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Members include JoJo (born Joel Hailey), vocals; and K-Ci (born Cedric Hailey), vocals; Mr. Dalvin (born Dalvin DeGrate), vocals; and DeVante Swing (born Donald DeGrate, Jr.), vocals, songwriter, and producer; all four members raised in Charlotte, NC. Addresses: Home--New Jersey. Record company--MCA, 1755 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

Jodeci have revitalized the traditional rhythm and blues ballad by mixing their sweet harmonies with a streetwise rapper attitude. Rather than adopting the clean-cut look usually associated with balladeers, Jodeci use hip-hop moves on stage and style their appearance after gangsta rappers. DeVante Swing, the primary songwriter and producer; Mr. Dalvin, his brother; and K-Ci and JoJo, a second set of brothers, have "sweet and soulful vocals," according to Albert Watson of Vibe. Although Jodeci's sound may be enough to explain their popularity, their bad boy image has also attracted a lot of attention.

The two sets of brothers were raised in strictly religious homes in Charlotte, North Carolina. They were all members of church choirs in their youth and sang gospel music in shows as teenagers. Despite their similar backgrounds, the brothers did not know each other until their late teens, when they became friends and formed an R&B group.

The newly formed group decided to head straight for the top; they took a demo tape to New York City in 1989. An appointment at MCA's relatively new label, Uptown Records, began inauspiciously. The group's contact there was not impressed with tape, but rapper Heavy D overheard it and convinced Uptown founder Andre Harrell to audition the group then and there. Impressed with the live performance, Harrell quickly arranged a deal and put Jodeci into development. Before beginning on an album, the group made appearances on other artists' albums, including Father MC's Treat 'Em Like They Want to Be Treated, and Jeff Redd's Quiet Storm. DeVante helped write and produce songs on Mary J. Blige's What's the 411? and Christopher Williams's Changes.

When Jodeci finally released Forever My Lady in 1991, the wait proved to be well worth it. The group's first album was a phenomenal hit, eventually going multiplatinum. Entertainment Weekly praised it as "the smoothest soul sound around." The title track rose to Number One on the R&B charts, along with two other songs from the album, "Come Talk to Me" and "Stay." Forever My Lady not only garnered the group fame and fortune but also influenced several new, young, black male groups: Boyz II Men, H-Town, Shai, and Silk, to name the most prominent.

Jodeci revived a dying genre with their debut album. Watson commented in Vibe: "The Jodeci sound--lush love songs with lots of whispered sweet nothings and declarations of need--is characteristic of the piningly sincere r&b balladry that rap would seem to have all but obliterated. Yet rather than seeming obsolete or old-fashioned, Jodeci have made that sound hip again." A key component in their ability to make ballads "hip" is their adoption of the outward trappings of rap. The group members wear typical hip-hop gear, including the ever-present boots and hats, and sport a certain "attitude" when not crooning about love.

Uptown Records not only supports the unusual image for balladeers, but seems to have had an active role in creating it. Uptown founder Harrell settled the boys--fresh from rural North Carolina--in his old Bronx neighborhood to introduce them to the harshness of New York streets. Soon thereafter, rumor has it that Sean "Puffy" Combs, formerly associated with Uptown, tutored Jodeci intensively on tough city style and attitude. Harrell admitted to Watson, "Puffy played a great part in developing the group's visual style as well as its attitude. He put them in the boots and hats and stuff."

Jodeci opened for a Hammer concert in 1992. Billboard reported they were a hit with the crowd and described their performance as "energized." Rolling Stone, however, criticized their hip-hop moves as excessive: "The group members dropped their pants or humped the stage more frequently than they harmonized. It was a shame, since their voices were strong."

Jodeci's image as bad boys may go deeper than their clothing and hip-hop dance moves. In March of 1993, the group was accused of sexually harassing female participants in one of their video shoots. Jodeci has not commented on these reports. The description of the members' behavior at the shoot came on top of more serious allegations leveled at DeVante and K-Ci the previous year: they were accused of sexually assaulting a woman at gunpoint in April of 1992. In an assessment in Vibe of Jodeci's controversial brushes with the law, Watson concluded: "It feels like DeVante'll bend over backwards to prove that he's down, to counter any conclusions you might draw about a Southern choirboy singing sweet love songs--compensating in a way that apparently seems to spill over into Jodeci's lives offstage."

The accusations apparently did not hurt Jodeci's position in the music world. Th group was again at the top of the charts with a rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Lately" in 1993. The track was included on the album Uptown Unplugged and went gold. Although the "Lately" track carried the group into the pop sphere, K-Ci claimed the crossover was unintentional: "We would never try and consciously go pop, we're just not a pop group. What's satisfying is that we did what we've always done and the audience came to us."

The group released its second album, Diary of a Mad Band, in 1994. Mr. Dalvin produced the album's up-tempo tracks; DeVante did the ballads, which comprise most of the album. Although the ballads feature the same silky, harmonizing style of their earlier album, hip-hop and rap round out the effort. "As far as our music goes," K-Ci commented, "we like those hard core beats. That street attitude is a real part of our style and our performance." Playboy, however, found the crooning love songs, including "What About Us" and "Cry for You," the superior part of the album. "Their edgy rap-oriented material may be the direction Jodeci wants to go," a Playboy reviewer observed, "but that doesn't matter. What they really are are balladeers."

by Susan Windisch Brown

Jodeci's Career

Group formed in 1989 and signed with new MCA label, Uptown; hit single "Forever My Lady" released in 1991 on album of the same name; with Boyz II Men, opened for Hammer, 1992; released Diary of a Mad Band, 1994.

Famous Works

Further Reading


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