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If Boyz II Men were portrayed as a clean-cut, wholesome R&B vocal group, then Jodeci's wild, sexual, bad-boy image represented the other side of the coin. Made up of two sets of brothers, the group's name was a consolidation of its members' names: Joel "JoJo" Hailey, Donald "DeVante Swing" and Dalvin DeGrate, and Cedric "K-Ci" Hailey. Natives of Charlotte, North Carolina, all four members toured the South as young boys singing gospel music, and even recorded albums. Both families belonged to the Pentecostal church, and the DeGrates' father was a minister. The boys were able to hear each other's gospel songs played on the radio, and were eventually introduced through girlfriends as teenagers. However, when they did meet, K-Ci was with a girl Dalvin had been dating, and a fight nearly broke out. The Hailey brothers and DeVante started hanging out together, partying, and talking about making R&B records together, coming up with the name Jodeci at this time.
At age 16, DeVante ran away to Minneapolis to get a job in Prince's organization, but was refused. He returned to Charlotte, where he wrote a song and recorded JoJo singing it. The two planned on going to New York to shop the demo, but both K-Ci and Dalvin decided to tag along at the last minute. By the time they got to New York, they had demo recordings of 29 songs, which they brought to the offices of Uptown Entertainment. They were almost rejected, but rapper Heavy D overheard the tape and talked Uptown president Andre Harrell into hearing the group. Harrell was impressed, and just like that, Jodeci signed a recording contract. In May 1991, they released Forever My Lady, which featured the gold single "Come and Talk to Me" and went on to sell over three million copies. A minor feud resulted over the band's follow-up album, Diary of a Mad Band; Jodeci, unhappy with their treatment by Uptown, flirted with the idea of leaving for Dr. Dre's Death Row Records, which resulted in almost zero promotion for their new album. It didn't matter much, as Diary eventually went double platinum. The group's personal troubles got worse in 1993, when DeVante and K-Ci pleaded guilty to gun violations and sexual assault charges, but that wasn't all; shortly afterward, DeVante's house was robbed of over 160,000 dollars in jewelry and clothes as the singer was held with guns in his mouth and at the back of his head.
Jodeci's third album, The Show, The After Party, The Hotel, was released in July 1995. As with the group's first two albums, it topped Billboard's R&B chart and went platinum. DeVante was afforded the opportunity to work with Al Green, one of his idols, and wrote and produced the song "Could This Be the Love." More significantly, his Swing Mob collective directly and indirectly fostered the rise of such acts and producers as Sista, Mad Skillz, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Playa, Ginuwine, Aaliyah, and Tweet. K-Ci and JoJo, who had contributed hits as a duo to the soundtracks of Jason's Lyric and Bulletproof, scored a trio of Top Ten R&B hits during the tail-end of the decade and the early 2000s. A solo album from Dalvin, Met.A.Mor.Phic, was released on Maverick in 2000 but didn't fare well commercially.
During the remainder of the 2000s and the early 2010s, the members of Jodeci were relatively quiet. Over a decade separated K-Ci & JoJo's fourth and fifth albums, Emotional (2002) and My Brother's Keeper (2013), the latter of which followed a reality series for TV One. In January 2014, Timbaland revealed that he was working with Jodeci on material for the group's fourth album. When The Past, The Present, The Future was released on RCA in March 2015, it contained a pair of tracks co-produced by Timbaland and DeVante, while the latter also co-produced the remainder of the tracks with the likes of Bradd Young and Marquinarias "Sanchez" Holmes. ~ Steve Huey
- Charlotte, NC
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