Back when baggy clothes, tattoos, and raunchy sex lyrics were reserved for mainly for rappers, R&B group Jodeci came bursting onto the scene with streetwise style and smooth, hip-hop laced vocals to match. While Boyz II Men were your clean-cut, cookie cutter crooners in sweater vests and khakis, the young men of Jodeci were all about leather, tattoos, and combat boots! They were the quintessential “bad boy” group of R&B music and for that reason alone, I had fallen madly in love with them!
I can still remember the first time I heard “Forever My Lady.” Not only could K-Ci, JoJo, Dalvin, and Devante really sing, but their ability to mix old school soul with new jack swing created a sound that is timeless even to this day. They helped paved the way for a ton of R&B boy bands that would later follow in their footsteps. No one made begging sound so good and no one brought “sexy” to R&B music quite like they could.
Jodeci consisted of two pairs of brothers from Charlotte, North Carolina. Cedric “K-Ci” and Joel “Jo-Jo” Hailey were lead vocalists, while Donald “DeVante Swing” and Dalvin DeGrate, provided background vocals, instrumentation, songwriting, and production skill to the group. The two sets of brothers were raised in strictly religious Pentecostal homes and were all members of church choirs in their youth. Despite their similar backgrounds, the brothers did not know each other until their late teens. They soon became friends and formed the R&B group Jodeci by combining each of the members’ names. In 1989, Uptown Records CEO Andre Harrell signed the group to his label and assigned Uptown executive Sean “P. Diddy” Combs with the task of developing the new act. Combs played a great part in developing the group’s visual style as well as its attitude.
Jodeci released the album, Forever My Lady in 1991. The album was a hit and would eventually go on to become multi-platinum. With lush and romantic ballads like “Forever My Lady”, “Stay” and “Come and Talk to Me”, Jodeci was praised with having the smoothest soul sound around. The album spawned five singles; three of which hit the #1 spot on the R&B charts. The success of this album proved that Jodeci was indeed a force to be reckoned with. The ladies certainly loved them! It was during this time that singer Mary J. Blige began dating lead singer K-Ci from Jodeci. The two even collaborated on a few songs. The relationship later ended and it has been rumored that K-Ci was a driving force behind much of Mary J. Blige’s former drug use and her somewhat depressing My Life album.
In 1993, Jodeci released their second studio album, Diary of a Mad Band. It mirrored the success of their debut album by reaching the number-one spot on the R&B album charts. It spawned the hits “Cry for You”, “Feenin'”, and “What About Us.” The album also featured the first ever album appearances from Timbaland and Missy Elliott years before they became known in the music industry. During that same year, Jodeci participated in MTV’s Unglugged series alongside their Uptown label mates. The band without a doubt stole the show with their live, cover version of the Stevie Wonder classic “Lately.”
In 1995, Jodeci released their third and final album, The Show, the After Party, the Hotel. Although the group’s sound was a bit edgier on this album, it was still a success by industry standards. With hits like “Freek’n You” and “Love U 4 Life”, the band was able to keep the same smooth R&B sound that fans loved. Due to creative differences and problems with their label, the band split in 1997. K-Ci and JoJo later formed a duo and went on to have a string of very successful singles, including “Last Night’s Letter” and “All My Life.” Legal problems and drug addictions seemed to plague all the members of the group. However in October 2010, K-Ci and JoJo premiered in the reality show K-CI and JoJo… Come Clean in an effort to fight their addiction and get back on the road to stardom. I’m certainly pulling for these guys. I’m a sucker for a great comeback story. One could only hope that their road to recovery will inspire a Jodeci reunion. Whatever the outcome may be, Jodeci will always and forever have a very special place in my heart!
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