Rhythm and blues group
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.
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.
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.
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. The 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 uptempo 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.”
Forever My Lady, Uptown, 1991.
(With others) Uptown Unplugged, 1993.
Diary of a Mad Band, Uptown, 1994.
Billboard, May 2, 1992.
Entertainment Weekly, December 24, 1993.
Playboy, May 1994.
Rolling Stone, July 9, 1992.
Vibe, December 1993.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from MCA press materials.
—Susan Windisch Brown
"Jodeci." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jodeci
"Jodeci." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/jodeci
Formed: 1990, Tiny Grove, North Carolina
Members: Dalvin DeGrate, vocals (born Hampton, Virginia, 23 July 1971); Donald "Devante Swing" DeGrate, vocals (born Hampton, Virginia, 29 September 1969); Cedric "K-Ci" Hailey, vocals (born Tiny Grove, North Carolina, 2 September 1969); Joel "Jo-Jo" Hailey, vocals (born Tiny Grove, North Carolina, 10 June 1971).
Best-selling album since 1990: Forever My Lady (1991)
Hit songs since 1990: "Come and Talk to Me," "Cry for You," "Freek 'n You"
Gospel-trained vocal quartet Jodeci was one of the emblematic groups of the "New Jack Swing" era of the late 1980s/early 1990s, during which hip-hop production techniques and rhythms began to be applied to R&B. While finding success with a number of sentimental love ballads, the group also dwelt increasingly on sexual themes, cultivating a wild, "bad boy" image that distinguished them from more clean-cut contemporaries such as Boyz II Men. Jodeci dominated early 1990s R&B with a succession of platinum albums, and paved the way for band members K-Ci and Jo-Jo's equally successful career as a duo in the latter half of the decade.
Jodeci was formed in 1990 by two sets of brothers, Dalvin and Donald DeGrate, and Cedric and Joel Hailey. From a young age, the DeGrates had been touring and recording with their father's gospel group, Reverend DeGrate and the DeGrate Delegation. The Haileys were also members of a family gospel group, Little Cedric and the Hailey Singers. Familiar with each other from the southern gospel circuit, the brothers finally met when Joel discovered that he and Dalvin were dating the same girl. Recognizing their shared musical ambition, they quickly overcame their initial animosity and began singing together in the DeGrates's hometown, Tiny Grove, North Carolina. Combining Donald, Cedric, and Joel's nicknames to form the name Jodeci, they went to New York in 1991 with a demo tape of songs written by Donald. A chance intercession by rapper Heavy D led them to Uptown Records president Andre Harrell, who promptly signed them.
In May 1991 Jodeci released their debut album Forever My Lady. The album shows its New Jack roots in club-oriented songs like the up-tempo "Playthang" and "Gotta Love," the lyrics of which hint at the carnality and sexual bravado the band would later fully embrace. It was the album's series of love ballads, however, that established Jodeci's reputation as master of the contemporary "baby-makin'" song. On Forever My Lady 's first single, "Come and Talk to Me," the foursome's passionate gospel flourishes inject a sultry urgency into even the tamest of comeons: "I'm a single man / I hope that you are single too." And on the album's title track they praise fidelity and starting a family with vocals oozing seduction. Forever My Lady ultimately went triple platinum, and announced Jodeci as heirs to the tradition of earlier bedroom balladeers such as Barry White.
Jodeci's latent raunchiness comes to the forefront on their second album, Diary of a Mad Band (1993). Tracks such as "Slide 'n Ride," "Alone," and "Sweaty" are unabashed sexual propositions, in which the protagonist sells his skill at sexually gratifying females in explicit detail. The hit single "Cry for You" counterbalances the prevailing sexual swagger with the frank vulnerability of its lament to a departed lover: "Sometimes my pillow gets so wet with tears / I don't have no one to call my own." Although critically praised as at least the equal of Forever My Lady, the album received lackluster promotion, prompting a public dispute between Jodeci and their label. Further controversy dogged the band when K-Ci and Devante Swing were charged with sexually assaulting a woman they met in a New Jersey nightclub. Sales of Diary of a Mad Band leveled off at 2 million, 1 million less than its predecessor.
In 1995 they followed up Diary of a Mad Band with The Show, the After-Party, The Hotel, a concept album purporting to show a typical hedonistic night in the life of Jodeci. Although the album produced a number of Top 40 singles, it sold only 1 million copies, marking the group's second consecutive failure to match its previous success.
In 1996 the members of Jodeci began focusing on solo projects, the most notable of which were Devante's work as a producer and K-Ci and Jo-Jo's career as a duo. Although Jodeci never formally dissolved, the 1990s ended without a fourth album from the group.
Jodeci drew upon their gospel training to invest even the most innocuous love songs with sincerity, passion, and a hint of menace. They struck a balance between vulnerability and toughness that set the template for 1990s hip-hop soul and paved the way for later artists such as Dru Hill and their spin-off group, K-Ci & Jo-Jo.
Forever My Lady (Uptown/MCA, 1991); Diary of a Mad Band (Uptown/MCA, 1993); The Show, the After-Party, the Hotel (Uptown/MCA, 1995).
"Jodeci." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/jodeci
"Jodeci." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/jodeci