It’s not every day one gets to interview a young mogul-in-the-making. However, if anyone fits that description, it’s Ray J. A former child actor who appeared in TV commercials and enjoyed featured roles on both Moesha and The Sinbad Show, this workaholic is now known as the voice (and face) behind the recent R & B chart-topper “One Wish.” The 25-year-old younger sibling of singer/actress/star Brandy currently divides his time between starring in the UPN comedy series One on One, co-hosting the BET.com Countdown, touring behind Raydiation, his latest solo CD on his own Knockout Entertainment (of which he’s the CEO), and trying to break another Knockout artist. I caught up with Ray in the recording studio, and we spoke at length about themes, schemes and dreams:
Connect Savannah: So, when do you sleep?
Ray J: You know, I been tryin’ to figure that out myself. I have a hard time gettin’ to sleep, but I hope to have a big vacation soon. Right now, it’s just time to grind and get all my talents out to the world.
Connect Savannah: What’re your days like?
Ray J: Well, today I’m doin’ interviews. I’m workin’ with my new artist Shorty Mack, remixin’ a song called “Good Times.” Tonight I’m back in the studio workin’ on another song with Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Shorty Mack called “Smokin’ Smokin’.”
Connect Savannah: Have you worked with any of those cats before?
Ray J: Oh yeah. I work with Snoop and Nate Dogg all the time, but I haven’t released any of those sounds out to the world before now. When Shorty Mack’s album comes out, everybody’s gonna hear about the hip-hop flava that Knockout has!
Connect Savannah: What’s your favorite foreign country so far to play in?
Ray J: London. Love London, man.
Connect Savannah: What about it?
Ray J: The crowd. And, of course (laughs), women in London are real hot. Real sexy.
Connect Savannah: Even with the teeth?
Ray J: (laughs) That’s just a rumor, man! I know a few girls in London with some real beautiful teeth.
Connect Savannah: You started out in the shadow of your older sister Brandy, and you’ve released a song about how you felt neglected when your mother focused more on her career than yours.
Ray J: Well, the song was just a reflection of my life. They helped me overcome a lot of teenage, you know, upbringin’. From violence and gangs, you know. They’re the ones who saved my life. You know, we independent, man. All this stuff is under my label, and all the money we make, you know, they can get it all. Well, they can get 75 percent. Or half. Whatever. Whatever they want from me. It’s love.
Connect Savannah: You talk a lot about the thug life - but you also admit that as a teen, you had a bunch of money saved up from acting. What do you say to people who think that hard-luck story is just an exaggeration?
Ray J: You just gotta keep God in your life first and anybody around you who’s doin’ the positive thing is cool. You can go in the club and have fun. You can go out and hang out with women. If you married, you know, just keep it cool and be responsible with your kids. You know, just give it all you got. All that other stuff is nonsense. Killin’ people, shootin’ people, robbin’ people. I ain’t wit’ all that, man. As many people as I can bring up outta the circle and get into better things as far as bein’ young businessmen and puttin’ they family on and helpin’ they kids to eat — that’s what it’s all about. We out here grindin’ and tryin’ to just make it happen and survive. Survival of the fittest!
Connect Savannah: So, how fit are you?
Ray J: (laughs) I’m real fit, man. We in the gym every day!
Connect Savannah: Speaking of keeping fit — I saw the video for your new song “What I Need,” and you spend most of your time in your underwear or standing around half-naked. Do you ever say to yourself, “What the hell am I doin’ up here? I look ridiculous.”
Ray J: (laughs) No. I like feelin’ free, man. I like bein’ able to know I’ve worked out enough to take off my shirt anywhere. At a party, at a pool party, in the bed. And I’m able to turn on a woman in the way where she can get a good feel outta my body. That’s what the women want, you know what I’m sayin’? I mean, there’s a lot of different sizes and shapes, but me? I’m one of the fit! Man, I’m tryin’ to turn all the women on up into the red mark!
Connect Savannah: Do they fight over you?
Ray J: Well, I want ‘em to be attracted not just to the look, but to the sound. The passion. The story. It’s all about everything. It’s not just about havin’ a good body. Sometimes it’s about what you’ve been through in life. So, I wanna take them through all the things I’ve been through and attract them to Ray J as a person.
Connect Savannah: I see you’re featured in Tiger Beat. Is that the audience you’re aiming for with Raydiation?
Ray J: I’m aiming for everybody with Raydiation. The kids, the grown-ups, the teens. You know, I don’t have a parental advisory for explicit lyrics on this one. So, it’s a universal album.
Connect Savannah: Are you looking forward to playing Savannah?
Ray J: Yeah, man I can’t wait. We gonna ROCK IT! Make sure you let them know about the album Raydiation. It’s in stores now! They can log on to www.rayj.com or log on to MySpace.com/rayj.
Connect Savannah: How’s the MySpace thing working for you?
Ray J: I got somethin’ like 146,000 friends! It’s crazy. (laughs) And I’m continuin’ to add, dog.
Ray J appears with Bow Wow, T-Pain, and B5 at 8 pm, Saturday in the Savannah Civic Center. Tickets available through the Civic Center Box Office and usual outlets.