Eagle-eyed viewers watching Ed Sheeran and Lil Uzi Vert’s performance of “Shape of You” on Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards may have noticed two familiar faces on stage. Supporting vocalists RAII and Whitney — who regularly accompany Alicia Keys and have joined Emeli Sande, Wiz Khalifa, and Charlie Puth, and competed last summer on “America’s Got Talent” — stood alongside the 2017 VMA artist of the year in a performance that came together with only one day of rehearsal.
The married duo met the singer earlier this year as he was just beginning to promote his new record, Divide. This year, the duo celebrated a professional milestone working ten years in the business, and Sunday’s show was special as the two watched from their hotel room as Sheeran collected his moonperson on stage.
“We hit our ten-year mark as supporting vocalists performing with the artist of the year,” said Whitney. “And we celebrated our seven-year wedding anniversary on the 21st of this month!”
The couple – who reside in New York — were introduced to Sheeran through producer Adam Blackstone, musical director for Nicki Minaj, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, and the ABC show “Boy Band.” Blackstone, who also performed with Sheeran on Sunday, is the CEO of his own company, Bassic Black Entertainment, and has collaborated with RAII and Whitney’s independent entertainment company, His & Her Entertainment. Blackstone felt that RAII and Whitney could bring something to the table with Sheeran in live performance. His instincts were correct: when Sheeran performed at the Bee Gees tribute, “Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Music of the Bee Gees” on CBS, he called on RAII and Whitney to join in.
The humble Sheeran thanked the couple, saying, “I’m so glad you guys agreed to do this with me.”
When it came time to perform at the VMAs, the couple got the call in the beginning of August, RAII said.
“We got the call at the top of the month, and the date worked out with our schedule,” he said. “They sent us a sketch of the show, we listened to our parts and rehearsed yesterday (Saturday) just to feel the vibe and get accustomed to it. We met early today with Ed and the band and Lil Uzi for the run through, and then we did the show.”
With an early call time, the couple had a brief window to get the performance right.
“With Ed, he doesn’t play with a band and can pretty much carry a show by himself,” Whitney explained. “Today in the run through he just ran through it really quick with his guitar, and we had to get it. We did it right in the moment with him and he loved it. He was smiling. He is always grateful, and we are grateful to support him.”
With all of this momentum and exposure, RAII and Whitney are branching out with new music of their own. On Sunday, the duo left the VMAs early to perform a show, where they will debut their new song, “No Worries Step Clap.” On Sept. 7, RAII and Whitney will debut the video at the Milk River Lounge in Brooklyn. After that, the duo is set to join Keys onstage at Rock in Rio.
“This is a relaunch of RAII and Whitney,” she said.