Born Jaheim Hoagland in 1979 in New Brunswick, NJ. Addresses: Record company--Divine Mill Inc., 100 Evergreen Pl. #402, East Orange, NJ 07018, website: http://www.divinemill.com. Website--Jaheim Official Website: http://www.jaheimmusic.com.
Blending soulful ballads and infectious dance tracks, R&B singer Jaheim hit the charts in 2001 with his debut album Ghetto Love. He got his start by winning no fewer than three talent contests at the legendary Apollo Theater in New York. A 24-city concert tour followed the release of his first album, and Jaheim released his second album, Still Ghetto, in 2002, to broad acclaim.
Jaheim Hoagland was born in 1979 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and grew up in the 176 Memorial Parkway Homes public housing project. His father died when Jaheim was only two years old, leaving Jaheim's mother alone to raise him and two brothers. Jaheim admitted that he often got into trouble as a boy, even landing in jail on more than one occasion. "My mother did the best she could do," he told Kevin C. Johnson in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "But I was the troublesome child...."
Music was young Jaheim's salvation, however. "No matter how hard life got," Jaheim later told Jet, "I could always make myself and my Mom feel better with a song." He sang at every opportunity. This was no surprise to his family, which had already produced at least one professional singer (Victor Hoagland, Jaheim's grandfather, who had performed with well-known groups like the Drifters) and whose reunions were filled with voices raised in song. These gatherings, in fact, gave Jaheim his first taste of singing for an audience, and he found that he liked it. When, at 15 years old, Jaheim entered the famous talent shows at Harlem's Apollo Theater, he won three times.
Tragedy continued to plague the young singer, however; Jaheim's mother died when he was 17. He persevered, though, taking a renewed sense of purpose for his own life and devoting himself fully to his music. He continued to sing in New Jersey talent shows, and he supplied backing vocals to the rapper Mag's album Hustlaz Heaven.
After graduating from high school, Jaheim moved to Virginia, where he worked with Eric Williams of R&B group Blackstreet to cut a demo tape. Returning to New Jersey, Jaheim dropped off a copy of his demo at a Newark clothing store called Naughty Gear, owned by the best-selling group Naughty by Nature. The tape went to the group's music producer KayGee, who had also produced hits for Next and Zhane and owned the Divine Mill label, a Warner Bros. subsidiary, as well. KayGee liked Jaheim's singing well enough to call him in for an audition. Unfortunately, he called on April 1 and Jaheim, thinking it was an April Fool's day prank, hung up on him. Fortunately, KayGee persisted, and in 2001 Jaheim's debut album, Ghetto Love, was released on the Warner Bros. label. In addition to Jaheim's vocal and songwriting talents, the album features the work of RL from Next, Backstreet, and Darren and Cliff Lightly.
Three singles from the album proved particularly popular: "Could It Be," "Just in Case," and "Anything." The album's music videos received significant play on Black Entertainment Television (BET) and other networks, and the album eventually went platinum. Sales were lifted in part by Jaheim's crossover appeal; as Dedry Jones, a record store owner in Chicago, put it to Marci Kenon in Billboard, "His voice is reminiscent of a lot of older artists, but he's contemporary enough that younger people can identify with him as well."
Jaheim hit the road in 2002, headlining a tour and singing with a live band for the first time. Called the Seagrams Gin Live Concert Tour, the tour covered 24 cities and also featured Truth Hurts, Biz Markie, Mystikal, Public Announcement, SuperVision, and Nivea. On tour Jaheim sang songs from his debut album as well as pieces from his upcoming release, like "Fabulous," which became a hit in advance of the album's debut. Jaheim called the tour a great opportunity to meet his fans and to spread his message that "adversity in life cannot stop you from achieving your personal and professional goals," as he told Jet. The tour was also a chance for him to help other people from poor neighborhoods: a percentage of ticket sales was donated to the social services organization One Hundred Black Men.
Jaheim released his second album, Still Ghetto, in that same year, an effort that, according to Jet, firmly established him "as a major musical force." The album's initial hit, "Fabulous," which featured the talents of Tha Gayne, won Jaheim as much acclaim as his hits of the previous year. Other notable songs on the album include "Beauty and a Thug," which he sings with hip-hop star Mary J. Blige. He dedicated the album to his mother, particularly the song "Everywhere I Am," which expresses his feeling that his mother is still very much a presence in his life, especially when he sings. "That," he told Jet, "gives me the confidence and faith to keep on giving my best." As Jaheim told Gail Mitchell in Billboard, Still Ghetto "tells more of my own stories; how things were for me as I came up. That's my stamp: I'm every aspect of the ghetto, everything in that garbage can and in the corner store that you love. 'Ghetto' is just a beautiful word. They put us here, we've survived it, and now we're sharing it with the rest of the world."
In addition to singing, Jaheim has expanded his repertoire to include rapping, acting, and modeling. He cites Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Teddy Pendergrass, and Stevie Wonder among his musical inspirations, and calls Luther Vandross a particularly important influence because Jaheim imitated his singing while working to develop his own voice. For inspiration, Jaheim draws on his own life. His perseverance in the face of difficulty has made him stronger, he told Jet soon after the release of his second album. "I take my stories straight out of the inner city," he said, "and my sound is about what's happening on the street."
by Michael Belfiore
Won talent contests at the Apollo Theater, 1994; contributed to the Mag's Hustlaz Heaven album, 1998; released debut solo album, Ghetto Love, on the Warner Bros. label, 2001; released Still Ghetto on Warner Bros., 2002.
First place in three Apollo Theater talent contests, 1994.
- Billboard, December 23, 2000; November 9, 2002.
- Jet, July 16, 2001; September 30, 2002; December 9, 2002.
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 26, 2001.
- Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), September 27, 2002.
- USA Today, April 20, 2001.
- "Jaheim," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 5, 2003).