It’s undeniable that the ’90s were the decade of the male R&B group. So many groups came to prominence and left an imprint on our music libraries during that 10-year span. Sadly, few made it through the decade unscathed, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a male group from the era that is still together and recording music today. One of the biggest rises and subsequent falls is that of the four-man band Jodeci. These bad boys of R&B had women and men open — no small feat — with their bedroom bangers and sexy, street swagger. The average dude could relate to them and the average woman wanted to have relations with them. They showed so much promise with 1991’s Forever My Lady and carried it on with their sophomore set Diary of a Mad Band. We couldn’t fathom in 1993 that this would both be their second and unfortunately next-to-last album.
Released almost 20 years ago to the day, Diary of a Mad Band found Jodeci picking up where Forever My Lady the album and “Forever My Lady” the single left off. The group’s singers K-Ci and JoJo‘s harmonies were tighter than ever on the lead single “Cry For You,” which would go on to give the group their fourth No. 1 on Billboard’s U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and peak at No. 15 on the Hot 100. This track found the protagonist of the song feeling worthless, living on the edge and crooning his heart out begging his lady to come back home, even though she had only been gone for an hour. And boy was he begging and begging and begging. But unlike their contemporary Keith Sweat, Jodeci didn’t come across as whiny. The pleas in “Cry For You” came across as heartfelt and humble, despite the quartet looking anything but in the video shot on location on desert dunes with them clad in all-black leather.
The DeVante Swing production was just one of many to be found on Diary of a Mad Band, with DeVante handling most of the songwriting, vocal arranging, instruments and production on the album. All three singles from DOAMB were “Swing Mob” productions, with “Feenin'” and “What About Us” following “Cry For You” on the album and on the charts. “Feenin'” found the fellas singing about chick whose loving was so bad that she was more addictive than any narcotic substance. One of the better love-as-a-drug R&B songs ever written, Jodeci harmonized with purpose and intention on the chorus, “I. Can’t. Leave. You alooooooone. You got me feenin’.” The bump-and-grind worthy groove laid the blueprint for many a strip club anthem to follow.
The interlude between “Feenin'” and “What About Us” took listeners back to familiar territory with songs from Forever My Lady mixed together with some seductive whispering. Although the tempo was increased on “What About Us” it was still tailor-made for the bedroom. JoJo took the lead as he asked the song’s million dollar question win sincerity before letting his intentions for them to go “on and on ’til the break of dawn” known. He wasn’t talking about playing a game of cards, folks.
That was the beauty of Jodeci. They sang about making love, having sex and f**king on the same album, and they did so without being too nasty or ludicrously vulgar. Even on songs that weren’t released as singles, such as the should-have-been-a-single “Alone,” where they dropped a cuss word or two here and there it wasn’t for shock value but to mimic an ass slap or hair pull in the throes of passion.
With the exception of the album’s singles, “Alone,” “My Heart Belongs To You,” “Won’t Waste You” and “Sweaty” with a throwaway rap by Mr. Dalvin, the remainder of Diary of a Mad Band was primarily filler. Of note, however, is that this album has the distinction of being the album that featured the debut performances of Timbaland, Ginuwine, Missy Elliott (then billed as Misdemeanor) and her group Sista. All acts were then signed to DeVante Swing’s Swing Mob label and members of Da Bassment collective. On tracks like “Won’t Waste You” and “Sweaty” you can hear flourishes of the greatness that was to come from Missy on her debut album Supa Dupa Fly four years later.
Diary of a Mad Band was a good follow-up to Forever My Lady, advancing the Jodeci mystique and introducing us to a number of artists who are still around today. Sadly the same can’t be said for Jodeci, with the group still broken up (or on hiatus depending on who you ask). Although Jodeci may not be making any new moves, brotherly duo K-Ci & JoJo released a new album this year entitled My Brother’s Keeper to minor fanfare. Gone are those rich tones, robust harmonies and ready-for-some-action songs, replaced by drug, alcohol and cigarette affected voices and old-man-in-the-club posturing. Thankfully we’ll always have Diary of a Mad Band to remind us of the sexy times we once had with Jodeci.