The 90s were a golden era for R&B groups who merged gospel-influenced vocal ability with a hip-hop aesthetic. Of all the trios, quartets, and quintets that broke through during that era, none personified this sound quite like Jodeci and their third album, The Show, the After-Party, the Hotel is an essential body of work that represents the best of 90s R&B.
Hailing from Charlotte, N.C. and consisting of two sets of brothers – Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey and Joel “JoJo” Hailey and Donald “Devante Swing” DeGrate and Dalvin “Mr. Dalvin” DeGrate – all with deep roots in gospel music, formed one of the most hallowed R&B groups of all time. Their Southern fried musicality and sanctified vocal harmonies separated them from their contemporaries in the scene such as Boyz II Men, Blackstreet, and Dru Hill, among others.
Rocking baseball caps, sports jerseys, and military boots (from the marketing mind of a young Sean “Puffy” Combs), they became known as the “bad boys of R&B” and on The Show, the After Party, the Hotel…. they lived up to the name.
Released on July 18, in the sweltering summer of 1995, The Show, the After Party, the Hotel fused New Jack Swing with silky vocal arrangements and hip-hop grooves. The album features contributions from the Swing Mob, a collection of singers, rappers, writers, and producers organized by DeVante Swing. Members such as Stevie J, Timbaland, and Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, who would all go on to achieve significant success in their own right, helped to craft the experimental sound on The Show.
The group’s modus operandi
Clocking in at a little over an hour (thanks to the many skits) and containing 22 tracks, The Show is more than a winking nod. It’s a description of the group’s modus operandi. Devante’s cutting-edge production and songwriting conveyed a vibe of pure sexual energy, akin to one of his idols, the one, and only Prince. Unlike their previous efforts Forever My Lady and Diary of Mad Band which were more subtle, The Show pushed the boundaries of R&B with its provocative and sexually explicit sensibilities.
The first single from the album, “Freek’n You,” is an erotically charged jam that comes straight outta the gate. With opening lyrics such as “Every time I close my eyes/I wake up feeling so horny/I can’t get you outta my mind/Sexin’ you be all I see.” There’s no innuendo here. The foursome from North Carolina brought the heat and rode this wave all the way to No.14 on the Billboard Hot 100
Although the majority of the album is full of lustful grooves and sexualized lyricism, the group also revealed their softer side. “Love U 4 Life” is a sultry tune about a couple who experienced their share of ups and downs but decide to remain committed to each other for the rest of their lives. “Love U 4 Life” became a fixture of Black weddings for years and remains a quintessential Jodeci ballad.
“Get On Up,” the final single, is a funky, up-tempo jam that has been a staple of Black cookouts and Adult Contemporary R&B stations since it was released. Sampling Quincy Jones’ “Velas,” it was a change of pace for a group that hung their hat on crafting some of the best baby-making music.
A league of their own
Although Jodeci could skillfully craft floor-fillers, they were in a league of their own when it came to slow jams. Songs such as the smooth “S-More,” which was co-written by Missy Elliott, the decadence of “Pump It Back,” and the seductive, West-Coast inspired “Can We Flo?” are essential Jodeci deep cuts that exemplify the essence of 90s R&B.
After the album dropped, no one could foresee that it would be their last official release for the next 20 years. K-Ci and Jojo went on to form a highly successful duo, releasing five hit albums while Devante and Mr. Dalvin largely dropped out of the public eye. The Show, the After Party, the Hotel peaked at No.2 on the Billboard 200 chart and was the third album from the group to reach number one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
The Show, the After Party, the Hotel saw the 90s smooth crooners move in a new direction while retaining their devoted fanbase. While die-hard fans might prefer the group’s earlier LPs, The Show is more than just an album, it’s an experience and a time capsule of when R&B groups ruled the musical landscape with a rawness so visceral, so unapologetic, that we still beg for it 25 years later. Jodeci left the game on top and The Show is evidence of their undeniable greatness.