K-Ci & JoJo (Contemporary Musicians)
Considering that R&B duo K-Ci & JoJo has sold millions of records, it is hard to believe that there was a time when Joel "JoJo" Hailey wasn't sure if he could write a good song. It wasn't until seven years into his career that he was convinced of his talent. "I always thought I had (a talent), and after I wrote 'All My Life' and it was that big, then I realized it," Hailey told Contemporary Musicians about the song from the duo's multiplatinum 1997 debut album Love Always. "You just never know no matter what you do. You never know if it's going to be a hit or not. You can never predict that."
Brothers K-Ci & JoJoedric and Joel Hailey, respectivelyegan their careers in music during childhood as members of their father's gospel group, Little Cedric and The Hailey Singers, in North Carolina. In the late 1980s, they met another pair of brothers, Donald "Devante Swing" DeGrate and Dalvin DeGrate, who, like the Haileys, performed with their dad in the DeGrate Delegation. In 1990, the quartet formed Jodeci, a group that blended the vocal histrionics of gospel with R&B sounds. The quartet shopped its demo tape to several record label executives in New York City. One of the first stops was Andre Harrell's Uptown Entertainment, for whom Jodeci performed a cappella. Harrell offered them a deal that subsequently led to three platinum albums, Forever My Lady, Diary of a Mad Band and The Show, The After Party, The Hotel. In 1996, when the promotion of the latter album slowed, K-Ci & JoJo decided to temporarily split from Jodeci to record on their own. As with Jodeci, K-Ci & JoJo's success came swiftly. The Haileys collaborated with 2Pac (Tupac Shakur) on the song "How Do U Want It"/"California Love," which was later nominated for a Grammy Award. K-Ci & JoJo, along with Babyface and two of his brothers from the R&B act After 7, recorded "I Care 'Bout You" for the Soul Food soundtrack in 1997.
K-Ci & JoJo released their debut, Love Always, in 1997. The ballad-heavy record was a stark contrast to the sex-fueled work of Jodeci. K-Ci told Billboard 's Shawnee Smith in June of 1997 that he attributed the stylistic change to maturity. "With Jodeci, we might sing 'Freek'n You,' and with K-Ci & JoJo, we don't use the word 'sex' one time on the (whole album). Jodeci also did love songs like 'Forever My Lady,' 'Love U 4 Life,' and 'Do You Believe In Love.' So we haven't changed, we just calmed it down a little bit."
In terms of singles, Love Always proved fruitful. Planned Parenthood backed the single "Don't Rush (Take Love Slowly)," while "All My Life" gave the Hailey brothers their first number one hit. "All My Life" almost didn't make it on K-Ci & JoJo's album. JoJo told MTV that he penned the song about his daughter but offered it to an unnamed artist. "The song was originally supposed to be used for... another artist, a female artist on A&M Records. But we listened to it after we got out of the studio and it was like, 'I'm keeping this, this is too hot.'" Fans felt the same way, helping boost sales of the album past the double-platinum mark, or more than two million copies.
After various award nominations, K-Ci & JoJo returned to the studio to begin work on It's Real, the 1999 follow-up to Love Always. Musicians were clamoring to work with K-Ci & JoJo, but the duo decided to keep production of the album a family affair. They paired with close confidants, including Babyface, instead of bigname knob-turners. One exception was R&B singer R. Kelly, who wrote, arranged, and produced the song "Life," which also appeared on the soundtrack for the Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence movie of the same name. JoJo told Aliya S. King of Billboard that It's Real as a whole mirrors the musical career plans for which he and his brother had wished. "The type of music we're doing now is what we've always felt," he said. "I think we're bringing every dimension to this album, from pop to hardcore R&B and ballads. Our music is a little different than Jodeci's, but it's still us. We wanted to make sure lots of different flavors came through. So we used a variety of producers and co-writers."
Fans responded favorably to the mix, helping to push sales of It's Real past the platinum mark six weeks after its release. Adding to their marketability, K-Ci & JoJo embarked on an acting career between the release of It's Real and the beginning of production for the duo's third album, the ballad-heavy X. The brothers made their television debut alongside fellow R&B stars Chante Moore, Rahsaan Patterson, and Jesse Powell in the CBS miniseries Shake Rattle and Roll.
In September of 2000, the duo lent the single "Crazy" to the soundtrack for the film Save the Last Dance, starring relative newcomers Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas. Initially, JoJo told Contemporary Musicians, that MCA was skeptical about offering the song to the film: "Everybody ... thought we were crazy. Nobody thought that movie was going to have that type of appeal.... The director [Thomas Carter] said ["Crazy"] would fit perfect in this particular part of the movie. He just felt the song [and put it] right where he wanted it." The film topped the box office two weeks in a row after its release on January 19, 2001.
K-Ci & JoJo entered the studio to begin work on their third album, X, named in celebration of the duo's ten years in music. Babyface, as well as noted hit makers Timbaland and Teddy Riley, who is synonymous with the "new jack" sound of the 1990s, penned songs for the record. 2Pac makes a posthumous appearance on X by way of a vocal sample on "Thug N U Thug N Me." It is noteworthy in that it is considered a throwback to Shakur's 1996 single "How Do U Want It," the first project on which K-Ci & JoJo appeared outside of Jodeci. "X has a very special meaning," K-Ci said in an interview on MTV. "That [refers] to the Roman numeral X, the number 10, and we're just celebrating. We're just so happy and blessed that we've been around for 10 years." The album debuted at number 21 after its release on December 5, 2000, making it K-Ci & JoJo's third straight album to enter the charts in the top 25.
A legal suit against K-Ci & JoJo tainted the celebration surrounding the release of X. The duo was slapped with negative publicity as well as a civil suit after K-Ci allegedly exposed himself while performing in front of a mostly female audience as part of the KIIS-FM Jingle Ball 2000 in December at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. He was charged with 23 counts of indecent exposure and one count of lewd conduct for the incident. In May of 2001, he pled no contest to four charges. In July he was sentenced to two years probation and $910 in fines. Several families at the event also filed a civil suit based on charges of nuisance, infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.
Now that K-Ci & JoJo have cemented their place in music, the duo spent 2001 in the studio with the DeGrates working on a new Jodeci record. The follow-up to 1995's The Show, The After Party, The Hotel was expected to hit stores in late 2001. JoJo explained to Contemporary Musicians that bringing Jodeci back into the fold was simply a matter of timing. "It was that point in our career: 'Are we going to do it?' We're not getting any younger, you know. We might as well do it while K-Ci & JoJo's name still means something and people still remember Jodeci."
Love Always (includes "All My Life"), MCA, 1997.
(Contributor) Soul Food (soundtrack), LaFace, 1997.
It's Real (includes "Tell Me It's Real"), MCA, 1999.
(Contributor) Life (soundtrack), Interscope, 1999.
X (includes "Crazy"), MCA, 2000.
(Contributor) Save the Last Dance (soundtrack), Hollywood, 2001.
Forever My Lady, Uptown/MCA, 1991.
Diary of a Mad Band, Uptown/MCA, 1993.
The Show, The After Party, The Hotel, Uptown/MCA, 1995.
Billboard, June 7, 1997; June 5, 1999; December 2, 2000; March 23, 2001.
CDNow.com News, (July 25, 2001).
MTV News Online, http://www.mtv.com (July 25, 2001).
Additional information was provided by MCA Records publicity materials and an interview with Joel "JoJo" Hailey on April 12, 2001.