Much of the thrill of soul balladry is hearing a singer, especially a male singer,
overcome the cultural emphasis on toughness and self-sufficiency and confess the
most vulnerable of desires.
In this hip-hop era of exaggerated toughness, there are greater obstacles to
overcome and thus the potential for even more thrilling revelations.
DeVante Swing, the mastermind behind the male vocal quartet Jodeci, seizes that
potential more than once on the group's new album, Diary of a Mad Band.
The group shares the vocal responsibilities, but the credits on nine of the
album's 13 tracks read, "Music and Lyrics by DeVante Swing;
Vocal arrangement: DeVante Swing; DeVante Swing: All Instruments."
Thus the challenge of juggling romantic vulnerability with street credibility
comes down on DeVante's 23-year-old shoulders.
He fumbles the ball on a few occasions--the dumb, juvenile demands for sex
on "You Got It" and "Sweaty"--but more often than not he comes through with
soul ballads in the classic mode, revealing the tender heart beneath the thickened skin.
The first single, "Cry for You," harkens back to the slow hymns of Jodeci's
church backgrounds; the singers promise, "I would get on my knees for you,"
and the dizzying free fall of the melody underscores the total surrender of
The next single, "Feenin'," is a similar confession, but it's juiced up with
tape-reverse percussion sounds, a Zapp-like vocorder riff and a gruff lead set
against angelic harmonies.
Even "Ride & Slide" and "Alone," rather frank sexual propositions, have the good
grace to plead rather than demand; they even promise detailed attention to female
At its best, Jodeci is the most promising soul harmony group of the hip-hop generation.
01. My Heart Belongs To You
02. Cry for You
04. What About Us?
05. Ride & Slide
07. You Got It (featuring Redman)
08. Won't Waste You
09. In the Meanwhile
10. Gimme All You Got
11. Sweaty (featuring Missy Elliott)
12. Jodecidal Hotline