If anyone knows a thing or two about hustle it is Ray J. Growing up in the entertainment industry, having to establish his own name as an artist, overcoming obstacles and pivoting as an entrepreneur, he has quite the come-up story.
“Some people say ‘hustle’ and they don’t know what hustle means,” Ray J said on a recent edition of the More Hustle Podcast. “Hustle is just an everyday hardworking person that can turn a creative idea into something. Just think about and then create it with a team. I think that’s the heart of the hustle for sure.”
The heart of the hustle is what the More Hustle podcast is all about, as co-hosts Brian Calle and Neferteri Plessy use their own backgrounds to find and share come-up stories and the sometimes painful journeys it takes to achieve success.
Born William Ray Norwood Jr., Ray J is now a household name. An entrepreneur, singer, songwriter, actor, reality star, the man has had more job titles than most and he’s put his heart and soul into all of them.
Breaking into the scene at a young age, he and sister Brandy have been hustling from what feels like day one. What was his upbringing like? From the church choir to constant auditions, Ray J and his sister were flexing their talents early.
“If you have a sibling that’s really at the top of the top of the music game at the time, and there’s just so much happening at once, sometimes it’s hard to identify who you are because so many people are trying to create another Brandy just in a male form,” the More Hustle guest confides. “And so I struggled with that, and struggled with just trying to make sure they knew I was my own person.”
The only way to make your own path is to just keep grinding, so that’s what Ray J did. Working to perfect himself with whatever opportunity or avenue he was given, he was able to carve out his own fame and name. But no matter how successful he’s become in his own right, he always credits his family.
“Brandy is one of the people who gave me support throughout everything,” he says. “I owe a lot of where I am today to her and my family, and for just allowing me to do what I wanted to do creatively. Without them I don’t think I would be around you know?”
“My mom’s my third eye,” Ray J tells the podcast when asked if his family is still involved in his career. “My mom is still involved every day … she’s always going to be there for me from the most honest place in the world.”
While many know Ray J from his art, so much of his talent lies within his business acumen. But before every success, there is a learning moment. What was a point in time in this guest’s journey where he felt like it was all too much?
“There was a time when I had my scooter company, before we sold it, and I was just down to my last dollars,” he confides. “Like I was just spending so much money on buying inventory and trying to figure it out, and there was so much stuff happening that I just couldn’t handle it. I almost went broke trying to just maintain the inventory and trying to maintain the demand, and it taught me a lot.”
“When Ray [Lee] and I met, it really changed the scope on how I thought about business and how to listen – how to build the infrastructure in a whole different way,” Ray J continues. “It led me to where we are today with Raycon, so some of the mistakes that you make or some of the real hard lows that you’re going through, you need those because you can really appreciate the other side and then humble yourself when positive things start to happen. You definitely need that reality check sometimes.”
Raycon is a premium wireless audio company in which both Rays are co-founders – Ray J and Ray Lee.
“We’re for the people, we want to make sure the price points make sense. We want to make sure that you can go out and get some quality high-end products that people are out wanting but not paying these crazy prices for, then having multiple different choices as well,” explains Ray J of Raycon. “We stand out because we focus on the customer.”
Why wireless audio (earbuds)?
“There’s definitely a lot of competition, right?” agrees Lee. “but we’ve always been humble when we approached it. We know there are huge industry giants – Apple, Samsung – I think we always say ‘oh we appreciate those guys, they do great stuff, great products.’ But at the same time, I think there’s space in the market right now where brands aren’t really creating electronics around the person, and really thinking about how they use it.”
They try to simplify it, to make sure it’s something their consumers will really enjoy and need.
“I just feel like we are on the other side of the spectrum of it,” agrees Ray J. “I think our price points and our mission is different. Our company and our grind, the independence behind who we are, the story is different, the passion is different because it’s more heartfelt because we are really building this from the ground up and day to day we get better and better.”
A father of two, staying grounded is a key to his success.
“I want the kids to be set, so if they want to be able to do tech or they want to be able to do entertainment, they can,” says Ray J. “I’m trying to put in all the work. I’m trying to put in the work of 15, 25 generations so I’m up 24 hours making sure they don’t have to really want for nothing but just living life. Now in life, you still have to turn into who you are and build your own business and build your own empire, so I’m just trying to provide for them everything they need, all the tools. From there, they can be who they want to be and just be great.”
His no-sleep, heart-of-the-hustle mantra is what enables him to do so much. What advice or words of wisdom would he give to others looking to achieve success?
“You’ve got to make sure you take your time to appreciate everything around you, because when things are happening for you in a positive way that’s when you got to turn into the most humble you and I think that’s a challenge for everyone in the world. You just have to zone back and say ‘thank you God’ every day, or ‘thank you’ to whatever the higher love you give, the appreciation of life and success and things around you first. That was a challenge just trying to stay away from the turn-up and the over-good time and the overdoing it. A lot of people self-sabotage, right? So you get right to the two-yard line and always end up fumbling the ball. If you really take a look at that and make adjustments to who you are and how you treat people and how you talk to people – because it’s either we are all special or nobody’s special. That’s how I look at it: nobody’s better than the next person. We are all just special creative people. So I think that’s really the biggest adjustment I made growing up and maturing into who I am now is to appreciate and love and uplift and encourage and help people every day, and serve. And that’s what we all should do. And I think that I’m just at that level mentally every day, so if there’s a problem that comes my way we can figure it out. I’m 99.9% solution, you know? Straight up,” says Ray J.
“Sometimes you have to enjoy the problem – enjoy the challenge,” he explains. That’s where the energy starts, and sometimes where the best stories begin.
“You really have to get an alignment with your greatness,” agrees Neferteri. “What are you here to do on this earth, right now? And then create your life from the end: what do you want people to know you as? And how do you need to show up on a daily basis to command the space to create that into reality?”
“Say yes when you can say yes, and learn to say no when it’s necessary (but firmly),” wisens Brian. “My other one is to bite off more than you can chew, then chew it. And then always remember the people who were loyal to you, and always be loyal to them no matter what. Those are the things that have always made me successful.” ❖