As half of the sexy, new-jack soul quartet Jodeci, the Hailey brothers K-Ci and JoJo - became fixtures on the pop and R&B; charts in 1991.
“Come and Talk to Me,” the blockbuster single off the group’s debut album, “Forever My Lady,” topped the R&B; charts for 30 weeks that year. It also hung around the Top 10 on the pop charts for more than six months.
Six years and two records later, Jodeci has separated (though not officially divorced), and K-Ci and JoJo are out on their own, touring in support of their debut record on MCA, “Love Always.”
A collection of soulful and luminous love ballads, the record signifies an overt departure from the raw, libidinous bad-boy shtick of Jodeci. The record, one critic wrote, is “dominated by surprisingly mature lyrics and odes to romance and monogamy. Maybe they’ve started to grow up.”
Maturity hasn’t hurt their record sales. “Love Always” recently went double platinum (2 million copies shipped) and is No. 9 on this week’s Billboard chart. “All My Life,” the latest single from the album, tops the magazine’s singles chart this week.
JoJo Hailey spoke earlier this month about his and his brother’s change in taste and directions and about finding themselves on the charts next to top sellers like Celine Dion.
Q. On “Love Always,” you and your brother present an attitude that is strikingly different from your personae with Jodeci. Talk about that.
A. We came in with a whole new attitude. Because of Jodeci, we had a whole lot of history and there were a lot of perceptions and attitudes about us - some good, some bad. For this record we came in with much more of an adult attitude. We’ve matured a whole lot since Jodeci, and we wanted to show that. And we did.
For one thing, we came in under budget. And everything just basically turned out just right. K-Ci, (manager) Damon Jones and I sat down, developed some good song concepts and basically did the entire album in three to four months. On several songs we wrote the lyrics the day we heard the musical tracks.
The record company, to its credit, trusted us. We had a guy overseeing it, but for the most part the record is a result of what we wanted to do. Some people, I’m sure, doubted we could do what we said we’d do - which was to make a good record with good songs that everyone could listen to. That was our primary objective: Make a record you could play for your mother.
Q. Did you ever imagine it would go double platinum?
A. Well, I guess whoever you are, when you’re making an album you talk and dream about going double or triple platinum, but then usually it doesn’t happen - right?
And for us, when it did come it was great, though it came pretty late in the project. I think it took people some time to warm up to who K-Ci and JoJo are. They had to look a little deeper, especially those used to seeing us one way - as we were in Jodeci.
But once that all sunk in, the record just took off. I never expected we’d go Top 40, but we got a video with a great concept, one that touched people of every race.
Yeah, everyone’s a little amazed, especially MCA. The urban people felt like we couldn’t do this record urban, but it has become the biggest urban single ever on MCA. I just sit at home and think, “What’s happening? Our numbers are up there with Celine Dion and Madonna.” It’s a trip.
Q. Your sound on record is very lush and lustrous. How does it translate live?
A. Because of our gospel background, we were certain about doing everything 100 percent live. Absolutely everything you hear is live, from that stage.
A lot of vocal groups don’t do that. A lot of them sample stuff in the background and use a lot of tricks and gimmicks and explosions. We use none of that stuff - just real, live music.
When we go out there it’s us and the band: eight musicians and three background singers. We perform for about two hours and we do everything we’ve ever done, even some Jodeci stuff.