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It seems only appropriate that I speak with D.C.’s self-proclaimed “Love King,” Raheem DeVaughn on Valentine’s Day. Throughout his more than 20-year career, the singer-songwriter has delivered R&B classics “Customer,” “Woman,” “Queen,” and “Guess Who Loves You More.” But DeVaughn, who admits “technically, I’m single,” has other matters on his mind; most notably promoting and touring his latest album while dealing with a significant personal loss.
DeVaughn, who grew up in the DMV and still calls the area home, started his professional musical career in the ’90s after graduating from High Point High School in Beltsville. Singing in vocal groups Urban Ave 31 and the CrossRhodes, he started making a name for himself performing at venues including the Black Cat and State of the Union. In the pre-streaming days, when Soundcloud and Spotify didn’t exist, it was a lot harder for an artist to make it in the music industry if they didn’t live in hubs such as New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville. The singer-songwriter relied on good, old-fashioned grassroots marketing and hustle, with product in hand, as he slowly built a fan base and eventually earned the attention of the industry—work that DeVaughn now appreciates.
“I think anytime you have to work for it, and work harder for it, it makes you respect the craft, and it helps you tremendously,” DeVaughn says. “I had to make a human connection, which I think is still priceless.”
On his latest release, Love Euphoria, which came out in early February, DeVaughn branches out from straight R&B, teaming up once again with saxophonist Vandell Andrew and production team the Colleagues to create an eight-track musical experience that fuses jazz and R&B. Anyone surprised by this genre mixing should note that DeVaughn is the son of Abdul Wadud, the jazz cellist who collaborated with saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill and played with Stevie Wonder. The apple did not fall from the musical tree.
DeVaughn will showcase Love Euphoria, along with his earlier catalog, when he performs at the Birchmere on May 4. “The Birchmere is actually one of my favorite places to perform in the world,” he tells City Paper. “There’s just a vibe there.”
This past summer, DeVaughn’s father died due to complications from multiple recent illnesses. Wadud’s death prompted DeVaughn to start going to therapy sessions, something he acknowledges has been hugely beneficial.
“I was seeking an unbiased ear to talk to not only to unload and start the healing process of that, but other things.…so it’s definitely one of those things I think I’ll do for the rest of my life,” he says.
While it may be easy for DeVaughn to wear his heart on his sleeve in song, he realizes there may still be a stigma around going to therapy, especially among men.
“I would suggest for anybody to do it, especially men. Me being a Black man and just a message to other Black men out there and men in general, [there’s] nothing wrong with it,” he says. “I’m definitely a huge advocate for it. Physical health and mental health is everything.”
DeVaughn, who sold out the Birchmere earlier this year, has several things up his sleeve for his upcoming spring appearance, mostly due to the timing of the show.
“It’s right before my birthday,” says DeVaughn. “It will probably be a fusion of birthday party/go-go party/Raheem DeVaughn/acoustic/everything.”
Raheem DeVaughn plays at 7:30 p.m. on May 4 at the Birchmere in Alexandria. birchmere.com $85.