Published on February 3rd, 2019 | by Nicole Vear
The Lost Books of Jodeci
Jodeci and The Exploration of Their Gospel Music Origins.
Little Cedric and the Hailey Singers & Don DeGrate Delegation.
Writing about Jodeci is hard. Beyond the history of their brash sexuality and bold style in approach to singing, little else has been written about them with few exceptions such as Lauren Du Graf’s piece for the New Oxford “The Gospel of Jodeci”. There have been numerous interviews and articles on Jodeci that celebrate their cultural impact in R&B and their albums such as Diary of a Mad Band, but few delve into the gospel musicianship that molded the iconic quartet.
The root of their musical fruit has yet to be fully explored. It has been touched on for years through brief references by journalists and by members of the band. The telling of Jodeci’s story, beginning at the conception of their gospel upbringing just might be cathartic, revelating and career-shifting for them. The two sets of brothers Joel and Cedric Hailey and Dalvin and Donald Degrate may benefit from an audience having a wider understanding of what got them to bring vocal and creative power to the realm of R&B.
Jodeci are rhythm and blues legends whose aesthetic was too rugged for mainstream to fully accept and reward. Mainstream music culture in America however, did borrow just enough vocal styling and gesturing known of the group, making it clear that pop culture gatekeepers were watching. In 1995 the world of Disney via Mickey Mouse club, had a young Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez and Dale Godboldo sing “Cry For You” – Jodeci’s impact had reached unexpected places.
When we listen to Jodeci, we are hearing the other version of K-Ci and JoJo – Little Cedric and the Hailey Singers gospel albums as the first albums they ever appeared and featured on. We are also witness to the outgrowth of Dalvin and Devante from their father’s group Don DeGrate Delegation. In K-Ci’s voice we hear the gospel-Pentecostal sound, its syncopation, rhythms, tone and emotions. Gospel artists who crossover to pop culture sounds and messaging ain’t nothing new. Jodeci are the progeny of Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack , Aretha Franklin and in that line as well are K-Ci and Jojo’s cousins Fantasia Barrino and Dave Hollister. The family’s contribution to R&B adds to the well of singers that are at the basin of talent that settle debates on who are the kings and queens of R&B – most times than not, they are singers with gospel roots.
The benefits of sharing the pragmatic innocence of their gospel upbringing are greater than the juxtaposition of the “cool” in their R&B persona. Jodeci’s brand of R&B posturing that is accessorized in black tinted sunglasses, does not nullify their secular leanings. If anything, their truth in following the musical path they decided to walk is the mid-section to a three-part testimony – their call, their offering and their sermon. For Jodeci, a touching homily would we be the telling of their origin story.