep on cooking you those meals…
Razah: Yeah, she’s gonna make sure I don’t start gettin’ arrogant or any of that craziness. She’ll keep me on point, she’ll keep me grounded.
DJ Booth: Your label, Island Def Jam, just received 31 Grammy nominations for next year’s 50th annual awards ceremony. Describe the feeling of being able to work for a label as successful as Island Def Jam.
Razah: It’s incredible. Before I signed the deal, Akon was actually trying to set up a situation where I was gonna sign to Konvict Muzik, and as soon as the whole Jay-Z, LA Reid thing came out, I was like, “Oh man, this is a no-brainer.” It wasn’t even anything to think about – not only Jay-Z but LA Reid? He does R&B. He’s know for the Ushers, and the Pinks, and the Christina Aguileras – he’s known for making big R&B pop artists. When I heard that, it’s incredible, I can’t even explain it. Like, just bein’ in the presence of LA Reid is amazing.
DJ Booth: With all of the success of fellow label mates Ne-Yo and Rihanna, how high are your expectations for your major label debut next March?
Razah: My expectations are real high. I feel like I put my heart and my soul into this album, to make sure that the songs were right, the beats were correct – I put my heart and soul into it. I just hope that LA Reid and Jay-Z push that button and say, “Listen, we goin’ with this kid; let’s make this kid the number one kid in the world!” Real high. I’m hopin’ for a big year, ‘08. I’m hopin’ for a big ‘08.
DJ Booth: Well, you sound excited about the project, which leads me to believe that it is everything that you’re saying that it is. I read that you worked with Stargate; they produced one of Chris Brown’s new hits, “With You.” The rap on that song was that it sounds so similar to Beyonce’s hit, “Irreplaceable.” So when they worked with you, did you hear any similarities in their production that made you think it sounded too much like what they’d produced for another artist prior to working with you?
Razah: No and I didn’t want to go in there and they say, “Okay, here’s the record,” and it sounds like a Ne-Yo record, or what you just said. The record that they did is a record called, “Hero.” When you hear this record, you’re gonna be like, “Stargate made this record!?” ‘cause it sounds nothing like any of the Chris Brown records, the Ne-Yo records; it don’t sound nothing like that. It’s like a total opposite record from that. And that’s what I was so excited about – when I head the beat, I was like, “Oh, yeah, I love this. This is it.” ‘Cause even the Rihanna and Ne-Yo record, it kinda sounds like “So Sick” a little bit to me.
DJ Booth: This next question might get you in some hot water at the office, so choose your answer carefully. Let’s say, hypothetically, Def Jam locks you up in a room with fellow singer’s The-Dream and Sterling Sims, both of your label mates, and in order to get out you need to sing your way out of the room. Who would be left locked in the room, and who has made it out successfully?
Razah: I really don’t know, ‘cause I never got into The-Dream’s music like that. I never really heard Sterling Sims music, so I can’t really even speak on Sterling. I don’t know. The only record that I heard from Dream was the single, “Shawty Is a 10,” and “Falsetto.” You’re talking about vocally singing?
DJ Booth: Vocally – you need to belt those notes to get out of the room…
Razah: I don’t know. I would say Sterling Sims would be in the room ‘cause I never heard any of his music so I don’t even know what he sounds like. Me and The-Dream would be out.
DJ Booth: Okay. So, half PC answer, half truthful – I appreciate that. Razah, give everybody a website or a Myspace page so they can find out more about you and about this upcoming release this March.
Razah: You can go to myspace.com/razah, or you can go to defjam.com and check your boy Razah out. It’s March ‘08, it’s gonna be a beautiful thing. I shot the video for “Rain” already, shout-out to Jessie Carrera, he directed the video, that’ll be out in January, and ‘08 is lookin’ very beautiful. I thank you, Z; I appreciate you havin’ me on, I appreciate it a lot, homie. Thanks a lot.
DJ Booth: Well, I thank you for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck. No matter what any presidential elect says, ‘08 is the year of Razah, right?
Razah: Yeah, Razah baby, woo-hoo! Thanks a lot, man; thanks for having me!