Shaggy’s righthand man, Rayvon, wastes little time in setting the tone for his promising debut Big Yard/MCA album, “My Bad” (out on June 25).
The opening track, “Story of My Life,” has hit written all over it. Convincing radio to jump aboard is a whole other story.
“Once the album comes out and people hear it, though,” Rayvon said recently, “I think they’ll be requesting it. I wanted something for people to grab onto as soon as they put on the album. I didn’t want them to put it on and the first song’s so-so and they take it out and file it away. I wanted something that will make people keep that CD in there and play it all the time.”
Though “Story of My Life” is drawn partly from Rayvon’s own experiences, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native says it’s a not a true story.
“It’s a father talking to his son,” he said. “The father’s been down a certain road and now he’s seeing his son coming of age and he’s beginning to do a lot of the mistakes that he used to do. So he’s trying to tell his son, ‘Don’t do it. I’ve been there before. Look how I ended up. You don’t want to end up like me.’
“That happens in nearly everybody’s life, but not particularly in that story form. If you did things in your past that you’re not proud of, later on when you have children, you don’t want them to do the same things. You want them to have an easier way out of it or not go through the hard, struggling times you had to go through. This way, the kid can handle it better because he’s talking with someone who has experience.”
Similarly, Rayvon – born Bruce Alexander Michael Brewster – has learned from mistakes he made on his first album, 1996’s “Hear My Cry.” Though it featured some of the hottest producers in reggae and hip-hop (such as Funkmaster Flex and Robert Livingston), it failed commercially.
“I guess nothing happens before it’s time,” Rayvon said. “That album was a learning experience for me because it was my first. I had been in the business long before that and I’ve had a lot of singles, but I had never touched on a full album, signed to a record label with major distribution. I definitely learned from my mistakes on that album and I knew I wouldn’t make them again on my second one. It’s still a good album, but it’s just one of those things that went along with the politics of the music industry. It’s all about momentum, being in the right place at the right time. It’s all about timing.”
He should know. Timing has played a big role in his career.
Though Rayvon and Shaggy moved around in the same circles in the New York City music scene, they didn’t meet until one day at a Brooklyn studio in 1988.
“I was doing some solo songs and he was there to do one,” Rayvon said. “We ended up combining the song together because I had a smooth-edged style of singing and he had that rough DJ style. The chemistry was good, and it sounded great. We kept at it until we had a hit with ‘Big Up.’
“We get along great. I don’t know if it’s because of our signs or what – I’m a Capricorn and he’s a Libra. Libras and Capricorns really get along well. There’s no ego things involved.”
They toured together for years, but their careers didn’t take off until 1993, when Shaggy’s “Oh Carolina” – with Rayvon on background vocals – was featured in the Sharon Stone film “Sliver.” It catapulted to the top of the U.K. singles chart but failed to crack the U.S. Top 40. Two years later, Shaggy finally had his big American break with a two-sided hit: The title track from his platinum-selling, Grammy-winning “Boombastic” album (on Virgin), reached No. 3 on Billboard’s pop chart, as did the flip side, “Summer Time” – a cover of Mungo Jerry’s 1970 hit “In the Summertime” – also featuring Rayvon.
That laid the groundwork for even bigger things for Shaggy and Rayvon. Shaggy’s 2000 album, “Hotshot” (on MCA), sold more than 6 million copies, powered by back-to-back No. 1s “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel,” the latter of which owes a great deal to Rayvon’s sizzling vocals.
“With ‘Angel,’ we knew it was a real good song and that it was going to be a hit,” Rayvon said, “but we didn’t know exactly how big of a hit it would be. The record company wanted to wait on it; they wanted ‘It Wasn’t Me’ to take full control for a while, but when the album was released, the DJs and the radio heard ‘Angel’ also and they started jumping on it. Then the public jumped on it. Then you had two songs going up the chart, ‘It Wasn’t Me’ and ‘Angel,’ at the same time.
“At that time, there was so much work to be done, I only had two or three songs ready for the album. My album wasn’t anywhere near complete. Here were all these tours and TV shows we had to do. We were all over the place; it was a worldwide hit. I’d be in Hong Kong one week and Greece the next. It was crazy. I had to come back between those shows to work on the album. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even signed yet; there wasn’t any deal on the table.”
Shaggy rewarded Rayvon for his loyalty by making him the first signing to his fledgling Big Yard Music label, distributed by MCA.
With “My Bad,” Rayvon says his goal was simple: Get people to pay attention and listen.
“I want them dancing to some of the songs or maybe have an intimate thing with their other half, with songs like ‘In the Winter Time.’ That’s a nice cozy, fireplace, romantic kind of song,” he said. “And we’ve got ‘Playboy Bunny,’ which is playful. It could be a nightclub song or a guy can dedicate it to a lady friend. I was trying to get across a fun-loving album, with laughs, and for people to enjoy themselves. It’s like putting in a DVD and you’re entertained for two hours, only I’m trying to entertain you for 90 minutes.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I think it was ‘Magic Fly.’ I started out as a DJ; my father bought me two turntables and a mixer when I was 11 or 12 and I started mixing things at home, and I think ‘Magic Fly’ was the first one I got. I can’t even remember the name of the artist.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “My first mainstream concert was Luther Vandross at Wembley Stadium. He was there for two hours and still didn’t sing at least 10 of his hits.”
THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “In high school, I used to do like secretarial filing for a grumpy, old, old, old man. When I say grumpy, he was grumpy. If I put a comma in the wrong place, he’d lay into me. I also worked for UPS for five years; that was very physically demanding.”
ON THE WEB: www.rayvononline.com.
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