We recently caught up with the legendary Mr. Dalvin of Jodeci for an in depth interview. During our conversation, we touched on his new single “Goodtimez” and upcoming solo album, his contributions to Jodeci, the long anticipated Jodeci biopic, the talents of his brother DeVante, discovering Stevie J. and Missy Elliott, and his memories from Da Bassment.
Mr. Dalvin: The thing was, I was actually working on a solo album. The song came to me one day. I was driving on the freeway and I was in a totally different direction with my solo project and it just came to me. I was driving and I made a U-turn to go record the song! It was in my head. What we’re going through right now, I wanted to give a different feeling. I was hearing chaos every time I turned the radio on, something is happening with shootings and other things. I just needed something different from where I’m at right now. Just to break the ice a bit. That’s kind of where I was at and how it came about.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about your upcoming solo album.
Mr. Dalvin: Before Covid came and put the breaks on everything, I was in the studio everyday. I had this whole idea of what I wanted to do for a solo project this time. I wanted to be 100% in control of every lyric, every vocal, I didn’t want anybody to come in and use additional vocals unless it was a feature. I just wanted to make it what I am. A lot of people don’t know what I contributed to Jodeci. They think K-Ci and JoJo since they are the lead singers, that is Jodeci. They don’t understand, those two have their own sound. Jodeci is the collaboration of all four of us together. It’s different. I wanted to take my piece of the pie to show people what I really do without being guided by people that just see what they see from me. That’s what I did. This Covid came and I was forced to sit down and redirect where I was going. I think a lot of people have had to do this in their careers. I learned how to start engineering my projects. This started giving me all of these different ideas of what I could do, production wise and different types of songs. All of my ideas changed drastically. I love where I’m going and what I’m doing now.
YouKnowIGotSoul: In interviews in the past you’ve touched on different solo projects you had been working on. What’s the process been like over the years in getting a solo album out?
Mr. Dalvin: The music business is so different from when Jodeci put out records, and even when I put out my first album. It’s like there is really no right or wrong format to do it. Everything is online and the internet and streaming. There is really no record company to take your project, unless you sign with a major. You can pay for promotion over here, and this and that. You have to take your project and nurture it, especially when you’re independent. I think that now majors always look for what’s hot and trendy at the moment. There is no artist development or real sense of having a family at a label. You’re just another number. Independent is harder but you have control over everything you do. How you are seen and heard. It all depends on how far you want to go and what you want to do with it. Artists like myself in this new era, it’s learning new technology and how to do it. You never lose your talent, you learn how to transfer it to new technology.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Earlier you mentioned that fans don’t realize Mr. Dalvin’s role and contributions to Jodeci. How would you put it in your own words?
Mr. Dalvin: It’s hard to put it in a nutshell. It’s like I’m the renaissance man. Just because I can pass the ball doesn’t mean I can’t shoot it. That’s my role on the team. Just because I don’t sing lead doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It’s just not my role in the group. Everybody has a role to play to make the team win the game. Jodeci was Jodeci because everything worked hand in hand. Our fashion, which was a major part of who we were, that came from me. Our whole swag was basically me. Our look overall. Diddy came in and sprinkled some seasoning at the beginning but through our careers it was always me hands down, I was in charge of everything we wore and how we looked. When it came to putting the shows together I was always in charge of that. Arranging, writing, producing, there is nothing I didn’t do. I just wasn’t the lead singer. Most people don’t have the knowledge to know what makes a group function. I don’t even know if people have heard us sing acapella with our four part Jodeci harmony. People don’t know, so I’m not out there waiving a white flag to say what I do. Ultimately people will discover it slowly but surely. All four of us made Jodeci.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You worked with JoJo on the remix to his single “Special”. Talk about creating the remix.
Mr. Dalvin: Actually JoJo is also in the video for my single “Goodtimez”. DeVante even called me and asked me to send him the song. He said the whole group should be in the video! K-Ci is on the east coast so it wasn’t possible, and DeVante is AWOL. So JoJo is in it. But DeVante said he wanted the whole group to be in it because he was really loving the song! Which was astonishing because DeVante never gives me credit like that! He called me and said he loves “Goodtimez” and that it’s the best song I’ve ever done! *Laughs* “Special” came out, you know I used to do most of the remixes for Jodeci. I did the “Freak’N You” remix with Wu-Tang, which I never felt got the recognition it deserved. So JoJo asked me to give him a remix like I used to, and it had been a minute since I remixed a record. So I started messing with it and did four different versions and he loved all of them. I wasn’t crazy about all of them, so I gave him the one to use. The last one I think he liked because I really dissected the song. I wanted Snoop to go in the beginning of the song to change the element and set the record up different. Just all the intricacies I put in the record. I really was connected to that version that did get released.
YouKnowIGotSoul: In a recent interview we did with 112, they talked about how they are down to two members in the group carrying it on, and it’s like when K-Ci and JoJo stepped away from Jodeci on their own. What do you remember about being in the moment when K-Ci and JoJo stepped out and did their own thing?
Mr. Dalvin: To be honest, when we all grew up together, we all had these visions of who we were as artists. Jodeci was always the foundation. We called Jodeci the mothership. We used to be in North Carolina and even before we had our first record, K-Ci & JoJo were different than me and DeVante. They had a different style of Gospel, what you’d call quartet. Me and DeVante were more like contemporary Gospel. They always had this real type of soul, and to bring that to R&B, they had to bring something different than what Jodeci was. We always encouraged that, they had a different sound to unleash from within. Jodeci pretty much was me and DeVante production, writing and arrangements, and we mastered that. It was a melting pot of what they had with what we had. I always wanted to be the Bobby Brown of the group, as far as a solo artist! I had my own ideas. It was different from them. I’m the youngest so I wanted to dance and sing. That was my thing. K-Ci and JoJo were always meant to be together, you couldn’t separate them two. DeVante was like an evil genius mastermind behind the scenes like a puppet master. When they went off and did K-Ci and JoJo I wasn’t shocked. They ended up with the hit record “All My Life” and it just took off. It was a whole different sound from Jodeci.
YouKnowIGotSoul: It’s so good to hear DeVante’s name brought up so often during this interview. He is someone we celebrate whenever we can and hope someday he gets the recognition he deserves in the mainstream. In your own words, sum up for us DeVante’s talents.
Mr. Dalvin: This is strictly my opinion. To me, I put him in the same category as Prince, his ability to write songs, like Babyface. My top four would be Prince, DeVante, Babyface and Stevie Wonder. And Rod Temperton. I put them all in the same category. There is not even an order I’d put them in. Also R. Kelly, that would be my sixth man. I know what people will say but you can’t take the man’s talents away, regardless of his personal life. He’s right there with them. He’s been that way since he’s been a kid. He can write songs in his sleep. Just the way he metaphorically addresses things that are so simple. Just the way he writes songs. People ask my favorite song of Jodeci, which is “Cry For You”, even though I’m not sensitive. Just the way he puts the words together. To me, he doesn’t even see it like that. He just think it’s what he does. I tell him people want to see him! He says they will. He really doesn’t care! He’s just not bothered. He’s always been like that, not bothered. Me, I’m different, I want to go out there and champion it for him. He’s just not like that and never has been. He doesn’t look for the spotlight.
YouKnowIGotSoul: That doesn’t even include how much he gave us with Da Bassment and introducing those artists to us as well.
Mr. Dalvin: The crazy thing is. I applaud Tim and Missy and Ginuwine, Static Major (R.I.P.), Playa, and everyone that came from the Bassment, Sugah and Tweet. I look sometimes. I was there when we all recorded together. I look at them sometimes and they just don’t say where it came from. I see negative things. And I want DeVante to step out and say something and he won’t! He hears these things, but he just doesn’t want to say anything. Sometimes it bothers me because that is my brother. You just have to bite your tongue and let it go. He’s an incredible musician, he plays every instrument besides the drums, I’m the drummer. *Laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell us about the long rumored Jodeci biopic. Any update on that?
Mr. Dalvin: There is a biopic that has been discussed. What people don’t understand, it takes time to put these things out. New Edition took 11 years to come out! 11 years in the making with all of the members, and all of the parties had to agree to every point. That’s hard to do when you have so many different entities involved. It’s not that easy. As you become successful as a group collectively and individually, there are more parts involved. The stories have to coincide with each other and a lot of times they don’t! These biopics unless you are a solo artist, they take a long time to come to a total agreement. These things draw out with paperwork and all of that. On a positive note, don’t let that be a downer, there is a biopic in the works and we are all excited about telling the story, but the story has to be told right. You look at 2Pac’s movie “All Eyez on Me”. It was one of the worst depictions of this man’s life! I knew this man personally! And now we are left with that! That’s his legacy. We got to see it ruined. Everybody wanted a 2Pac movie so bad and they didn’t take the time to make it. They just wanted to capitalize and cash in. 2Pac is not here to have a say in what they said about him. From what I know about 2Pac, that was a horrible depiction of who he was. That’s what we are left with. Those that knew him personally know that’s nothing that showed how that man was. So it has to be told in the right way.
YouKnowIGotSoul: When Mr. Dalvin’s story is told, we hope that one thing that is mentioned is how you discovered and developed Stevie J.
Mr. Dalvin: I discovered Missy too you know. I brought Missy to DeVante. There are few people who know that. She wasn’t the most flattering looking person, but I saw through all of that. I knew she had something special. I felt that about her. It wasn’t a typical Beyonce look. But I saw way beyond the physical appearance and I knew what she could be. The same with Stevie J. When I first met Stevie J., he was nothing like he is now. I just saw him playing this broken down piano at this wedding in Rochester, NY, and I have no idea why I was at this wedding! *Laughs* After the wedding was over, the guy I went with, I think the guy I went with liked one of girls in the wedding, she was a bridesmaid. I don’t even know why I was there. I think he brought me just to give him props. I said I had to meet the guy playing the piano. I saw something in him. I told him to come down to the studio in downtown Rochester, when we were working on our “The Show, The After Party, The Hotel” album. He came down to the studio and he never left. I ended up taking him on tour with me, let him make some money, kept him in the camp, let him play on some of the Jodeci records. Then after that Diddy came to him after he saw him with me, and he offered him a lot more than I could. I told him I wished him the best! Maybe he could take him to the next level. But we’ve remained friends. We’ve had our difference of opinions and how we react to certain things, but I let people do what they do. I still wish the man the best. I rarely mention it unless someone brings it up to me. Sometimes it feels good to get it out there that they came from me.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Will there ever be another Jodeci album?
Mr. Dalvin: *Laughs* I’ll say it like this. There could be. You want to have wishful thinking because you always love what you originally created. Jodeci was so special to all of us. That has been the thing that has sustained us throughout all of our long careers, even with all of the ups and downs. Jodeci has always been the foundation of what we created. We can always pull from that olive tree. We will always all be associated with Jodeci. Every single group goes through the mis-communications and the fall outs and the separation. Not to say we broke up. You want to create your own identity. Sometimes I just want to be Mr. Dalvin. You always have this tag on your name. I think eventually come back and nurture that mothership. You come back together and make a project. Not like the last album that was pulled out of us. I would never consider that a Jodeci project. That’s the album people wanted to cash in on by using our name and bits and pieces and fragments they had of us. Which I disapproved of, but it is what it is.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Shares with us your memories of Da Bassment, starting with the beginning where it was just you, DeVante, Darryl Pearson and Chad Elliott.
Mr. Dalvin: Like you said, it started out with just us four. We all had our own MPC’s and we’d all learn from each other. We all bounced off each other. DeVante was the big boss of everything. Ultimately it was like we got DeVante’s approval and we were good. He set us up like we had our own stations. We started out in Teaneck, NJ and we all lived together. We all had our own room and our own little studio. We all toured, Chad did a midi production on tour, Darryl played guitar. We were always together. We had the studio on the bus. So then Da Bassment moved to Rochester so we wouldn’t be distracted by anything. Same thing happened. Everybody had their own studio room. Everyone from Missy, to Magoo, to Timbaland, Ginuwine, Playa, everybody would bounce around to everyone’s station and always record. DeVante, Chad, Darryl or I would have something. Then Timbaland started having his own little section. Whoever had the track that fit one of the artists in Da Bassment, that’s the station they’d go and work at. It was an experience I wish would have all been videotaped. It would have been a nice documentary to have. Unfortunately Static, who was an intricate part of Da Bassment, he was a writer, rapper, singer. He’s gone too soon. I wish that we could have had more time to reconcile and sit down with everybody. Unfortunately he passed away.