During a time where R&B music has morphed into so many subcategories where the lines are blurred and R&B with a hip hop edge seems to be more prevalent, at least on the radio, there is still room for strong harmonies, impactful words, themes of passion, love, and ultimately “Hope” that true Rhythm & Blues will live on. That aforementioned “Hope” for R&B can be found in the music of an R&B crew that may look the part of a hip hop collective yet sound the part of the soul survivors that will last a lifetime and beyond. Individually Brandon Casey, Brian Casey, Kyle Norman, and Richard Wingo are extremely talented, driven, and could hold their own on any stage. Collectively they form a Rhythm and Blues crew that has garnered a multitude of top 10 singles, sold over 8 million albums, and is slated to drop their 8th studio album, which is already being deemed as a potential classic before it hits the airwaves, streets, and the internet. Although they never really left, Jagged Edge is back and they have linked up once again with acclaimed producer, Jermaine Dupri, not just musically, but also on the business end as they have partnered with Dupri to link their Hard Case Records to his SoSo Def brand. With hits like “He Can’t Love You,’ ” Gotta Be,” “Let’s Get Married,” and several others, JE has delivered classic after classic. Their JE Heartbreak album was deemed an absolute classic by critics, fans, radio, and sales standards and it continues to get major play in my car, home, and anywhere I listen to music. Knowing there is no way to recreate the magic of their most successful album , JE Heartbreak, the quartet is confident they have grown as artists, men, and business partners and now they are ready to create some new magic in the form of their new label, Hard Case, and their new album JE Heartbreak Too, which is slated for release this fall through their aforementioned partnership as well as BMG Primary Wave Artist Services. With their new single “Hope” already heating up radio, JAGGED EDGE sat down with us at their suite in West Hollywood, CA to talk about the new album, R&B as a whole, their new partnership, and their place in music history. We talked everything from their sports roots to the roots they have cemented in music but here are the top 5 moments from the interview.
RFFocus : Let’s talk about the album gentlemen. First and foremost, let me say thank you for the original JE Heartbreak album because it did work wonders for me and it was a complete album. In this new singles driven market where most people just download, stream, or buy hot single does that worry you about trying to create another classic album with JE Heartbreak Too or do you feel more empowered to create a full album?
Brian Casey: People got tired of buying albums because they were not getting them and that aided in this current singles market.
Kyle Norman: What are you looking for when you buy music?
RFFocus : I’m personally looking for a full album but I grew up in that era.
Kyle Norman: I think we are bringing “Hope” back to R&B and full albums. JAGGED EDGE hasn’t changed. Wingo: We are prepared to deliver an album full of singles so no matter what song we release or people hear, it has single potential. We don’t feel any pressure at all because we are making great music.
(CLICK NEXT FOR MORE WITH JAGGED EDGE)
RFFocus : You all are back in the studio with Jermaine and things are different now because you have more a partnership with him vs. you just being one of his groups. How has the chemistry been this time around and how have things changed? I know he always gave you guys creative control but what would you say is different?
Brandon Casey: I think it’s probably even more intense than the first time. Back in the day Jermaine used to sort of strong face us. He would let us know in subtle ways that he was feeling something but now he goes crazy in the studio in a good way. He is loving it and we are too. It’s like he is part of the JE fan club or something now. It’s a big difference. When you get that kind of feedback it pushes you even harder to be like, wait until he sees what I do with this if he is loving that.
Richard Wingo: Ultimately it was like Jermaine was trying to grow us up or help to mature us back in the day. He couldn’t give us everything in the beginning so we understood it. Now, he in their going crazy!
RFFocus : Speaking of JD, he once said it was his arrogance that led to him leaving Sony and losing you all and his other groups. He also said he regrets that to this day. Do any of you have a moment in your career where arrogance took over that led to something you still regret?
Brian Casey: I want to be as real as I can be in this moment. Me and my brother spoke about this and we still regret this until this day. Part of Jermaine’s unrest at Sony was due to our unrest. It was part of us saying how can we write songs for other people and it does this or how can you produce a song for another artist or label and it goes crazy. It was like when it was our label, it would be big but still have a cap on it. It was our gripes and groans that opened his eyes up to it but it may have been something he needed to see as well. I regret that we even put that energy out there. We felt that we were making some of the best music out there and we had success but it still seemed like there was a cap on it.
Brandon Casey: If you take the same chemistry meaning the same producers and songwriters and give that song to another artist the song would just take off. For instance and this is only hypothetical. This isn’t a real instance but if we took a song we wrote for our album but gave that song to Usher you could see how it would take off and just wouldn’t stop but with us at Columbia back then we would have to give it everything we got and more just to see a song hit the maximum urban ceiling. So we recognized that early on and we tried to get Jermaine involved so I do kind of regret that. As I have gotten older I now realize that we had one of the best situation out there for JAGGED EDGE but at the time we didn’t see it that way. (CLICK NEXT FOR MORE WITH JAGGED EDGE)
RFFocus : As the industry changed so did the lifestyles of many artists. I know JE has continued to tour and make music but the days are different from being attached to a big label and based on something I heard you guys talk about before, you feel that you did well with your money but you also felt that some of the various revenue streams were not as apparent in your lives. With this new project and label how are trying to attack the market?
Brian Casey: We have always tried and to bring in different forms of revenue. An analogy we like to use all the time is we never had a Dame Dash to our Jay Z. We never had that. Right now, with this new situation we feel like we finally have that. Without that cheerleader to go and take those meetings and to get in people’s faces and say these the dopest cats ever, you are going to miss a lot of opportunities. (CLICK NEXT FOR MORE JAGGED EDGE)
RFFocus : I’m sure you may get this all the time but I love to ask this question of R&B cats that have been doing it for a while. Obviously music has to progress and things have to move forward but has R&B lost some of its integrity in its progression?
Brandon Casey: I say this all the time. It’s like R&B in this generation has lost the starting point of what R&B was initially intended to be, which is rhythm and blues and you can’t have blues with no emotion. It’s rhythm and blues and you are leaving the most important part out of the song, which is emotion. I feel like even though I support, I listen, I can dig a whole lot of the new music that is coming out but I feel like you still have to put your emotions on music. I think with all the technology and the things you can do with a computer it makes the sound more crisp but you lose some of the emotion. (CLICK NEXT FOR MORE WITH JAGGED EDGE) RFFocus : If you were building a Mt. Rushmore of R&B artists and you can include groups as one collective whole, which four artists or groups would be on your Mt. Rushmore?
Brandon Casey: In terms of R&B music you have to start with Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder in my opinion. I would love to say Michael Jackson but he was so much bigger than R&B.
Kyle Norman: I think you could put Michael in there too dawg. That’s three to me right there.
Richard Wingo: I like Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie on my Rushmore.
Brandon Casey: I’m going to say Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie and maybe us. Honestly I think you have to separate it between artists and songwriters then of course Babyface would be on there for songwriters.
Brian Casey: I have a different four. I agree with Marvin Gaye. I agree with Stevie Wonder but I would have to put Donny Hathaway on there. That dudes voice was ridiculous. My number four would be R Kelly. What dude has done for the last 20 something years you can’t deny. The numbers don’t lie. You don’t have to be the biggest R Kelly fan but he has been doing it for 20 something years and that is fucking amazing.
Richard Wingo: I don’t know if R Kelly would make my list but I get it. Kyle Norman: I’m going to have to add Luther! You cannot leave Luther out. I think Luther gave you that plateau for a voice. You can’t never forget Luther. I don’t care what nobody say.
Brian Casey: I think if you leave R Kelly off then you are saying nothing is has been relevant for the last 40 years including us. Brandon Casey: When LeBron gave his Mt. Rushmore he included himself in that Mt. Rushmore so I just can’t leave us out.
STAY TUNED FOR PART II OF THIS INTERVIEW WHEN WINGO TALKS ABOUT WHY JAGGED EDGE GETS SO MUCH LOVE OVERSEAS AND THE REST OF THE CREW TALKS ABOUT THE POWER OF RADIO AND THE CONSUMER.