Power Couples Week: Whitney Keaton & Raii

It’s Valentine’s week! lol. In honor of the love, Y.S. Mag will be celebrating power couples this week, who are definitely making power moves. To kick off the week, I want to introduce you to Whitney (Whitney Keaton) & Raphael Smith (Raii).


If you have ever witnessed an Alicia Keys’ performance, and wondered who those dope vocalists were to the side…well, it is Whitney and Raii. Both have served as backing vocalists for Chrisette Michele, Estelle, En Vogue, Cheryl Pepsi Riley, Janelle Monae, and many more. Check out the interview.

How did you all meet.
RAII: I was a student at the University of Illinois – Champaign/Urbana and at the end of my freshman year, I joined a local gospel group that Whitney was a member of.

How long have you been married.
WK: We’ve been married for 2.5 years now. August 21, 2013 will make our third year.

You’re both singers, how did you come together as a duo.
RAII: When we started singing together in the gospel group, we discovered we liked a lot of the same artists and we bonded over their music. We’re not an actual duo, but we’re best friends, not to mention married, and we both respect each other’s artistry, so we definitely enjoy singing with each other.

What is it like working with your spouse.
WK: In 2007, we were both touring separately and it was a long distance relationship that we had to grow accustomed too. Not being together gave us a lot to talk about as well. We looked forward to telling each other what we’re experiencing in different parts of the world. Now,working together?…I didn’t expect to like not having a “little” break from each other (lol), but, I love it! I’m actually spoiled now!

RAII: I honestly was apprehensive at first. As Whitney mentioned, we got used to being apart, and being able to catch up. Not to mention, the pressure of working with someone who’s opinion you really value (personal and professional), I wasn’t convinced that merging the two would be a good idea. Fast forward to the past few years, I can’t imagine working with anyone else to be honest. I trust and value her at home- that spills over onto the stage and studio. Also, we get to travel and do what we love to do, together. It truly adds an undeniable level of value to our occupation.

What has your experience been like touring/performing with Alicia Keys, Estelle and other artists.
RAII: We had our first performance together as supporting vocalists for Estelle about two weeks before our wedding, and we performed in Egypt. We’ve performed in amazing venues, traveled to beautiful cities, all while supporting incredible artists and learning so much about the different aspects of this industry…and we do it together! We definitely have a greater appreciation and respect for artists and realize that there are so many factors that contribute to having a successful career in this business.


Did you ever imagine that you would be in this position with the one you love.
WK: Not like this! Not just us two as supporting vocalists for Alicia Keys Promotional Tour, side by side, stepping, singing, dancing, sitting next to each other on the plane, heading to places all over the world, staying in luxury hotels, meeting new people! It’s a huge unexpected blessing from God!

RAII: You know what, I remember praying to God to help me find my wife before I became “successful” in my career, so that I would know that she loved me for me and not my success. I definitely did not expect for my wife to be such an integral part of my success and career. It truly trumps any of my plans and I have moments when I’m still like “man, is this our real life?” and then I’m like, “yeah, it really is!” We’re definitely learning how to maintain aspirations and goals, while living in and maximizing the present moment. I think that balance is essential to true fulfillment.

Are you all going to do an album/mixtape together.
RAII: We are currently writing, producing, composing, arranging, and recording original material! Every moment we’re not rehearsing, traveling, or performing on stage, we’re working on our own music and God willing, we will be able to put out some of our music this year! Right now we’re just trying to make sure the music feels right and sounds good and at the right time,  we’ll be able to share it with the world! We’ve already released one cover (3) and we plan to release more in the near future.

How do you encourage one another.
WK:  We pray with and for each other. We’re always fighting past our emotions, [trying] our best to speak to each other with grace, to listen with understanding, and to give each other the energy we want to receive. My husband always says you control the energy around you, so when I want to just go off my emotions, sometimes to prove a point, I immediately shift my mindset. Most of the time he’ll do it for me- bay, are you being the best you can be right now. Sometimes I’m thinking in my head, “I’m not a kid, but, then I think: you’re not totally acting like a mature adult either. I do it for him as well. It’s so comforting to know I have a true friend, my best friend, that has my best interest at heart.

RAII: I’m learning not to assume that Whitney knows how I feel, and that even if she does know how I feel, she still appreciates hearing and seeing it. There are literally moments when we’re rehearsing or in the studio that we stop, put the work on pause, and just hug each other. It may seem random, but those pause moments truly help us remember what is priority. It definitely makes a difference and eases the mood when things get intense. We’ve also become more mindful to just say thank you even for the ‘little’ or ‘common’ things. Ultimately, we realize that we have to keep our personal relationship in a healthy and pleasant state. in
order for anything we endeavor to do outside of our home to be successful.

What’s the best thing about working with your spouse.
WK: Having him to experience all this with!

RAII: We can make the best out of just about any situation. My wife has a great combination of diligence, spontaneity, sass, and she keeps me on my A game for sure.

What a blessing to do what you love, with the one you love. Get a glimpse of Whitney Keaton & Raii…

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