Jodeci: Forever My Lady (1991) | Classic Albums Revisited

Forever My Lady was released on Memorial Day weekend in 1991 and was critically acclaimed as a success by music industry insiders and culture writers of the time period.

The genre of R&B was being dominated by the infusion of Teddy Riley’s New Jack Swing style at the time and it was at a real crossroads from a generation earlier were singers dominated the genre as opposed to the production of the music.

Jodeci consisted of the perfect amalgamation between the production and songwriting talents of the DeGrate brothers, Donald “Devante Swing” DeGrate and Dalvin “Mr. Dalvin” DeGrate and the stellar vocals of the Hailey Brothers, Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey and Joel “Jo-Jo” Hailey.

Their style was a reminder of soulful ballads of a bygone era and the infusion of the New Jack Swing style of the late ’80s and early ’90s. K-Ci’s vocal prowess was reminiscent of early 1970s soul singers such as Bobby Womack and his brother Jo-jo’s upper register delivered indelible notes that gave their records a distinguishable feel from their contemporaries.

Their vocal talents alongside Devante Swing’s production and songwriting skill set were something to behold given how young they were at the time. Their ages ranged from 19-21, but their music sounded like well-groomed R&B stalwarts. Aesthetically, their style was groundbreaking due to the “bad boy” machismo and bravado they personified on record and stage. A young Sean “P-Diddy” Combs crafted the ensemble’s image while Andre Harrell, Dwight “Heavy-D” Myers and Al B. Sure provided musical guidance for this particular album.

The DeGrate and Hailey brothers came from families steeped in the gospel music tradition for years. Both sets of brothers traveled extensively on the gospel music circuit and were well accomplished performers and musicians before they eventually received their big break in the fall of 1989. Forever My Lady was released under the now defunct MCA Records. This album and along with Jodeci as a group ushered in a new blueprint for how R&B groups would be marketed and packaged to public at large. This blueprint is still in existence for R&B artists to this very day.

The first single released from Forever My Lady was “Gotta Love” and it was well received by R&B aficionados, but not to the mainstream music audience. It wasn’t until the second single, which was the title-track, “Forever My Lady”, where they started to garner the type of reception regarded for R&B stars of the time period. This single climbed the R&B charts to peak at #1 and the album went on to peak at #18 on the Billboard 200 album charts and sell three million copies.

I was 10 years old when this album dropped and I remember where I was when I first heard “Forever My Lady.” As soon I heard the wind chimes on the intro of the song, I was hooked, plus when I heard K-Ci’s soulful vocals I instantly became a fan. It gave me the desire to get a girlfriend and just sing her this song over and over again. This song became one of the very first cassette tapes I bought with my allowance money from doing various odd chores around my parents’ house. On the B-side of the cassette tape was their third single released from the album entitled “Stay” and it was yet another infectious slow jam that also peaked at #1 on the R&B Billboard charts.

But my two favorite records from this album remain “Come and Talk to Me” and “U&I.” The lyrics and overall musicianship on these two records still strike an accord in my soul unlike no other Jodeci songs. The lyrics from “Come and Talk to Me” are the words you want to say to young lady you care for and it’s probably one of the many reasons why it was another #1 record for the collective.

The intro of the girl speaking in Spanish on the “U&I” record sets the mood for when you’re alone with your significant other. “I’m Still Waiting” was yet another splendidly done slow jam. All of these records are timeless. I find myself, close to 20 years later, blasting these same songs while I’m riding around town in traffic or in the comfort of my house. Fans of Jodeci ranged from the hardest thug on the corner to your grandmother and they were one of the last true original R&B groups.

Say what you want, but this album is undoubtedly a classic.

–Chris Williams

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