Arin Ray’s time is coming and he knows it. The smooth, sultry R&B singer hails from Cincinnati, Ohio; but has been immersed in Los Angeles, the mecca of entertainment, these past few years. Growing up in a musically inclined household with a father who played drums for various 90s groups, a mom who sang in church choir, and an aunt who sang background vocals for Marvin Gaye; music was inevitable for the rising star.
Moving past his stint on “X-Factor” — where Simon Cowell proclaimed him a star — Ray caught his big break after recruiting YG on his single “We Ain’t Homies” released in December 2017, pushing his name into the mainstream light. Soon after, the Interscope signee unleashed his debut studio album titled Platinum Fire, proving his ability to not only sing, but create vibes. Ray combines that 90s R&B and soul we all know and love with modern-day styles and romance.
Fast forward to 2019, the 24-year-old has had some standout moments including teaming up with Kehlani on “Change” and releasing his most recent single “A Seat.” The latter arrives in perfect timing for cuffing season, giving people “something to have fun with their partner.” Now, fans can hear his latest EP, Phases II, which dropped today.
According to the project’s press release: “The soulful, five-song set follows Ray’s critically acclaimed major label debut, Platinum Fire, which was released in March 2018. Propelled by the straightforward banger ‘We Ain’t Homies,’ and guest appearances from YG, Ty Dolla $ign, DRAM, SIR, Babyface and more, that project promptly cemented Ray as one of the most refreshing young voices in R&B.
“Ray is an accomplished writer whose craftsmanship can be heard on a variety of contemporary works from Chris Brown to Nicki Minaj. Phases II is a seamless continuation of the 24-year-old crooner’s audacious chronicle from boy to man. Early next year, he will unveil a music video for the grown and sexy new single ‘The Get Down,’ which he co-produced with The Rascals and Sir Dylan.”
Listen to Phases II here.
REVOLT caught up with Ray at The Roxy last month to chat about his friendship with Kehlani, being a father, producer/recording artist Terrace Martin’s influence, and more.
What does it mean to headline The Roxy here in Los Angeles?
It means a lot. It’s a big thing. I started with smaller venues, so now I’m moving up. Everybody plays at The Roxy. I’ve been to maybe six shows where my peers have come and gone crazy. Even when Bryson Tiller just had got crazy, he came here and smashed it. I wasn’t on the show, I was just there. I was watching thinking, ‘Man this kid is dope.’ Bryson Tiller was one of my favorite shows here. SIR was great, too, when we did his tour here.
How does it compare now that you’re headlining?
It was fun. It’s different now because now it’s going to be my whole crowd. It’s dope, SiR’s crowd worked for me. It was the same kind of vibe. But this time, it’s sweet.
What’s your friendship with Childish Major who’s opening?
It goes back a few years now, that’s one of my favorite human beings. Childish did ‘Communication’ on my album. He produced ‘Hit Me Up’ on my album, and rapped on it as well, which we’re definitely performing tonight. We always talked about doing a joint little project, so we always work on music. It’s always a great vibe. He’s one of my favorite producers because he’s always trying something new. He’s never just cookie cutter, it’s always some next level shit. ‘Communication’ is one of my biggest songs. ‘Hit Me Up’ is one the fan’s favorites when I perform, so he always brings the vibe. He killed that.
Fans can also definitely look forward to ‘Change.’ How did you meet Kehlani originally?
It was through mutual friends at a birthday party. I’ve met her so many different times, but we really linked maybe four years ago. We started hanging out, just chopping it up, listening to each other’s music. I hadn’t really had my sound all the way together, so it wasn’t working then. But, timing was the greatest thing for this record because now we both went through something. We both just had kids, so we got something to talk about.
Talk about the energy in the studio with Adeya in there.
It was amazing, it was really cool. It just happened so organically. The whole day was crazy. I was going to finish the record up, get it done. Me Chris (from The Rascals) started brainstorming about who we could get on the record. Kehlani was literally one of the first thoughts. We tagged team it. I sent her the record, Chris FaceTimed her. She texted me like, ‘I love the song!’ She’s like, ‘Yo, I’m bout to come over there. I’m down the street.’ She came in 30 minutes or less with the baby, and we hashed it out. It was really cool.
What was your reaction when she said it was one of her favorite collabs?
She has a lot of collabs with a lot of dope people, so that’s a real statement. I’m just blessed to be able to give her that feeling.
Best memory from the video shoot?
Just shooting the video in general. I don’t think a certain scene or anything was the best. It was more or less just the whole thing. Going through it and being hot, it was hot as hell. During the little bed part, they had to keep bringing the fans in. It was so hot. It was a really cool experience. I’ve never really done a record like that or interacted with a female artist like that. So, it was just cool. It was dope, a good vibe.
Any advice that Kehlani gave you?
Really to do what you want to do. Don’t be stressing about everybody’s thoughts, really be the best you that you can be. A lot of what we talk about is really believing in ourselves.
Why do you say you hate half the videos you’ve made?
I always think stuff could be better and I’m picky as hell. That’s all it is. I like most of them… They’re all good. But, I see myself in a certain light. But, I think we got it with ‘Change’ and ‘A Seat’ for sure. We’re heading in the right direction, which I’m very happy about.
Why are you so hard on yourself?
Just because I don’t like anything that looks like something that’s already been done, and I don’t like looking corny. It’s a thin line in this little R&B thing with it being corny or just cool. So, you have to stay on a certain level because some of these guys kind of veer off. It’s like, ‘Ah, that’s a lil weird.’ I just try to stay put.
Speaking of ‘A Seat,’ who or what inspired the record?
Really, it was just the women. I wanted to give people something to have fun with their partner, to have a good time. To be honest with you, it’s a sex record. Literally, just to do that. It’s really some R&B passion, cuffing season record.
Does Arin have a girl?
No, I’m single. I’m very single. Married to my craft right now. Shoot, I get a lot of DMs. I get a lot of love. I don’t know if it’s all off of ‘A Seat,’ but everybody’s been going crazy for that. Every time ‘A Seat’ is on, it’s always some nasty little something (chuckles).
Do you have a type?
I don’t think I have a type all the way. It’s just certain morals you have to have. Certain standards you have to have. I don’t have a type, she doesn’t have to look like a certain nothing. It’s really who you are in here (points to heart).
You told me that you don’t go out unless you have to. Are you an introvert?
I wouldn’t say that. It’s just that I’m uncomfortable in certain situations. I try not to speak so much when I’m uncomfortable because I might make the wrong decision or say something I’m not supposed to say. It’s more just a comfort thing. If I’m comfortable, you’ll see me all over. But, if I’m not, you’ll see me chilling and watching everybody.
How does that work as you grow and get bigger as an artist?
I think it might get worse, but honestly, I’ll be able to tame that. I got good people around me. I don’t be doing much and I like fans. I like chopping it up with them. So, I’ll never be like, ‘Oh no I can’t do that.’ So, I’m good with that.
What would you say is your biggest obstacle in the industry?
My biggest obstacle is that I have to be patient. I have to be a little more patient because I’m so impatient.
For what it’s worth, Platinum Fire should have got way more recognition.
I agree, but I think it’s just timing. It’s finding my way to cut through. That’s my biggest obstacle, is really finding my way to connect to the world. Finding my way to put my face in front of everyone. We’re working on that.
Why is your new project nothing like Platinum Fire?
Platinum Fire was me trying to be really creative with that. Really go left and try to make some stuff that people hadn’t heard before. This one is more R&B-esque, more driven towards a certain sound. It’s not that many records, so it’s a little project. I just went more of the R&B route with this project.
Summer Walker just dropped a fire project. Tory Lanez, too. Are you inspired by those types of sounds?
I haven’t heard Tory’s project, and I’ve heard a couple songs off Summer’s. I love Summer, she’s great. She’s amazing. I’m inspired really big time with these women out here as far as what their sound is like. All these women are crazy. SZA, Mereba is the shit to me. I really like Mereba, she’s so tight. She’s so underrated to me. I like Tierra Whack, she’s so cold. She can rap, she can spit better than all these dudes. I like Ari Lennox, she’s amazing. Ari’s crazy, Lani’s crazy, SZA’s crazy… Normani’s incredible. They all got their different lanes, too. Layton’s [Greene]’s tight too.
Do you listen to any guy R&B singers?
Not too much. I listen to more old school than anything. But, sometimes I’ll get into it. I like Gallant, he’s really tight.
Do you have any go-to producers?
Childish [Major] is one. Terrance Martin is one. Khris Riddick from The Rascals is one. Nez from Nez & Rio, Los Hendrix, and myself.
What’s your recording process in the studio?
It depends. I like to start from scratch mostly. But, if I got a vibe or beat that’s not too built, that’s what I like. If it’s a little bit more open, I can freestyle and get my melodies off to build around it. I usually freestyle, I really don’t be writing down too much. If I do that, that’s only because I’m doing more of a rap thing and I want to edit it because I can finesse some shit with my voice. When I’m singing, I can make it sound cooler. But, when I’m doing my rap shit, I have to be more conscious of what I’m saying just because my delivery has to be crazy.
Three things you need in the studio?
Some tree, I definitely need that. That’s always good. Incense. We already got the producers, we already got the music… oh, I be eating candy sometimes.
You say you might do a rock album. Did you grow up with rock influences, as well?
Well, I would love to do a rock-inspired album, not full rock because that’s a little hard. Full blown rock is rock. But, I’ll definitely take something from that and use it in my next album. My next album, not project.
How often do you miss your home of Cincinnati?
I miss Cincinnati like crazy. I was just out there doing radio, so that was really cool. I’ve been to WIZF (an R&B station in the city) a few times. It was really nice. It’s dope to be in my city, just to be around my family and all my friends. I’m always really comfortable when I get back home. I just be feeling so good, really happy.
Is all your family back there?
My son live here. My brother Aris lives here. I got some friends out here who I went to school with since 6th grade. Javelle’s here, Carter’s here, Joe’s here. It’s a lot of them… I roll with the real homies, day ones.
How has fatherhood given you superpowers?
Shit, I feel like Superman when I’m with my boy. It put my grind gear in an automatic type of setting — I don’t even think type grind. I just do it. I know everything that I do is for him. Even when I’m leaving, when I’m gone, when I’m sad, all this shit is for him — to be put in this position to be as great as he can.
What’s his favorite Arin Ray song?
It’s either ‘A Seat’ or a song that I don’t have out right now. I have a video of him literally singing. He sings my songs. It’s crazy because you can put on somebody else’s song and he’ll bop, but he knows when it’s me. He’s about to be three.
How do you plan to give back?
I really want to get with the kids who want to do music, that’s my thing. I always wanted to open a summer camp to where we can do master classes for kids. Bring in dope artists, bring in a dope producer, bring in a dope painter… We’ll have the different arts and have the people who really be in it — who are really doing it — come talk to the kids because sometimes these programs, they’ll be having people who haven’t never done a damn thing in their life talk to these kids. No, you have to have it real. Just imagine if I can bring a Terrace Martin to one of my art schools. That’ll be so cool for them to know that somebody from the hood can really come through and make it, and work with people like Kendrick, Robert Glasper, Quincy Jones, and Herbie Hancock. Chick Corea came to my school when I was coming up. To be able to work with somebody who’s worked with him now, it’s like, ‘Alright cool, I’m on the right path.’ That was something for me. I’m really big on that.
How has Terrace Martin pushed you as an artist?
Literally, if there’s anybody that’s really pushed me as an artist, it’s him. I’ve learned so much from him business-wise, as a man, as a father, musically with the vocals and the keys. I take a lot from him. Tempos, chords, mashing shit together, getting the right musicians in, getting the right plug-ins in. Knowing what the right gear is. He literally helped me set up my home studio. His engineer did my whole studio. I’ve been trying to low-key copy everything he’s been doing because it’s just a good formula he has.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want people to understand that I’m a musician. I’m really about this music shit. I’m not here to be no face. I’m not here to be sexy. I can do all that, but I’m really here to change the game of music. I have a lot of ideas that people haven’t heard, and I’ll be able to do that just musically. In time, I’ll be able to pull that out with experience and getting people in front. If I start doing all the stuff I want to do, it’ll start going over people’s heads right now.
What do fans like about Arin Ray?
They just like the realness. The soul, the feel, the vibes. I’m not shy to put certain lyrics in my music. I’m not afraid to say what’s on my mind and speak about love and pain. My music’s really relatable.