“Silk? Shai? UNV?… They’re just jokes. There are only two powers: us and Boyz II Men. Anybody that comes after us has to be classified as like one or the other.”
When DeVante Swing made that bold and brash statement during a 1995 interview with Vibe magazine (the one where he’s giving his best Prince impression on the cover with a rose in his mouth), he wasn’t lying.
At the time, Jodeci was pretty much on top of the world. Their first album, Forever My Lady, went triple platinum, while their second, Diary of a Mad Band, also went platinum with very little promotion and was critically acclaimed. The boys were dating R&B singers such as T-Boz of TLC while sleeping with hundreds of women as the group toured around the world. DeVante, the mastermind behind the group, had come into his own not only as a producer, but was mentoring his own staple of artists who were part of his Swing Mob. The group was then managed by Suge Knight under Death Row Management, cementing their bad boy image even further. No longer two sets of brothers from North Carolina who combined gospel runs with New Jack Swing, Jodeci were rock stars and enjoying all the perks of the lifestyle.
It’s no surprise that their third album, The Show, The After Party, The Hotel, was such an overindulgent project.
Released in July of 1995, The Show, The After Party, The Hotel is a concept album where the Mad Band gives us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their adventures on tour. Specifically, all of the groupie love they receive. Weaved throughout the album are interludes that tell a rather disjointed story of their backstage shenanigans. Unlike past albums where the quartet explored getting freaky but stopped short of getting explicit, the boys start to push the envelope. Most of the sweet nothings that balanced past albums are gone in favor of lust over love.
This is very apparent on the first single, “Freek’n You.” Instead of the tender lyrics such as “I’m holding you close / You’re keeping me warm” from “Forever My Lady” or even the “And I need you more and more/ Because you are my joy” of the love and other drugs anthem “Feenin’,” the boys were frankly stating, “Every freak’n night and every freak’n day /I wanna freak you baby in every freak’n way.” Sex, or rather freek’n, was the only thing on the menu. Of course, no one minded. Most of their fans were DTF and not worried about a little thing like love getting in the way. The song became one of the fastest selling singles of 1995, peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 200.
The DeGrate brothers split production duties on the album, with DeVante taking the lion’s share of the project. It’s pretty obvious the grand concept was DeVante’s vision and everyone else was just playing their part. The four tracks produced by Mr. Dalvin, with an assist from Swing Mob members Timbaland and Stevie J (yeah, that Stevie J,) showed more experimentation and versatility than DeVante’s portion. However, while they do fit the sexual themes of the album, they feel less polished and essential to the overall project.
The album opener “Bring On Da Funk” is an uptempo G-Funk groove where the boys use “that funk” as a metaphor for sex, letting women once again know what time it is. “S-More” written by Missy Elliott, is a standout track that features some of the drums and musical arrangements we’d come to know and love in her solo work. The feel-good third single “Get On Up,” which masterfully flips Quincy Jones‘ “Velas” into an uptempo jam, sounds out of place on the album of baby-making music, but is a more than welcome change of pace. Finally, “Fun 2 Nite” is easily forgettable album filler. Though the production is decent enough, the lyrics are pretty uninspired except for borrowing the closing chant from Kool & the Gang’s “Ladies Night.”
While the first half of the album talks about sex, DeVante’s half starts by talking about actually engaging in the act. The first few songs are pretty much DeVante Swing’s sex playlist. “Can We Flow” is clearly a bedroom-ready jam. “Let’s Do It All,” while not the most inspired piece of music, isn’t bad either. Then there is the over the top and totally unnecessary interlude “P.I.B. 4 Play,” which is pretty much 1:30 of DeVante getting head. Thankfully, the actual song, “Push It Back,” utilizes JoJo’s voice against the lush harmonies of then-Swing Mob members Playa to expert precision. It’s so lush and sexy you almost forget that the song is about backing that thang up.
Toward the end of the album, things start to change. The boys have sowed their royal oats out on the road and starting to think about love. This section is where the second single, “Love U 4 Life, ” falls. A spiritual if not direct successor to the sound the group cultivated on “Forever My Lady,” the song is a bit more mature. The production features the classic hallmarks of the Jodeci sound, including the sound bed of chimes, bass guitar licks and exceptional harmonies. The lyrics show that the couple has gone through some ups and downs. The video featured T-Boz, who referenced her turbulent relationship with Mr. Dalvin in the TLC Movie. She plays the love interest in the video, dramatizing their relationship before walking down the aisle.
The final track, “Good Luv,” is a stripped-down acoustic number. It’s a grown man love anthem that doesn’t insist it’s a grown man love anthem. In addition to stripping away much of the instrumentation to simple guitar licks and a few finger snaps, all of the bad boy posturing and lascivious lyrics are left behind as well, leaving us with only lush harmonies, thanks to K-Ci and JoJo’s voices powerful gospel voices.
As stated, The Show, the After Party, the Hotel is a very over the top and overindulgent album. There’s an interlude for every song, a rather unengaging storyline that probably seemed better in theory than execution and, in retrospect, some really unsexy and uninspired lyrics. However, the group’s charisma and talent bring it altogether in spite of itself. K-Ci and JoJo’s voices were still on point before drugs and alcohol took hold of their lives, and DeVante’s talent as a crazy genius producer was still more genius than crazy. Though some songs are definitely stuck in the ’90s, there are plenty of timeless bedroom jams to be found on Jodeci’s third, and for many fans who are trying to forget about their 2015 reunion project, final album.