Hailing from Monroe, Louisiana via Atlanta, Georgia, Ray “Ray L” Lavender is the slept on commodity from Akon’s burgeoning label Kon Live. The reason I say slept on is because after his breakout hit My Girl Gotta Girlfriend, Ray kind of fizzled out somewhat and his original album X-Rayted didn’t see the light of day. But fret not ladies, Ray is still with Kon Live Distribution and Global Artist Group with a new album in the works and the lead single Tequila, featuring Jordan Humphrey and Viper, Ray’s probably going to end up with another girl that’s gotta girlfriend.
Yo! Raps got a chance to rap with the ladies man about why he chose to stick with Kon Live Distribution, the tragic passing of his beloved father and what kind of legacy he wants to leave on the world through his music and he also talks about his former group that many people have never heard of, Collabo.
What was your first meeting with Akon like?
It was crazy. I’m working for Pizza Hut as a delivery guy and I’m singing and putting boxes together and my man says to me, “Hey, I know some guys that have a studio because every time I deliver Pizza I hear the music bumping, so here’s the address you should go by there on your last run.” So I went over there after my last run and this African guy answers the door and he’s like, “Ain’t nobody order a Pizza.” So I’m like, “No, I know man but I can sing.” So he says, “We don’t do that. Our office hours are from 9 to 5.” So I say, “No, no, no man you really need to listen to me sing.” So I started singing Gotta Be by Jagged Edge, and this guy named Mohammed was blown away and he told me to come inside. So he starts yelling, “Yo Ali come over here for a second.” So this Ali guy comes from around the corner and you can clearly tell that they are brothers because they look so much alike. So Ali says, “What’s going on? Who ordered a Pizza?” So Mohammed told him I can sing so I sang for Ali and he loved the sound of my voice. Now, this guy named Ali is who we all know and love as Akon and this was in 1996, and we’ve been cool ever since.
What kind of responses did you get from men and women about My Girl Gotta Girlfriend?”
I didn’t know that so many people had actually gone through the same situation until I did the song. I had guys telling me, “Yo, I’m going through the same thing right now and they both live with me now, I got two chicks now and my mom don’t understand it!” On the chick side, I had girls hitting me saying, “Hey, my girl’s gotta girlfriend too, so now it’s three chicks together.” So it was crazy. I just thought that I’d put a little bit of my life out there for people to listen to and then I found out that a lotta people were going through the same thing. Then the single just took off from there.
I know that you were in a group named Collabo; do you still associate with the other members from the group? Are you still working with them and do they produce music with you?
Absolutely yes! You are the first person to ever ask me that. I’m still cool with JP, Lionel and Jessie. These are the guys that were in the group and they are currently working corporate jobs. I’m definitely looking forward to working with JP again because his vocals are outta here but I want them to see that dreams really do come true. And I tell them don’t stop, never stop pushing.
What‘s the best thing and the worst thing that you have learned since you’ve been in the industry?
The best thing is that these fans really love you. Whether you’re making music in your basement or in a major studio they really embrace you and they are loyal and faithful. No matter how down you get or how far you fall on the charts they still remain loyal fans. There are people that you don’t see every day but they love you like they are there with you every day. That’s the best thing. The bad thing is the music business, because the music business can take the fun out of music. You have to stay on your P’s and Q’s and a lot of us don’t know a lot about the business of music.
The business side of it can ruin your career. If you don’t have the right people in place like your manager, your accountant and all the way down to your road manager when you get on the road your sound may not sound right and then the fans are like oh he can’t really sing. So you have to have all those components in the right place that’s the part I don’t like the stealing and taking advantage of you. That I don’t like.
If you had one thing that you had to pick from your life today, that would leave your stamp on music for life, what would that one thing be?
I would leave the thought of never giving up on what you believe in.
I know you had several labels probably vying for you, why did you choose to sign with Akon?
First me and Akon have know each other since 1996 and we were friends first. If you don’t watch it this business can ruin friendships and I won’t let that happen. So my reason for picking Akon is because of friendship. They say it’s all about who you know and it definitely is. I trust him way beyond music and with my career. Akon is growing with the music it hasn’t been that long for him. He’s only been in the game for 5 years so he’s still growing. Now that I’ve watched him I’ve branched off and tried things differently because I saw him try things that didn’t work and I thank Kon for letting me see that It didn’t work one way so I can try it a different way.
Do you get a lot of feedback from him along with constructive criticsm?
Absolutely and then we compare notes and that’s why I picked him.
I know that you were listening to R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly when your father passed away. How much of an influence do you take with you into your music from your father, God rest his soul?
A lot. My music is powered by my father. If you wanna go to the source of my music it would be my father’s passing. Before he passed away I was singing in the shower and when I was done I went into the kitchen after finishing up and my father said, “If I had a voice like that I’d be all over TV changing lives. You need to do something with your voice.” It took him passing for me to understand that I needed to go out here and change lives. I’ve got the gift of signing so I need to use it because people wanna hear it. I have a talent, why let it go to waste? So my music is totally powered by my father.
If you don’t mind me asking, what was his name?
Earl Lavender. His name was Earl. I’m named after my father, his name was Earl Donell Lavender. My name is Earl La’Ray Lavender.
Did he pass away from natural causes or something else?
He passed away in a tragic car accident. Nobody knows what happened but I had a dream and I was saying to God, “You can’t just take him. Let me know something.” So I had a dream I was driving along this country road and we stayed in Gainesville, Georgia at the time. I was eating some Church’s Chicken and my dad loved Church’s Chicken and a piece of it dropped on the floor. I reached to get it and looked back up and a Deer was in the road. I tried to miss it because it was right there and I start flipping in my dad’s truck I was driving his truck. Then I stopped and saw the deer run off, so I’m checking myself to make sure I’m good, I looked in the mirror to make sure I was straight. Then I looked at the passenger seat and my dad said, “That’s what happened.”
Then I woke up, now my mom had cleaned the truck up before they towed it away because it was totaled. I went straight with him to the hospital and I saw them carry him in. I called my mom and told her about my dream and she was crying uncontrollably and I’m like, “Mom, it’s ok. He is ok! I got ya’ll and I’ll make sure everything’s ok.” Then my mom said that when she cleaned the truck out there was Church’s Chicken all over the car. So how would I know that? And she actually cleaned chicken out of his mouth when he was on the table at the hospital. So he knew that there was no way I was gonna let him leave and not know why he was gone.
That’s an amazing story! Well, now it’s time for shout outs where I ask you 10 questions and you hit me with the first thing that comes to mind, Ok?
Ok let’s do it.
A Change Is Gonna Come [by Sam Cooke].
Favorite sports team?
Favorite sports personality?
Favorite fashion brand?
I don’t really wear brands but I like Rocawear.
Favorite place to visit?
Sweden because the air and the atmosphere is different… you can tell you are in a different country.
What’s your ultimate goal?
At the end of the day I’m trying to put this album out like I did last time. I’ve always said you only get one time to put your first album out. You only get one chance at being the best new artist of the year. This time I’m gonna do it right. You can expect a lot of great music, a lot of fun and dancing and a lot of me being on the charts. The album is self titled, Ray Lavender, the first single is Tequila and follow me @Darealrayl. Big shout outs to Drew, E, Robert Miller, the whole Global Artist Group, my family, Leon and everybody else.
- By K.B. Tindal