Jordan, Montell 1968(?)–
Montell Jordan 1968(?)–
Among the pack of sexy, romantic vocalists who brought a new and sharper edge to R&B music in the 1990s, Montell Jordan stands out, With boundless self-confidence and a range of creative skills that included song-writing and production, he parlayed his debut party anthem “This Is How We Do It” into a run of three successful albums, with a fourth due at the end of 1999. “I want to build a musical empire,” he told the Los Angeles Times, and few would argue that he lacked the vocal chops, live-performance magnetism, and creative energy to do it.
Jordan was born around 1968 in Los Angeleshe has been reticent about his exact age, but the 1968 date is suggested by People magazine’s statement that he was 27 in 1995, and by his college graduation date of 1989. His father was a bookkeeper, and his mother worked for a microfilm company; later Jordan would attribute the atypically positive (for hip-hop-influenced genres) qualities of his lyrics to his having grown up in a two-parent household. Despite the violent culture of the South Central L.A. neighborhood that surrounded him, Jordan was encouraged in creative pursuits. His friends “used to make music or draw,” he told People, and he began to play the piano when he was ten. By age 14 he was directing his church choir.
Jordan’s route to a streets-oriented musical career was an unusual one: he worked his way through college, graduated with a degree in organization and communication from posh Pepperdine University in the Malibu Hills, worked for an advertising agency, and contemplated going to law school. “A lot of people don’t think you can work your way out of the ‘hood, let alone go to a college,” Jordan told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s the kind of thinking that keeps black people buried in the ghetto. But nobody was going to bury me,” he continued.
A commanding figure at six feet, eight inches tall, Jordan tried to get noticed as a singer all through high school and college, where he sang with a jazz chorus and was part of a circle of friends interested in classic R&B. His musical efforts went nowhere, but during his years at Pepperdine he made a valuable ally: John Singleton. The Boyz ’N the Hood film director belonged to the same national fraternity as Jordan, and convinced executives at the hip-hop-oriented Def Jam label to listen to Jordan’s music. Jordan’s tape found its way to pioneering
Born in Los Angeles, CA, ca. 1968; son of a book keeper and a microfilm administrator; raised in South Central neighborhood; father of one child. Education: Pepperdine University, degree in organization and communication, 1989, Religion: Missionary Baptist.
Career: R&B vocalist. Performed in classic and contemporary R&B and jazz styles through high school and college; signed to Def Jam label, middle 1990s; released debut album, This is How We Do it, 1995; album topped both R&B and pop music sales charts; toured with Boyz II Men, 1995; released More …, 1996; album included song “I Like” included in Eddie Murphy film The Nutty Professor with Jordan himself performing song in film; released let’s Ride, 1998; songwriting and production activities included Deborah Cox hit “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” 1998; released Get It On … Tonite, 1999.
Addresses: label —c/o Def Jam Music Group, 160 Varick St., New York, NY 10013.
hip-hop executive Russell Simmons.
Simmons heard something new in Jordan; the Boston Herald called the new quality “a blend of romantic [r] & [b] crooning with a fluid, street-rapping style.” Jordan himself explained to the Los Angeles Times that “I wrote rap lyrics, and instead of rapping I sang the lyrics,” and he expressed admiration for such classic R&B acts as the Spinners, Isaac Hayes, and Teddy Pendergrass. He was also impressed by the image of South Central that came through in Jordan’s music: the genial party-oriented and romantic lyrics of his songs stood in sharp contrast to the gunfire-riddled bleakness of Jordan’s West Coast rap contemporaries.
Jordan was signed to Def Jam and released his debut album, This Is How We Do It, in 1995. Its title single spent the better part of two months atop Billboard magazine’s R&B chart, and crossed over to notch two weeks atop the magazine’s pop Hot 100, the first Def Jam release to do so. As he would on subsequent releases, Jordan wrote most of the songs on the album, which cracked the pop Top 20. This Is How We Do It put Jordan’s career into an early overdrive. He moved into a swank new Los Angeles apartment and, in the summer of 1995, landed a spot on the tour of the superstar R&B group Boyz II Men.
It was the romantic side of Jordan’s personality that came to the forefront with his sophomore album, More … (1996), and increasingly often he found himself compared with another sensual soul vocalist, Marvin Gaye. Though he faced plenty of competition in the field of romantic but rhythmically sharp R&B from the likes of superstar talents R Kelly and Babyface, Jordan held his own. The album’s lead single, “I Like,” gained added exposure from its inclusion in the hit Eddie Murphy movie The Nutty Professor, with Jordan himself performing the song, which had been recorded before More … was completed. The cameo brought Jordan a chance to take his career into the movies; Marlon Wayans (of the Wayans Brothers) offered him a slot in a basketball film called The Sixth Man. But the film would have interrupted work on the rest of the album, and Jordan decided music was more important.
The demands of being a new father did not dent Jordan’s creativity as he prepared to release his third album, 1998’s Let’s Ride. Featuring both vocal and production contributions from rapper and No Limit CEO, Master P. Jordan continued to aim his bedroom-oriented lyrics at a predominantly female audience. Def Jam sent advance copies of the album to women’s hair salons, and Jordan’s live concerts recalled the libido-drenched glory days of Gaye and Pendergrass. Let’s Ride went gold, and describing the single “When You Get Home,” Billboard noted that “the artist is working to steam up some windows with this, one of his best efforts to date.”
After More … was released, Jordan told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he hoped “to go back in the studio and write some more songs for other people.” He did just that, with spectacular results: the recording of Jordan’s “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” by the Canadian songstress Deborah Cox was a smash hit in late 1998 and early 1999, roosting atop Billboard’s R&B singles chart for thirteen consecutive weeks. Jordan himself released his fourth album, Get It On … Tonite, in October of 1999. He remained identified with “This Is How We Do It” more than with any other song- “Meet me when I’m 60 in Vegas, and I’ll be singing this same damn song every night,” he once told a St. Louis crowd with a reporter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in attendance. But his career seemed ready to flourish for some time before he would retire to nostalgia nightspots.
This Is How We Do It, PMP/Def Jam, 1995.
Get It On … Tonite, Def Jam, 1999.
Larkin, Colin, ed., The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze UK, 1998.
Anchorage Daily News, August 7, 1998, p. H8.
Billboard, April 29, 1995, p. 16; February 21, 1998, p. 22.
Boston Herald, July 20, 1995, p. 42.
Business Wire, January 20, 1999, p. 1.
Entertainment Weekly, June 2, 1995, p. 55.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 6, 1999, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1995, p. 60.
People, June 19, 1995, p. 85.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 4, 1996, p. C1.
St.Louis Post-Dispatch, November 29, 1996, p. F5.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from http://www.allmusic.com.
—James M. Manheim
Singer, songwriter, producer
Montell Jordan soared to stardom with the release of his first recording, “This Is How We Do It,” a solid gold hit that topped the rhythm and blues charts for weeks. The cynics watched and waited for Jordan’s popularity to wane as quickly as it appeared, but with each successive release new facets of his talent unfolded. A brief three years later there were few who could refute that Jordan was a solid and durable performer who would undoubtedly remain on the popular music scene for years to come. He released four gold-selling songs in succession. His first album was certified gold, and his second album featured three gold single releases. When Jordan’s third album, Let’s Ride, went platinum, the message was evident that Jordan was more than a one-hit performer. A capable songwriter and producer, he contributed his talents to the productions of other musicians who experienced similar success.
Born in 1972, Jordan was the oldest child of Delois Allen and Elijah Jordan. The family lived a lower middle class existence in South Central Los Angeles. With four children, financial survival was a day-to-day ritual, and both of Jordan’s parents worked to make ends meet. His father was an accountant, and his mother was a business administrator.
Jordan was in grade school when his grandfather gave him a saxophone. The oddly shaped instrument captured Jordan’s attention and sparked a keen interest for music in the boy. In time Jordan expanded his musical interests, learning to play the piano at age 10, and to sing by age 11. He joined the choir of his Baptist church congregation along with a close friend, and in time both were well-respected members of the group.
As Jordan matured he reached the imposing physical height of six-foot-eight-inches tall. He told Margena Christian in Ebony Man that he missed the obvious detour into an athletic careermainly because of financial limitations that kept him otherwise occupied as a teenager in private schools. In grade school and at an all-boy’s high school, Jordan worked in the school cafeteria while his friends were playing ball and practicing their skills at recess. Jordan in turn pursued other interests, at home in his free time.
He nurtured his musical skills outside of school, even after he moved on to college. He attended Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, which proved to be an exceptional financial drain on both Jordan and his family. He determinedly worked at assorted jobs and completed a sensible curriculum in organizational communications, all the while relegating his love of music to the priority of a spare time hobby. After graduation in 1991, he considered
Born 1972 in Los Angeles, CA; son of Elijah Jordan and Delois Allen. Education: BA, organizational communications, Pepperdine University.
Signed with Def Jam records, 1993; four gold singles and one gold album including: “This Is How We Do It,” 1995; “Failing,” 1996; “I Like,” 1997; and “What’s on Tonight,” 1997.
Awards: R&B Soul Award, ASCAP, 1998.
Addresses: Record company —Polygram Records, Inc., 825 8th Ave. Fl C2b, New York, NY 10019.
ered enrolling in law school, but opted instead to work for an advertising agency.
Eventually the agency downsized and Jordan lost his job. He turned the misfortune into opportunity as it left him ample time to pursue his musical ambitions. He sold his car for the money to buy a keyboard and used the instrument to make a demonstration tape. He spent some time singing in a local nightclub until late in 1993, when he began negotiations with Def Jam records. This is How We Do It, his first album, went into production in January of 1994. He was still in his mid-twenties when his first single, “This Is How We Do It,” hit the big time. The song not only earned a gold record for Jordan, but it hovered at first place on the charts for seven weeks. The album of the same name reached number 4 on the R&B charts.
In the spring of 1995 Jordan toured with Boyz II Men and TLC. In 1997 his second album More was released on Rush Associated Labels. That album hit number 2 on the R&B charts and featured three gold singles: “I Like,” “Falling,” and “What’s on Tonight.” “I Like,” was also featured on the soundtrack of the Eddie Murphyfilm, The Nutty Professor. He produced his third album, Let’s Ride, in collaboration with rapper Master P’s production company, Beats by the Pound. Let’s Ride features a variety of musical styles from gospel to funk. Jordan embraces hip-hop styles, clearly distinguished by his talent for romanticizing ghetto themes with a positive and upbeat sentiment.
Known as more than a performer, Jordan wrote much of his own material and has written hit songs for others, as well. His “Nobody’s Supposed to be Here,” was a major hit for rhythm and blues diva Deborah Cox. The song hit number one of the R&B charts and surfaced as a crossover hit in the 10 on the pop charts. Jordan also produced albums for other groups on his M3 label
Jordan’s escalating popularity as a fresh new face in the music industry made him a popular fixture at awards shows, as a presenter, nominee, and award winner. Billboard nominated Jordan forthe Billboard Music Video Award as best new artist in 1995, and then invited him to be a presenter at the 1995 Billboard Music Awards.
In 1997 Jordan appeared at the Nation Association for the Advancement of Colored People 28thImage Awards, and he was a presenter at the 8thAnnual Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Awards, at the NY Hilton. He was a presenter at the 1998 BillboardMusic Video Awards and, a few weeks later, performed at the “Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards” in honor of Chaka Khan.
Jordan was as a delegate to Alan Roy Scott’s 1997 Music Bridge song-writing sessions and conferences in Clifden, Ireland. Music Bridge holds sessions worldwide, and Jordan collaborated on songs and performed at the 1999 Music Bridge sessions in Havana, Cuba, as well.
This is How We Do It, 1995.
More (includes “Falling,” “I Like,” and “What’s on Tonight”), Rush Associated Labels, 1996.
Let’s Ride, Def Jam, 1998.
Billboard, February 22, 1997; February 21, 1998; June 27, 1998; September 12, 1998; December 26, 1998.
Ebony Man, May 1997.
Entertainment, June 2, 1995.
Essence, November 1998.
Los Angeles Times, Record Edition, March 29, 1999.
New York Amsterdam News, July 16, 1998.
People, June 19, 1995.
“Montell Jordan,” http://www.defjam.com/artists/montell/montell.html (May 9, 1999).