A snapshot of the R&B/hip hop interface in the mid 90s.
Daryl Easlea 2009
While they never hit the same commercial heights in the UK as achieved in the US, Jodeci were a blink-of-an-eye ensemble whose longer-term significance far outlasted their mid-90s prime.
Comprised of two sets of brothers – Donald ‘DeVante Swing’ and ‘Mr’ Dalvin DeGrate alongside Cedric ‘K-Ci’ and Joel ‘Jo-Jo’ Hailey – they set something of a template for the boybands that followed. Signed to Andre Harrell's Uptown Records after being heard by rapper Heavy D, Sean 'Puffy' Combs masterminded their early career, while future stars Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Ginuwine cut their teeth on Jodeci albums.
Their debut, 1991’s Forever My Love, was a runaway success, but it was nearly three years before the follow up, Diary of a Mad Band, was released in December of 1993. The band’s second, most-celebrated album stands as a snapshot of the R&B/hip hop interface in the mid 90s: slick, soulful, and assured.
It furthered the achievements of Forever My Love with its blend of sugar-sweet love songs (the stunning Cry for You and My Heart Belongs to U) and bad boy joints (Ride and Slide, the atonal grind of Sweaty). Feenin' steals the show, demonstrating their way with the rarely heard romantic side of hip hop – delivered in street language though it is, credible rhymes are married with a well-written soul pastiche: “All the chronic in the world couldn't even mess with you / You are the ultimate high / You know what I’m saying, baby?”
There was one further album – 1995’s The Show, The After Party, The Hotel – but that was it for Jodeci, and the four remain on hiatus after a failed attempt at a comeback. After their 90s successes, K-Ci and Jo-Jo went on to have a string of hits as a duo, while Dalvin and Devante moved into production. But nothing achieved by individual members has yet outshone their 1993 classic.
Diary of a Mad Band is their definitive album. It captures a moment in time perfectly and, unlike a lot of US R&B from the era, still sounds surprisingly fresh today.