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The best kept secret in music


"Toothpick Sticks out by mixing folk and hip hop"

When Toothpick travels, he travels light. "I have a couple boxes of CDs, a couple boxes of T-shirts, a guitar, and a bookbag, and I'm ready to go," he says, adding that he's driven 30,000 miles in the past three months.
Toothpick is on the move for one simple reason: He's in demand. His offbeat blend of rap vocals and folk guitar has him on the cusp of a genre that can be described as folk-rap or hippie hip-hop, and his breezily hedonistic lyrics have won favor with jam bands such as O.A.R., which has brought him out as an opening act.
"It's a little bit new for people -- rapping and singing and playing acoustic guitar -- and kind of going out there alone and doing it," Toothpick says. "I was like a deer in the headlights driving to North Carolina for the first show, but it was so exciting that I thought, `This is it. This is what I want to do.' "
The 24-year-old Toothpick (real name Doug Ray) was raised in White Plains, N. Y., where he first learned to rap (he loved Slick Rick and A Tribe Called Quest) and got the nickname Toothpick for being a skinny member of the track team. He was later part of a rap crew known as Bad Ronald, which recorded one album for Warner Bros. But he also played folk guitar at college bars (he went to SUNY Albany), so he combined folk and hip-hop and opted to go on his own. He opened for Ziggy Marley last year and has opened for O.A.R. and Robert Randolph & the Family Band this year. He headlines Bill's Bar in Boston tonight.
"Come on down. We're going to party," he says of the Bill's gig. There seems no doubt about that if you've heard his catchy CD, "Drive Easy." The music often floats on a mellow, folk-rock pulse, while Toothpick raps over it with funny, picaresque lyrics that fall somewhere between Jack Kerouac and Jack Johnson. He fantasizes about the world from his sofa in "Old Time Travelin' Couch" and recalls a Grateful Dead concert in "High Life." He is irrepressible in "Goodnight Moon" ("I still chase the Cheshire cat across the midnight sky," he raps) and "Comin' Home," with its chorus: "So let the rain fall down, I won't stop/ Let the wind blow me down, I'll get back up."
"What I'm doing is not life or death. I'm really happy and enjoying the journey, whether it's a journey up or a journey sideways," he says. "I don't feel a lot of pressure about what's coming next or what does it all mean. Because I'm just hanging out."
Other musicians who have toured with him have been impressed. "It takes a lot of guts to get up there with a guitar and not just sing but rap, which is rare," says Jerry DePizzo of O.A.R. "And what he raps about is what kids are dealing with and experiencing. I think he has the potential for a real audience out there."
Toothpick says he definitely gets into a lot of the music and lifestyle that somebody might associate with hippies. "But at the same time," he says, "I have a high interest in other music and lifestyles. Honestly, people ask me what genre the music is and I don't have a good answer yet. I just say, `You really have to listen to it, and then you can tell me.' "
- Boston Globe

"Skinny White Rapper, the new flava, yo"

It’s time to hang up your “I Heart Gangsta Rap” T-shirt and trade it in for one that reads “I Heart Skinny White Rapper/Musicians.”
New York born and bred Doug Ray is ready to push a little optimism-pumped music into the mainstream.
Dubbed “Toothpick” by his teammates for being the skinniest kid on his high school track team, Ray has taken a different road with his rapping abilities, first with his band Bad Ronald and now with his solo debut “Drive Easy.”
Citing diverse influences such as Cat Stevens, Soul Coughing and The Roots, the 24-year-old Ray has been freestyle rapping and playing the guitar since the age of 12, a unique musical mix, which he calls “thought provoking and well-crafted.”
“It’s interesting because it breaks down a lot of the barriers between rock, rap, funk, blues, folk or whatever,” Ray said. “There was no blueprint when we made the record, so it feels very open.”
Instead of sticking to just one musical style, Ray takes free-flowing funky guitar melodies and tops them with a kind of rap-talk to tell stories about everything from time travel and homecomings to the opposite sex.
Ray’s low, gravelly voice on “Drive Easy” calls to mind G-Love or Everlast, with far from hardcore lyrics. Songs like “Time Travelin’ Couch” conjure up memories of light-hearted, easy-going days gone by and oh yeah, a time traveling couch.
He raps, “It takes two minutes to call me back and say ‘hell no’ and freeze like you banged a funny bone in your elbow/It’s a dream machine everything you see, and you could be whoever you choose to be/Drive easy, s’alright, the time traveling couch will get you home in time.”
The versatile rapper goes on in a “Back to Future”-esque fashion, discussing the various things he would do with his time machine/couch, including “smoke Cuban cigars with Fidel in Havana” and tell “Baby Jessica’s parents she’s in the well.”
Although Ray’s lyrics are overall light and breezy, there is a twinge of sadness to his lyrical story-telling style. In “Scars for Entertainment,” Ray waxes a bit melancholy with, “All this medicine makes me a mellow guy/and sometimes I can feel just enough to cry/and wonder why blue tears come from brown eyes.”
Ray has come a long way from that track team in Westchester, N.Y. After wrapping up a 10-city solo tour Jan. 29, he will go on to open for O.A.R. and Robert Randolph & The Family Band, including a Jan. 31 performance in Columbus, Ohio.
On the subject of his music, the easy-going Ray is hopeful.
“I just hope people like it, so I can spend the next 30 years on tour,” Ray said.
There may be rap battles waging between hardcore heavyweights like Ja Rule and 50 Cent, but Ray has none of that on “Drive Easy.” Well, unless lyrics like “friends of yours are friends of mine, let’s get together and have a good time” make you want to get all up in his, uh, stuff.
- Flyer News

"Hot List"

Quirky New York indie rocker pens a hilarious gastronomical assault on the Golden Arches, featured in the Sundance hit film of the same name. Afterward, you won't want fries with that. - Rolling Stone Magazine

"Music’s Dental Hygienist"

Tuesday night, it was near closing time at Otto’s, 118 E. Lincoln Highway, when someone in the crowd yelled “Shoot the S---.” Musician Doug Ray, also known as Toothpick, went into a solo version of the song that put him on MTV’s TRL and gave his former group Bad Ronald a charted mainstream hit in 2001. The cut is a lighthearted party anthem about indulging in weed and keg beer.

“It’s a song I wrote in four minutes. We just got really high in the studio and busted it out,” Toothpick said. “It got us really good parking spots, and we got to hang out with celebrities.” Toothpick, whose nickname dates back to high school when he was the skinniest guy on the track team, is touring the country as a solo musician. The other members of the now-defunct Bad Ronald have moved on to other projects after their stint on Warner Brothers Records ended.

“There was no bad breakup or anything. We blew up real quick, made a lot of cash and spent it,” Pick said.

After the decision was made to do individual projects, Toothpick spent more than six months traveling and writing music. During this time, he played with a few bands in Los Angeles and fine-tuned his sound. He ended up writing about 100 songs and picked 11 to go on the record. The singer/songwriter/rapper named the album “Drive Easy” and released it in January. Former Bad Ronald member DJ Deetalx contributed on a few tracks. According to Toothpick, the songwriting process and execution on the album wasn’t a struggle at all.

“It’s the kind of album you turn on after your last class going into Spring Break. It’s a great record about life, feelings and how everything’s gonna be OK,” he said.

Musician Michael Tolcher, who currently is touring with the Pat McGee Band, met Toothpick about two years ago in New York.

“I think he’s the master of the freestyle and very artfully blends rhyme and melody,” Tolcher said. “It’s a super listening record. You can just pop it in and bob your head to it.”

Toothpick opened up for O.A.R. earlier this month in DeKalb at the Convocation Center. He also has played shows with Snoop Doggy Dogg, Saliva, Dope, Nickelback and Robert Randolph



Time Travelin' Couch - Full Length debut album


Feeling a bit camera shy


Doug Ray, otherwise known as Toothpick (a nickname given to him by his high school sports team for being the skinniest guy on the team), has just released his debut solo record, Time Travelin' Couch, produced by Production team Pop Rox (Carole King, Michael Tolcher). In a crowded field of singer/songwriters, Toothpick separates himself from the pack by infusing his original style of rap and freestyle with traditional story telling. Time Travelin' Couch blends musical genres, incorporating old school hip-hop, simple melodies and driving beats. Ray explains “The album is interesting because it breaks down a lot of the barriers between rock, rap, funk, blues, and folk” Ray said. “There was no blueprint when we made the record, so it feels very open.” The album kicks off with “Time Travelin' Couch,” a feel good outlet for Toothpick’s imagination to let loose. “High Life” is another catchy tune that brings to mind wasted days of youth. Yet, while Ray can pull you in with his upbeat funky sound and whimsical lyrics, underneath there is greater depth. He dissects the thought process of someone who feels trapped in “Scars for Entertainment” and discuses our culture’s obsession with using pills as answers on “Green Monster”. In talking about his inspiration for “Green Monster”, Ray notes, “Instead of appreciating the eccentricities in people’s personalities, we choose to overmedicate people and try to make them fit the norm.”

Toothpick cites a range of musical influences from Cat Stevens and Soul Coughing to A Tribe Called Quest & The Roots. But it was his folk singer/songwriter mother’s singing around the house and his collection of Grateful Dead tapes, that inspired Ray to pick up the guitar at the age of twelve. At the same time, rap music was becoming a powerful medium in the diverse community in which he was living. Wanting to incorporate all of these amazing sounds, Ray chose to combine his interest in rap and love of the guitar with his admiration for the poetry of Jim Morrison and The Doors. Ray soon found himself in a new and exciting place musically and the sound of Toothpick was eventually born.

Raised in New York, Ray is the former front man of the band Bad Ronald, which was signed to Warner Brothers Records during his senior year of college. Bad Ronald debuted on MTV’s Total Request Live in 2001 with their featured video “Let’s Begin (Shoot The ****),” directed by Marc Klasfeld.

Toothpick’s most recent tour dates have had him sharing the stage with diverse artists such as Ziggy Marley, Gavin Degraw, Guster, O.A.R. and Robert Randolph & The Family Band. Toothpick’s music has been described as “…laidback groove that can lure in rap crews and the jam band fans”