SHERMAN OAKS, California — The last time we heard from Ray J, he was telling us to "Wait a Minute."
What he meant was "wait a while."
"Wait a Minute," a Neptunes-produced collaboration with Lil' Kim, was a club favorite in the summer of 2001, but Ray J's been flying under the radar since.
Well, it was not without purpose.
"I feel like if you rush anything, it's never complete and it's never, never what you want it to be," Ray J said last week from one of producer Rodney Jerkins' studios. "Taking your time with music is real important to me. I think whenever the feeling comes, that's when the hit comes, [even] if it doesn't come for two weeks or two months or two years. Whenever you find that chemistry with yourself and the people you're working with, that's when you should put records out."
After more than a year and a half of writing, recording and finding that chemistry, Ray J has finally finished the follow-up to This Ain't a Game (see "This Ain't A Game, Promises Ray J"). Due in March, Raydiation features production from Jerkins, Timbaland and R. Kelly, as well as guest spots from Mya and sister Brandy.
"We wanted to call it Raydiation 'cause we felt like we had to bring the heat this time and every song had to be hot," said Ray J, convinced that he did just that.
"I think people are gonna be just shocked with what we did," added Jerkins, who worked on several tracks.
The biggest shock is that while This Ain't a Game was a hip-hop record, Raydiation finds Ray J abandoning rapping for singing.
"It really shows a more mature side of me and more of [my] vocal ability," Ray said. "I put my heart and my passion into it, and my focus was really to go in there and sing my heart out on this album."
"His vocal ability is incredible, and I'm gonna showcase that," Jerkins said. "It's cool because it's very urban, but the melodies are still crossover melodies, so it's a perfect combination of R&B, hip-hop and pop."
Ray J has yet to decide on the first single, but he's leaning toward Jerkins' "Keep Sweatin'," a high-energy club tune in the vein of Usher's "Yeah!"
"Oh my God, something just happened," Jerkins said. "We just fell on it, and in 30 minutes the track was done. Ray J came out of the booth drenched, literally — you would've thought he was in the pool, he was so soaked. So I think the title fits what we're trying to get the world to do. When people hear the energy of this record and when they're in the club dancing to this record, everybody's coming out of the club sweating."
"Quit Acting," which R. Kelly produced and guests on, is the other finalist and came together after a week of hanging out with the R&B legend.
"It's coming straight for the clubs," Ray J said. "It's saying, 'Quit acting like the blue ain't ice and quit frontin' like the whips ain't tight.' "
"Sexy," Ray's collaboration with Mya, is also for the clubs — strip clubs, that is.
"It's a real dark but real sexy record," Ray J said. "It takes place in a strip club, and you can just mentally take it from there."
Raydiation is more than just club tracks, however, and many of the ballads and mid-tempo numbers clearly address everyday relationship problems. The album also features the political "War Is Over," a duet with Brandy.
"It's just praying and hoping that when the war's over everything will be all right," Ray said. "After the Twin Towers situation happened, that's when I started writing that song. I really wanted [Brandy] to be a part of the song 'cause I felt like a brother and sister speaking on that would be real powerful. It's a real special record to me."
Another song close to Ray J and Jerkins' hearts is the likely second or third single, "One Wish," a ballad about a lost love that showcases Ray's voice.
" 'One Wish' is my favorite song because everybody knows me for doing crossover up-tempo records, but 'One Wish' is a ballad," Jerkins explained. "The lyrical content is so incredible in that song and the melody — when it comes to that hook, you hear that hook one time and you remember it.
"A lot of times artists only have one single and the rest of the album is whatever, but he has a great album and he has great singles," Jerkins added. "So we're excited."