William Ray Norwood Jr., or as he is more popularly known, Ray J, is a singer-songwriter, actor, and TV personality from the United States. Born into a family with a rich legacy in music, he was influenced by both the Los Angeles hip-hop scene and the gospel music at their church, where his father was the director of the choir. When Norwood was eight, he landed his first set of roles as a child actor in various ad campaigns. He was cast as L.J. Beckley on ‘The Sinbad Show’ in 1993. Although the series only lasted one season, it opened up various opportunities for Norwood, and soon he appeared in the TV-movie ‘The Enemy Within’ opposite Forest Whitaker. His debut on the big screen came about with Tim Reid’s drama ‘Once Upon a Time... When We Were Colored’. As a singer, he released his first studio album ‘Everything You Want’ under ‘Elektra Records’. It peaked at #56 on the ‘US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums’ chart. Ray J has released four more albums since then. He competed in the nineteenth season of ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ in 2017 and currently stars in the VH1 reality television series ‘Love & Hip-Hop: Hollywood’.
Childhood & Early Life
William Ray Norwood Jr. was born in McComb, Mississippi, USA, on January 17, 1981, as the youngest child of William Ray “Willie” Norwood Sr. and his wife Sonja Bates-Norwood. His sister Brandy is a multi-platinum recording artist. The family relocated to Los Angeles, California sometime in 1983.
As children, Ray J and Brandy received singing lessons from their father. As his sister is two years older than him, he grew up hearing her and their father singing together, which spurred his own interest in music. He began to perform at the church, and even led a few services.
Through his father, Ray J allegedly has three step-siblings who were conceived before Willie married Sonja. The most prominent of them is the Atlanta-based hip-hop artist, Danyelle “C-Dove” Brown, whose claim was proven true by a DNA test conducted in 2010.
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Ray J began his acting career playing the foster son in ‘The Sinbad Show’ in 1993. After the show was taken off air in 1994, he was cast in Tim Burton’s comic science fiction film ‘Mars Attacks!’ which was released in 1996. In the film, he played Cedric Williams, one of the two sons of the characters played by Jim Brown and Pam Grier. The following year, he did a film titled ‘Steel’ with his friend and former basketball player Shaquille O'Neal.
In 1996, he started to appear as a special guest-star on his sister’s show, ‘Moesha’. After the first three seasons, he became a series regular in 1999. His character, Dorian Long, was received well by the show’s audience.
In 1995, he was signed by ‘Elektra Records’, and he began to work on his debut album. Over the next two years, 15 songs were written and produced before the album ‘Everything You Want’ was ultimately released on March 25, 1997. He sang the single ‘That’s Why I lie’ for ‘Dr. Dolittle’ soundtrack in 1998.
Ray J and Brandy did the cover of English singer-songwriter Phil Collins’ song ‘Another Day in Paradise’, the lead single of the R&B/Hip-Hop tribute album ‘Urban Renewal’ in 2001.
He released his second studio album, ‘This ain’t a Game’, on June 19, 2001 through ‘Atlantic Records’. The album debuted in the top ten of the ‘US R&B/Hip-Hop Albums’ chart.
He was cast as Alberto Turner in the 2004 TV-movie ‘Christmas at Water's Edge’. In 2005, he brought out his third studio album, titled ‘Raydiation’, through his own label ‘Knockout Entertainment’. The album has tracks produced by the likes of Timbaland, R. Kelly, Ric Rude, and Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins.
Ray J began to appear on the final season of UPN sitcom’s ‘One on One’, portraying the character D-Mack in 2005.
He released his most successful album till date, ‘All I Feel’, on April 8, 2008. It was the first release in a multimillion-dollar album deal with Koch Records and Shaquille O'Neal's "Deja 34" entertainment company.
From 2008 to 2010, Ray J was part of the dating show, VH1’s ‘For the Love of Ray J’. In 2010, VH1 began to air ‘Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business’, a reality series based on Ray J and his family. He played Kenny on TV One’s sitcom ‘The Rickey Smiley Show’. He hosted Oxygen's ‘Bad Girls All-Star Battle’ for its entire two-season run.
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On November 30, 2016, he released his fifth album, ‘Smoke Cloud TMG & OHB’, which was a collaboration with ‘The Mob Group’, exclusively through digital download. ‘Raydemption’, his upcoming sixth album, is set to release in the fourth quarter of 2017.
In a career spanning two decades, Ray J has released five studio albums, two soundtrack albums, and several singles. He has made guest-appearances on tracks by Gucci Mane, Styles P, Willie Norwood, Brandy, Fabolous, and others. His fourth album, ‘All I feel’, topped both ‘US Independent albums’ and ‘US R&B/Hip-Hop albums’ charts.
Awards & Achievements
His single ‘Sexy Can I’ from the album ‘All I Feel’, featuring Yung Berg, was certified Platinum by RIAA.
Controversies & Scandals
Ray J was arrested in September 2011 after punching rapper Fabolous in the face at the ‘Palms Casino’ in Las Vegas for a tweet he (Fabolous) had posted a couple of days earlier.
In the tweet, Fabolous had mocked Ray J for playing his own song, ‘One Wish’, on a piano at Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s house during the filming for a documentary on the fight between Mayweather and Victor Ortiz. In 2014, almost three years after the incident, Ray J took responsibility for his actions.
On May 30, 2014, a woman accused Ray J of inappropriately touching her posterior at a bar of the ‘Beverly Wilshire Hotel’ in Beverly Hills, California. The police were contacted, and they deemed the incident unintentional.
According to the police, after the hotel asked him to leave, Ray J turned aggressive, spitting at an officer and kicking a window of a police car when they did try to arrest him. After the arrest, the bail was set at $20,000, which he posted, and was released.
On July 22, 2014, he was charged with four criminal offences including that of sexual battery. He pleaded not guilty on the misdemeanour charges on August 19 during an appearance before the court.
Ray J met future reality TV superstar Kim Kardashian while she was employed as a stylist for his sister. They had an on again, off again relationship that lasted till 2007. In February of that year, a pornographic home video that they had made together in 2003 began to circulate.
At first, Kardashian denied that the tape existed, but later she sued ‘Vivid Entertainment’, the company that had acquired the rights of the tape, for its ownership. The suit was dropped in late April in favour of a settlement which awarded Kardashian $5 million.
He married his ‘Love & Hip-Hop: Hollywood’ co-star Princess Love in August 2016.
Ray J is Snoop Dogg’s first cousin.
He appeared on the music video of Brandy’s 2002 song, ‘What About U’.
He and Mayweather share a brotherly bond as they have grown up together.