Raheem DeVaughn has proven that post-millennial R&B artists can be traditional and progressive at once and achieve commercial longevity without concessions to pop radio. The singer, songwriter, and producer paid dues in Washington, D.C.'s music scene and was showcased on DJ Jazzy Jeff's The Magnificent (2002) a few years before he debuted on the Billboard R&B/hip-hop chart with "Guess Who Loves You More" (2005). Parent album The Love Experience, DeVaughn's first, began a streak of artistically adventurous, Top Ten R&B/hip-hop full-lengths with depth far beneath the singles. Among his subsequent achievements are Grammy nominations for the songs "Woman" (2007) and "Customer" (2008), both off the number five Billboard 200 hit Love Behind the Melody, his second album, as well as a Best R&B Album nomination for LP three, The Love & War MasterPeace (2010). DeVaughn has transitioned out of the major-label system while maintaining his affinity for sprawling, loosely conceptual full-lengths via A Place Called Love Land (2013), Love Sex Passion (2015), and Decade of a Love King (2018), all of which have been issued independently.
The son of jazz cellist Abdul Wadud, Raheem DeVaughn was born in Newark, New Jersey and was raised in Maryland, near Washington, D.C. He kicked his career into gear by performing at coffee houses and small clubs in D.C. and by selling CD-R recordings, aided in part by the cash reward from winning a talent contest. DeVaughn gained ground in 2002 with three featured spots on DJ Jazzy Jeff's The Magnificent, as well as contributions to Billy Crawford's Ride and Heather Headley's This Is Who I Am. Signed to the Jive label, DeVaughn the following year issued a promotional single for "Until," an Isley Brothers-sampling track that showcased his soul-rooted, socially conscious approach to contemporary R&B. The song was produced by early supporters Cliff Jones and Jerry Vines, the latter of whom also became the artist's long-term manager. DeVaughn's first official single, the Kenny Dope-produced "Guess Who Loves You More," entered Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart in early 2005 and peaked at number 38. Debut album The Love Experience followed that June, reached the Top 50 of the Billboard 200, and began a streak of Top Ten entries on the corresponding R&B/hip-hop chart, aided by second charting single "You," another radio favorite.
Love Behind the Melody, DeVaughn's second full-length, arrived in January 2008. Its first single, "Woman," was his biggest hit yet — number 17 R&B/hip-hop, and number one on the adult R&B chart — and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. "Customer," a number 12 R&B/hip-hop hit, was nominated the next year for Best R&B Song. Led by the late 2009 single "Bulletproof," featuring Ludacris, The Love & War MasterPeace debuted in March 2010 at number nine on the Billboard 200 and at number three on R&B/hip-hop. Featuring much more socially conscious material than the average contemporary R&B release — including "Nobody Wins a War," on which DeVaughn was joined by a large ensemble that included cousin Chrisette Michele, Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton, and Bilal — it received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album. By the end of 2012, DeVaughn's own featured appearances numbered in the dozens. His secondary discography read like a list of favorites from a rap fanatic with a well-defined, all-region aesthetic. Talib Kweli, UGK, Guru, De La Soul, Ghostface Killah, Big K.R.I.T., E-40, and Rapsody are among the artists who had collaborated with him.