NEW YORK Lil' Kim raps "Wait a minute, ain't that Brandy's brother?" on Ray J's "Wait a Minute," making light of the singer's career being overshadowed by his big sister's. Which, according to Ray, is just fine.
"Brandy opened a lot of doors for me and is still helping me out," he said. "If I never ever swayed from being 'Brandy's brother,' it wouldn't be a problem. But being real to yourself, it shines through. I can't be like Brandy. I have to be me."
With his new album, This Ain't a Game, released Tuesday, and "Wait a Minute" (out since last winter) getting love across the board, Ray admitted it feels good to have people recognize him for his skills rather than his relations.
"People are just now starting to like "Wait a Minute" a lot," said Ray, who co-starred for two years with his sister on the now-defunct sitcom "Moesha." "It had to grow on people. They had to get used to me being a musical entertainer."
Everyone is also going to have to get used to Ray's new way of rocking the mic. The singer/actor adds "rapper" to his resume, rhyming on a handful of Game's tracks. "I been trying," the 20 year-old said of his MC endeavors. "I been rapping for a while. I just had to find the right style and come with something real from the heart."
On "Takin' Control," which he wrote and produced himself as a last-minute addition to the album, Ray J raps about losing in love, then finds himself lusting after "models and actresses." The girls walk around with their "thong on backward" on "Formal Invite," which was produced by the Neptunes.
"We were finishing up 'Wait a Minute' in the studio," he recalled (Ray J rapped on the song's original version, which received limited airplay, before his record label decided to go with a mix featuring Lil' Kim). "Pharrell [Williams] did another beat while I was in there. He was like, 'Write a verse real fast.' I just wrote it in my head and went in there and said it. Pharrell likes to get it done in one or two takes. He doesn't like to make it sound too perfect."
On "I Tried," written by Lil' Mo, the singer thinks he's found the perfect girl but wakes up to a near fatal attraction: "She stole my credit card/ She turned my cable off/ She cut up all my clothes/ ... She is straight acting like a fool," he croons.
"A couple of times, man," he laughed, "I ran into girls where they got attached and it don't matter no more. They just don't care about themselves. The girls I mess with now are classy and got a good head on their shoulders."
Stepping up his game and bettering his situation is the theme of "Out Tha Ghetto." "It's about taking this girl out of a ghetto mind frame," he said. "Ghetto isn't a place. Ghetto is more in the mind and how you feel about your life. The song's basically inspiring people out there who feel they can't make it to work hard and stay focused. I wanted to give people songs like 'Wait a Minute' and 'Formal Invite' for the club, and I also wanted to get real serious and show them my versatility.'
Ray J, torn between three songs for his next single, promised to cater to the fans with his future recordings. "I want to mix hip-hop and R&B," he disclosed. On this album, I really wanted to see what people like to see Ray J do the most. Whatever the world is feeling, I should do the most, because they liked it."
Although he copped to having a sitcom in development, Ray J said he plans to put acting on the back burner and focus on music. It runs in the family. His father, Willie Norwood Sr., is trying to release a gospel album this year, and his sister has been working on her third album in Miami.
"That sh-- is tight,'" boasted Ray of Brandy's project. "She's gonna bring a different sound to the game again so every girl out there can try to bite her. I think it's gonna get a diamond award."