Jodeci’s Mr. Dalvin Speaks On ‘The Past, The Present, The Future’ + The Group’s Triumphant Return

Back in 1995, a Democrat was in the Oval Office, O.J. Simpson was on the brink of some serious jail time, and Jodeci released their third album, The Show, The Afterparty, The Hotel. Fast forward 20 years later: Once again there’s a Democrat in office, O.J’s locked up, and Jodeci has released their fourth record, The Past, The Present, The Future. The group’s new full-length represents more than merely a return to music—it’s also a symbolic victory. The disc stands as a testament to their resiliency, in spite of the various setbacks that threatened to derail them for good. Slick new singles like “Nobody Wins,” “Every Moment,” and “Checkin for You” have removed any doubt that the anointed “Bad Boys of R&B” are really back.

We spoke to group member Mr. Dalvin about reuniting with long-time producer Timbaland, keeping the Jodeci mystique alive in the age of social media, and getting the comeback rolling after such a long hiatus.

What the hell took so long! Why was the new album held up for like, twenty years?

Well, we had to get the timing right! Timing is everything. Timing has to be perfect, and we took time to not only get the music right, but also get the business right and get the group right. So we just did what we did best.

What were the feelings like the first couple times you guys got to write and record again? 

It was kinda like Michael Jordan going back to the Wizards, man. He’s still got it and he just shakes the rust off. Everything just comes naturally; it was kind of like riding a bike, being in the studio with everybody and getting their creative juices in.

Were you guys actually in the studio together, or were you new school with it and just sending sessions back and forth?

Nah, we joke that we always record together. Most days we go in kind of like with a blindfold on, and whatever happens at the moment we record in the moment. We get there and we just start vibing, and most times DeVante comes up with a track or I come up with a track and we just start vibing and the ideas just start falling. It’s not like premeditated like when we go in. We always have concepts in the back of our minds, like sometimes we go in. I’ll be sitting on a plane and I’ll call up and be like ‘I have this idea.’ And we’ll just put it down. But it’s always organic. We never just sit down and say, ’Oh I wrote this song 10 years ago, I gotta put it to a beat,’ you know? We don’t do that.

A lot of people liked “Every Moment” because you guys just came out of nowhere and it sounded very current. Was “Every Moment” actually created recently, or was it something you pulled out of the vault?

DeVante actually wrote that song a while back but we never recorded it. And it was supposed to go on one of the other albums, but we were singing the melody and we’d always sing the harmony, it was like one of those songs that we’d always acapella all the time but never recorded. So for this album we kind of stuck with the same format. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of great groups that come back and try to follow a trend. But Jodeci is always setting a trend, we’re not following a trend. So we didn’t try to come out with the new Chris Brown song. Even though I love Chris Brown, he’s one of my favorite artists, we didn’t try to do what all the young people are listening to. We said let’s do what we do. And this is what we do. We’re not gonna try to reconfigure Jodeci into what today’s cycle of music is. We just do what we do, outside the box.

Is it pure coincidence that this new album is being released right around the 20 year mark of the last album? Or was it a sense of urgency, to please the fans?

I don’t think we had sense of urgency, I just think it was time. I hate getting in the car and just turning the radio off because you hear the same three or four songs all day every day, and you’re forced to enjoy stuff you really wouldn’t enjoy. You find yourself singing the lyrics to songs you never would sing—but it’s programmed in your mind. I hate getting in the car and not even supporting music that I would like on a normal basis, but it’s forced on you so much that you’re just like, ‘Okay I’ll accept it.’ So I felt like there was a void. Even though great music has come out, it’s like ‘Will I listen to this 10 years from now?’ Probably not, but it’s out so I’ll just enjoy it for the moment.’ But you could go back and listen to Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, those are timeless songs. We pride ourselves on trying to make timeless songs and make songs that you could listen to 10 years from now, or 20 years from now. So it’s not, ’Okay Jodeci has something new because fans are getting restless.’ We heard the crowds, but we wanted to take the time and make sure we did it right.

Timbaland co-produced two songs on your new album. What was it like being able to reunite with him musically?

He came out of DeVante’s hole. Da Bassment and he taught him a lot and I like to see how he’s grown in music and what he’s achieved. So it’s all just going back and seeing old friends again, like having a reunion. It was cool, every day just felt natural and nothing was forced. No egos involved, it was just natural.

The perception out there is that you guys had beef or there were problems. Who reached out to who first?

The thing about media, which can be a curse and blessing, is that people seem to divide and conquer when they don’t know what the real situation is. So sometimes you get caught up and you find yourself like, ‘Why am I even mad at him? What is the problem?’ There is no problem. But sometimes people get in the middle and drive you further apart until you realize, ‘Why aren’t we speaking, why haven’t we been working together in the past ten, fifteen years?’ There’s really not a reason. Sometimes the media creates this thing where they’re like, ’They gotta have problems because they’re not speaking.’ Because when people get near you sometimes you’re not strong enough to understand, ‘I’m not creating this problem, someone else created this for me.’ And you finally reach out to the person like, ‘Why do we have a problem?’ And no one can figure it out, so you just end up laughing about it.

The “Forever My Lady” video was filmed on the beach, and the “Every Moment” video was filmed in the mountains of Colorado. Would you say Jodeci performs best in the elements?

I think what’s important to Jodeci from day one are the videos. Most people got away from them because there really are no more video channels anymore, but video brings a song to life. And it brings it just as well as the music does. Visual is ninety percent of people’s perception of the song. In the freezing cold and the extreme weather of the desert, it adds the elements to the song. It just brings a certain vibe to what the song is all about. So that was always important to us. Even with the things we wore, how we looked—we always had to make a statement with every visual we had.

The “Every Moment” video premiered on Facebook. What are your thoughts about the new world of social media? Are you able to connect with old fans and make new fans?

I think it’s great, it’s a whole new platform. Change is always a little different sometimes and you have to adjust. When Jodeci came out there was no social media. There was no Facebook, Twitter, etc. None of them. So it’s a way to let them connect with you. Sometimes it gets too personal because they feel like you owe them comments and they don’t understand…I don’t have time to sit on Facebook all day! And they just want to get closer and closer and closer. I think in one way it helps and hurts, because it takes the mystery out of being an artist. At the end of the day you do have to be an artist—you can’t sit on Facebook all day responding to every question and comment, because your life goes on. I’m in the studio all day, working with Jodeci and other artists, and I have my own label coming out. But it helps, it adds elements. For new fans, that’s all they live by.

You spent the majority of your career on Uptown MCA. How has it been working with Epic, your new label? 

It’s been good, it’s good to always have a company that believes in your project. It’s hard when they say, ’Ugh these guys are headaches and blah, blah, blah.’ It’s easier when they believe in you, it makes it a lot easier. I think Epic is behind us one hundred percent. It makes it easier when you have good material for them to work with and when it’s an easy working atmosphere. If it’s hostile, it’s always gonna be 10 times harder, especially when you’re putting out new material. Even with Jodeci, our name is big but it has to be well manicured and properly rolled out.

The Past, The Present, The Future is out now. Will we be seeing more albums from Jodeci now that the break is officially over, or is this one shot deal?

Oh no, no, no. There’s a lot coming. We have a lot of ideas. We talk about movies, we’re talking about a lot of things. You know, it was about timing. You know, K-Ci and JoJo went out and did their thing, DeVante continued producing, I continued producing and writing, I did some stuff with Madonna. And now everybody’s at the round table, like Knights of the Round Table. No egos! We’re okay, we’re gonna strategically and methodically plan this thing out. This is just the start of many. And the thing is, we have the same hunger, and sometimes you have to get back to the drawing board. Don’t stray away from what you know and what you do, but get back to the drawing board. And that’s what we’ve been doing.

Is there a tour coming?

We’re talking around April, but before that we’ll probably do some TV appearances. Like the old days, man! Get back in the trenches!

Any final words you want to leave the fans with?

I just really want to say from the bottom of my heart sincerely, thanks for all the love and support. Thanks for sticking with Jodeci through the negative and all the firestorms we endure, thanks for doing it with us. You’re definitely gonna be satisfied and see you in your city soon. We’re coming!

[Photo: Getty Images]