1987/88: Teddy Riley produced the debut albums of Keith Sweat, his own band Guy, and a portion of Al B. Sure’s first album. The soul-connected inner circle was surprised. The so-called Dance classics, the R&B that had been around for two decades, the soul of that moment, and even hip-hop were perfectly incorporated into a new style of dance music. New Jack Swing (also known as swingbeat or R&B) was born. Since then, the music has rapidly taken hold of a multimillion audience. It has also influenced existing and new soul and R&B artists who generally felt strongly drawn to this new sound. After the worldwide success of Bobby Brown “My Prerogative” (also a Teddy Riley production), new bands and producers sprung up like mushrooms. T.R. himself decided to become the market leader and produced a long list of artists (in the genres of soul, jazz, R&B, and hip-hop), with the crowning achievement of his sound being the recently released final album of Michael Jackson (for all of us).
Okay, after this brief history of the genre (if you only knew), we must continue asking ourselves two small things, knowing in advance that they will not lead us to definitive answers. However, they help us better understand our judgment of JoDeCi (which is still our main focus). Namely, what is commercial and what is simply so good that everyone likes it? JoDeCi consists of JoJo and Mr. Dalvin on background vocals, K-Ci on lead vocals, and DeVante Swing as the lyricist, composer, and producer (assisted by veteran Al B. Sure).
In the first six soul tracks, we immediately recognize the roots of this group’s vocal sound. Church-trained gospel/soul voices jump and glide over tight, mystical synth basslines and beats. The lyrics revolve around nothing other than love or how to obtain it (smoothly). Apart from the words “I just wanna be safe,” there is not much of a message to be found on this album. But hey, considering that the average age of the group is no higher than twenty, love is a beautiful and inexhaustible theme that represents a significant part of the soul tradition (last but not least). Musically, fortunately, that tradition is being broken; this is a ’90s soul affair! Not only has the sound been adapted to the current computer-driven era (on stage, you will most likely see them with a conventional four-piece band) due to production costs, but the new melodic style of the ballads, already introduced by Keith Sweat, New Edition, Bell Biv Devoe, Guy, and Al B. Sure, is now present with improved vocal talent.
The remaining six uptempo tracks are particularly enjoyable for those who were already fans of Guy back in the day. As previously mentioned, the first album by that band is considered the true blueprint of New Jack Swing and indeed stands out due to its slightly funkier and simpler uptempo tightness, accentuated by sharp snare drums. It was a perfect sound that even Guy’s second (pretentiously named “The Future”) album only partially managed to match. However, the second album is great -more in slower R&B speed- and sold better. But where Teddy Riley brought his sound (and future) to artists who couldn’t adapt to the current zeitgeist on their own, fortunately, there are bands like JoDeCi (and others) who have thoroughly studied the past of Guy and may paved the path to another new future of R&B.
Special dedications going out to the Hip Hop remixes – only available on 12″ single vinyl versions.
This album consists of straight-up New Jack Swing as it should be, and sweet, sweet Soul in a ’90s style on fashion. And so, dear soul-loving audience, I leave you with two questions: What is reading material and what is literature? JoDeCi deserves to be listened to at least, especially if you’re out there purchasing the new Michael Jackson album (because that’s how most of us flow after all > from the pop charts < ). PEACE.
Published in Dutch in Holland Nieuws 1991