Music star Jaheim has cultivated a thug image, even releasing a duet called "Beauty and a Thug" with vocalist Mary J. Blige. "I love the ghetto," Jaheim told Jet, explaining why the word "Ghetto" appears in all his album titles. "For me, the ghetto has always been hypnotic and colorful. It's just who I am. What can I say? I love the homies and standing on those street corners." The star had the rough history and the rap sheet to go with the ghetto image. But his music wasn't the hard-edged hip hop a casual viewer of a picture of the tattooed Jaheim might expect. For the most part, Jaheim didn't rap; he sang. And his singing brought to mind the classic figures of R&B and soul—Teddy Pendergrass, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, and most of all Jaheim's idol, Luther Vandross. Both a classic and a very contemporary figure, Jaheim emerged as a major star in the early 2000s.
Jaheim has given conflicting ages in interviews, but the Internet Movie Database reported his birthdate as May 26, 1978. His birth name is Jaheim Hoagland, and his grandfather Victor Hoagland was a vocalist who performed with the vocal group the Drifters for a time. Jaheim was a native of New Brunswick, New Jersey, but after his father died when he was two, the family hit hard times and bounced around New York City and northern New Jersey as his mother struggled to support him and his two brothers. Soon he was running into trouble with local police; Jaheim spent time in jail, and he drew a five-year probation term on drug charges in New Jersey's Middlesex County in 1996.
Music, though, remained a bright spot in Jaheim's life. He graduated from singing at family reunions to entering talent shows and doing well in them. When Jaheim was 15, he entered one of African-American music's famous talent competitions—the Apollo Theater in New York's Harlem neighborhood. He won three times. Jaheim received another blow when his mother died the following year, but the experience intensified his commitment to music. "I woke up," he told Kevin C. Johnson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I had to see the light…. I took heed and realized I had a gift." Jaheim landed a backup vocal slot on a recording by rapper Mag (Hustlaz Heaven), and he worked with Eric Williams of the group Blackstreet on a demo recording of his own.
Jaheim's breakthrough came when he left a demo at a clothing store in Newark, New Jersey, called Naughty Gear. The store was owned by the hip-hop group Naughty by Nature, and the demo found its way to group member Kier "KayGee" Gist. Gist liked what he heard. What caught his attention, he told the Newark Star-Ledger, was "the fact that he sounded so much like a Luther Vandross kind of guy, but he was only 18 … It was like, 'Wow, if we can take this and appeal to the same audience of a Luther, but appeal to a younger audience was well, we can start something new.'"
In Jaheim's voice, he had the perfect instrument to achieve his aims. It was often compared with that of Vandross, whom Jaheim had admired since childhood, but it also had the slightly rougher edge of earlier soul singers such as Pendergrass. And Jaheim teamed with other writers to produce material that was romantic but nevertheless reflected contemporary realities in urban communities. KayGee placed a call to Jaheim to discuss signing him to the Divine Mill label, a subsidiary of the giant Warner Bros. conglomerate he headed. KayGee's call came on April 1, and Jaheim hung up on the producer, thinking that one of his friends was playing an April Fool's Day trick on him. KayGee kept trying, and Jaheim's debut album, Ghetto Love, appeared on Warner Bros. in 2001.
With strong airplay on radio and on Black Entertainment Television (BET) for its three singles, "Could It Be," "Just in Case," and "Anything," Ghetto Love rose to number two on Billboard magazine's R&B chart and cracked the pop top ten. A 24-city tour in 2002 kept the album's momentum going, with Jaheim donating a percentage of the proceeds to the mentoring and leadership organization 100 Black Men of America. Jaheim's success wasn't limited to the United States; in England, where appreciation of classic American soul music had always run strong, he earned a solid following. The album had critical as well as popular success, with Kelefa Sanneh of the New York Times pointing out that Jaheim "delights in pairing the sound of 1970s soul with a more contemporary sensibility."
Jaheim suffered no sophomore slump with his 2002 follow-up, Still Ghetto, which topped its predecessor's chart performance and marked him as an artist in the business for the long haul. He delved into classic soul with "Put That Woman First," a reworking of the Memphis soul William Bell song "I Forgot to Be Your Lover," and he scored major hits with "Fabulous" and the duet "Beauty and a Thug," with Mary J. Blige. The album went beyond romantic material; "Fabulous" was an inner-city anthem with a children's chorus proclaiming the value of the ghetto and its residents with the words "Don't hate on us; we're fabulous."
A lag of several years followed before more music by Jaheim was released. The singer told Jet that "I just needed to recharge," but he was also slowed by a 2004 arrest in the town of Hillsborough, where he had bought a house valued at $685,000; police claimed to have found 25 bags of marijuana in a car driven by one of Jaheim's relatives and arrested him on an outstanding warrant, but Jaheim filed complaints of harassment and assault against the arresting officers. Jaheim posted bail soon after the arrest, and work continued on his third album, Ghetto Classics.
With strongly romantic themes present in its songs, Ghetto Classics was released on Valentine's Day, 2006. KayGee continued to shepherd Jaheim's career, serving as executive producer. The layoff didn't hurt Jaheim's popular fortunes in the least, as the opening single, "Every Time I Think About Her" (featuring rapper and 50 Cent nemesis Jadakiss) propelled the album to the number-one spot on both R&B and pop charts in Billboard, giving Jaheim his best-selling album yet. The Vandross influence was especially strong on Ghetto Classics, and Jaheim took advantage of the vocal similarity by touring with the band of the recently deceased crooner. "There were times when I could feel Luther's spirit when I was recording Ghetto Classics," he told Jet. Jaheim and Mary J. Blige toured together in the summer of 2006, and by that time Jaheim seemed to be stepping into the very big shoes of the vocalists who created the classic styles of soul and R&B.
Ghetto Love, Warner Bros., 2001.
Still Ghetto, Warner Bros., 2002.
Ghetto Classics, Warner Bros., 2006.
At a Glance …
Born Jaheim Hoagland on May 26, 1978(?), in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Education: High school graduate.
Career: Warner Bros., recording artist, late 1990s–.
Awards: American Music Award nomination, 2003; Soul Train Music Award nomination, 2003.
Addresses: Label—Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505; Web—www.jahe-immusic.com.
Contemporary Musicians, volume 42, Gale, 2003.
Guardian (London, England), February 24, 2006, p. 10.
Jet, April 10, 2006, p. 60.
New York Times, November 10, 2002, p. AR31; February 16, 2006, p. E5.
People, December 3, 2004, p. 61.
Record (Bergen County, NJ), January 3, 2003, p. 15.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 26, 2001, p. F1.
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), July 27, 2004, p. 43; February 10, 2006, p. 32; February 16, 2006, p. 63.
"Biography for Jaheim," Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.comname/nm1380412/bio (September 25, 2006).
"Jaheim," All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com (July 25, 2006).
Jaheim Music, www.jaheimmusic.com (September 25, 2006).
"Jaheim." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jaheim-0
"Jaheim." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jaheim-0
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.
Born Jaheim Hoagland in 1979 in New Brunswick, NJ.
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.
Awards: First place in three Apollo Theater talent contests, 1994.
Addresses: Record company—Divine Mill Inc., 100 Evergreen PI. #402, East Orange, NJ 07018, website: http://www.divinemill.com. Website—Jaheim Official Website: http://www.jaheimmusic.com.
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.”
Ghetto Love, Warner Bros., 2001.
Still Ghetto, Warner Bros., 2002.
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).
"Jaheim." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jaheim
"Jaheim." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jaheim