Montell Jordan Seems To Know How To Do It
Quick: Where were you the first time you heard Montell Jordan’s voice on the radio?
The answer should come easily, even though you’ve heard “This is How We Do It” - Jordan’s debut release and the biggest hit single so far this year - a couple gazillion times since.
Jordan’s vocal delivery, a unique fusion of hip-hop’s savvy rhythmic patterns and soul’s melodic melismas, is unlike any other sound sliding across the airwaves today.
Don’t feel bad if it left you a bit confounded.
“People are still trying to figure out where to place me and what to call me,” Jordan said recently during a phone interview from his home in Inglewood, Calif. “I’m trying to keep progressing to stay ahead of the game, and keep people trying to figure out what the hell’s going on.”
Somebody’s figured out something: The million-selling, ultr-acatchy “This is How We Do It” recently wrapped up seven-week runs at the tops of Billboard’s pop and R&B; charts. The album of the same name is perched in R&B;’s top five and is scampering toward the top 10 on the pop albums chart.
The mid-twenty-something Jordan, who graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in communications, has certainly learned how to do it. After spending several years marketing himself to music industry executives, he landed his demo tape on the desk of Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons. Simmons invited Jordan in October 1993 to his New York office, where several acts from Def Jam’s talent pool - including comedian Chris Rock and rapper L.L. Cool J - gave Jordan a listen. And a thumbs up.
But the biggest break came when Simmons solicited the opinion of Uptown Records president Andre Harrell, the man who created careers for Jodeci and Mary J. Blige. It happened one night in a truck in a dark New York parking lot.
“They just put the tape in, the instrumental, and told me to sing,” Jordan said. “After I sang, Russell looked over at Andre, because Andre had a little more experience in R&B.; Andre kinda sat there for a second, looked up, and said, ‘I would sign him.’
By January 1994, Jordan was cutting the first tracks for his debut album, which would ultimately include 13 songs he produced or coproduced.
As he sprints across the Southeast this month on his first-ever tour, he’ll perform with an instrumental backing track and a crew of dancers. It’s all part of warm-ups for a 38-city summer stint with Boyz II Men and TLC. They’ll hit The Gorge in August.