In 2007, Raheem Davis, a huge Aaliyah fan, was looking at the late singer's music videos when he saw a YouTube mash-up of her song “One in a Million” with Ciara’s “Promise.”
“Whoa! People actually can mix songs? This is actually dope,” thought Davis, who prefers to go by Raheem D.
So at 13, he started figuring out how to do it himself and began mashing up Aaliyah songs. For a diehard fan, it was a way to get “new music” from the artist, who had tragically died in a plane crash in 2001. It was a creative process that he came to love, and after that first year of just mashing up Aaliyah songs, he expanded his portfolio.
Fast-forward to a decade later and the 23-year-old Ipswich, England, resident now has a YouTube channel with more than 78,000 subscribers and a portfolio of R&B, hip-hop, pop, K-pop and other mash-ups that regularly garner hundreds of thousands of views. His mash-ups are so seamless that at times the very musicians he has combined (Justin Bieber, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Ladies Code, etc.) have given shoutouts to his work.
A few examples range from the Williams shoutout:
Read this headline & I even I thought it meant a collab... We just friendship collab tho. Cool mash up! https://t.co/QTlizCeIgD— hayley from Paramore (@yelyahwilliams) July 8, 2015
To the Billboard story about Raheem D's Taylor Swift and Paramore mash-up:
To Meghan Trainor's reaction to Raheem D's mash-up of her song "No" with Britney Spears's "Overprotected."
2. Meghan Trainor reacting to my mashup live on TV. No Overprotected is one of my biggest viral mashups 🙌🏾 pic.twitter.com/2OXxOfsTR1— Raheem D (@RaheemDTV) January 7, 2017
To Raheem D's mash-up of Justin Timberlake's "Like I Would Love You" with Zayn's "Like I Would" on U.K. television.
1. Finally, having a freelance job with 4Music. I dreamt of having my mashups played on TV & I achieved it 😄😍pic.twitter.com/sSdQzeXCd7— Raheem D (@RaheemDTV) January 7, 2017
Raheem D's process sounds deceptively simple. “I basically find the a capellas or vocals of one track and the instrumentals of another track," he explains. Then he mixes them. He has been asked about his process so often that he now has mash-up tutorials on his channel for anyone who wants to learn. It isn’t just the music though; his video mixes for the songs are equally seamless.
While listening to his music, we noticed that many of the artists Raheem D has recently mashed up include a number of 2017 Juno nominees. So we caught up with him on Skype and asked him to take us through the creative process of five such mash-ups.
Raheem D’s love for Aaliyah is what brought this to fruition. He intended to release a mash-up for her birthday, knowing that a lot of Aaliyah fans followed him and wanted to see what he created with her music. A while before her birthday, one of his subscribers requested a mash-up of the Weeknd’s “Earned It” and Aaliyah’s “I Care 4 U.” Typically Raheem D tends not to do requests, but this one intrigued him. Listening to “Earned It,” he realized how both songs had complimentary lyrics and ended up combining them. His favourite part? When the Weeknd says “Imma care for you,” and Aaliyah “replies,” “For me? Baby I care for you.”
This came about when Raheem D was looking for a throwback hip-hop/R&B track to mix with “Side to Side.” As much as he loved the reggae beat, he felt Nicki Minaj’s rap would sound brilliant on an edgier beat. Original contenders included Tweet’s “Oops (Oh My)” and Drake’s “Best I Ever Had.” But the key difference on Tweet’s song was too vast and Drake’s song was too relaxed for his liking.
Then he remembered that Grande had sampled Lil’ Kim’s “Crush on You” on her single “Right There.” After listening to the instrumental part on “Crush on You,” Raheem D realised it would pair perfectly. It wasn’t until midway through the mix that he realized he was mashing up rivals Minaj and Kim, making him think that they really needed to put their differences aside and book a studio together.
Drake, Adele, 'Hotline Bling Rumor'
When 4Music, a U.K. music and entertainment channel, approached Raheem D about some mash-ups for the launch party of their new channel BeBox, two of the artists they wanted mashed up were Adele and Drake. He was hesitant at first, skeptical because he couldn’t imagine the mash-up working. So he started listening to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while thinking of Adele songs in the same ballpark.
He started to sing the hook from Adele’s “Rumour Has It” over the beat of Drake’s song and inspiration finally struck. After tracking down the a capella stems of Adele’s song (harmonies, background vocals and lead vocals separated into their own files), he searched for the “Hotline Bling” instrumentals. Since an instrumental was never released for Drake’s song, Raheem D ended up looping the last minute of the version that’s in the music video. Lyrically, it seems as if Drake is asking why Adele never calls him anymore; in response, Adele says there have been rumours about him dating another girl, so she has no interest in being with him anymore.
Rihanna, Selena Gomez, 'Slow Down Where Have You Been'
Talk about meta mash-ups: this piece was a spinoff from another mash-up Raheem D did titled “Best Party Song Ever,” featuring One Direction, Ke$ha, Sean Kingston, Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Selena Gomez and more. There was a short segment in the mash-up where “Slow Down” and “Where Have You Been” were mixed together.
This time, Raheem D caved into doing another request mash-up after receiving more than 100 requests asking him to do a full version. This is one of the few mash-ups where he used the a capellas and instrumentals from both songs. Typically, mixing two instrumentals can clash and sound busy. But these two songs had such similar chord structures and breakdown sections, that everything synced together perfectly.
Two uptempo dance numbers about troublesome relationships came to co-exist in this seamless mash-up. The songs fit like a jigsaw puzzle, with Minaj’s rap sounding like it could have easily been featured on an official "Sorry" remix.
For a list of all the milestones in Raheem D’s 10-year mash-up career, here's a Twitter recap.
Since it's been 10 years (God where did the time go?) Here's a thread of 10 things I accomplished through creating mashups...— Raheem D (@RaheemDTV) January 6, 2017
Follow Tahiat Mahboob on Twitter: @TahiatMahboob
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