Jagged Edge: Staying Power

This music industry has witnessed countless crazy events in the lineups of our favorite groups. We’ve seen them start out with four members and swap out two of their members; trading them like baseball cards. We’ve witnessed a four-person group become a three person group, then go on to do better than the original quartet. […]

This music industry has witnessed countless crazy events in the lineups of our favorite groups. We’ve seen them start out with four members and swap out two of their members; trading them like baseball cards. We’ve witnessed a four-person group become a three person group, then go on to do better than the original quartet. We’ve also seen groups that only give us one album, because one person decides they want to go solo after just one trip on the musical merry go ‘round. With this being said, nothing really should shock or surprise us except for a group that somehow managed to stay a group and never departed from this formation. Ladies and gentlemen, Jagged Edge!First introduced to us in the late ‘90s by super-producer, Jermaine Dupri (through his then So So Def/ Columbia imprint), these Atlanta-bred crooners have been serving us with hit after hit and doing their part to help men and women everywhere conceive children for the past ten years. It’s no wonder that their latest album is titled Baby Makin’ Project. However, their road in this industry has not been without its potholes. Their silence the past few years can be attributed to the parting of ways with their former label (Columbia).Now, with all the drama behind them, Jagged Edge are finally ready to re-emerge; with a new label (Def Jam), a new album, and an old, crazy idea that seems to work for them – sticking together through thick and thin.    AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Who is Jagged Edge today? You guys have been in the game a minute. How different are you guys now from when you first came out?WATCH VIDEO Jagged Edge-Wingo: We know the business a little better…a lot better. We’re better businessmen now than we were when we first started. Back in the day, they were signing cats to seven album deals, eight album deals. Now you might get a single deal. You know what I’m sayin’? And it is what it is. I think the industry has gone back to the artist getting out and getting on the grind. Like workin’, workin’, workin’. You get your one hot song, you gotta go with it. Point blank, all around the board. Promote and sell that record like it’s your last. Like back in the day when we got signed, we signed a seven album deal. The industry has changed but it’s better for the artist, because at the end of the day you can promote your own…JE-Brian [to Wingo]: You think the grind role is better for the artist….JE-Wingo: Yeah the grind role is better for the artist, because at the end of the day it makes you work.AHHA: You said that you guys are better businessmen. That brings me to my next question. Tell me something about 581 Music?JE-Brian: 581 Music Group is our label. It’s our first shot at being CEOs. This Jagged Edge project is our first offering from the label. It’s something me and my brothers have been trying to do for awhile. We’ve been working hard to even get into a position where we can even get somebody to even consider trying to make that happen for us. We kept trying to position ourselves and it just finally happened. We got a group called Bad Girl. Soon as our album comes out we’ll start their album probably October or something like that. Maybe y’all will hear something from them in the near future like spring, hopefully summer….something like that. 581 stands for where we come from. It’s the address of our old crib where we used to rehearseAHHA: Is this something you guys have wanted to do for awhile, or is this something that came about out of spontaneity and you guys wanting to take more control of your careers?JE-Brian: We have been working towards it, but we have been trying to take control from day one. We were just in another building that – [pause] In a lot of buildings, when you had the kind of success that we were blessed to have, a lot of that success would equal certain opportunities in other buildings. We were just in a building that no matter what type of success we had, no matter how much writing we did, no matter how much producing we did, we just couldn’t get those opportunities over there. So that’s one of the reasons we opted to get out of that building and out of that contract. The whole Def Jam situation has been a blessing…just being able to get back with JD [Jermaine Dupri], somebody we know believes in us has been a blessing. At the same time, his belief in us is what’s helping us to have this opportunity right here.AHHA: People have not heard from you guys in a little while. So personally and professionally, what’s been going on with you guys the past couple of years?JE-Wingo: Working! We were recording. If we were not on the road, we were in the studio creating something new. And that’s our lifestyle at the end of the day. We’ve accepted it. Anytime someone says that Jagged Edge has been on a little hianus…or whateverJE-Brandon: Hianus? It’s hiatus man! [laughter]JE-Wingo: So anytime anyone says Jagged Edge has taken a…break, honestly we’re just getting ourselves back in the right position so we can do what we have done for years, what we love to do – music! Music is our life! So trust me if you haven’t seen Jagged Edge, trust me we’re coming!AHHA: So what’s been going on personally?JE-Brandon: Wingo got married. I had a baby; my second baby.JE-Wingo: Yeah he had a beautiful little girl. That’s my boo right there! I’m gonna raise her!WATCH VIDEO [laughter]JE-Brandon: The professional always kind of takes a toll on you personally. And the transition from Columbia to Def Jam was definitely a big personal change. And one for the better we feel, not to knock the other label, but like he said it is what it is. For years even after success, we were never really welcomed like that. We never had opportunities. Like for example, over here I saw that as soon as Ne-Yo became a name over here [Def Jam], a hit artist, he was afforded other opportunities to write for other Def Jam artists and we never had those kind of opportunities at Columbia. We had number one records, a couple multi-platinum selling records and for whatever reason we never got those opportunities. Even though [the label change] was a professional change, it was a big personal change for the better. Our spirits are raised; the morale is back. We’re rejuvenated. It’s nothing like being somewhere in terms of this industry being in a system where what they do is what we do. Columbia is a pop and rock-geared label, and we’re urban. You can’t get past the fact that Jagged Edge is an urban group. We’ve had some mainstream success, and we make music for everybody, but we are an urban group. And finally to be somewhere that understands urban music is definitely to our benefit.AHHA: Going forward, what is going to make this situation different than your situation at your last label? How exactly did the resentment start to build between you guys and your former label?JE-Brandon: Resentment starts to grow when one side of a relationship is giving all they got and the other side is nonchalant about the whole relationship. I think the resentment built from us ‘cause like I said we were putting 150% in every project. And here, they respect the 150%. They say if you give me 150% we are going to take it as far as we can take it. Whereas in the other system it just was not like that. It didn’t matter what we did. We never had the whole machine behind us like an artist needs to be a huge artist.AHHA: So I’ve been hearing that the album for the most part will be a collection of ballads. Was there any particular reason that made you guys go in this direction?JE-Brandon: The state of music! I think when everybody is doing the same tempo, then there is a lane wide open to change the tempo and give you something new. Even though it’s what we’ve always represented, to this generation it’s new. We came up where it’s seven, eight maybe nine ballads on a record, and if you were trying to set the mood then that was your soundtrack and lately we haven’t had records like that. So we felt like it was time to give that to this generation.AHHA: Well with the state of R&B being what it is; R&B is Hip-Hop for the most part. You guys in the past have been that Hip-Hop friendly kind of group who was able to bridge that gap. There are a lot of people coming out now who are saying they are bringing real R&B back. What makes it different when you guys say it?JE-Brandon: I don’t think we are actually doing anything different. We are doing what we’ve always done. It might be perceived like bringing R&B back because it hasn’t been as prevalent in the last five or six years. But for us, it’s the same grind. It’s not about changing anything for us. It’s not about coming with a new slogan or a new push. Our new slogan is our old slogan; it just might be new to this generation.AHHA: Aside from a slower tempo…content-wise what can we expect from the Baby Makin’ Project?JE-Brandon: Content-wise you can expect songs that are more like “Put a Little Ummph In It” as opposed to a “Promise” or “Let’s Get Married.” More lighthearted; more [songs with a] sexual connotation. We not really being freaky. It ain’t raunchy, but it’s definitely more suggestive. It’s more of a bedroom music mood than ever. It’s definitely for people who are trying to set the mood. AHHA: You guys have been together for a while now. You guys seem to have a certain camaraderie even after all these years. What has kept you guys together all this time when many groups are not deciding to stay together?WATCH VIDEO JE-Brian: I think the main thing that has kept us together is that camaraderie, that bond, that respect and real love that is there between the four of us. We all four cats who were friends anyway. It’s not like we only know each other cause we sing. We were cool; we were friends anyway. It just so happened that we had the same interests. I think at the end of the day, that bond that we formed that didn’t have anything to do with music it keeps us able to do this music together.JE-Brandon: Also we’ve discussed it plenty of times amongst ourselves. Everybody in our group wanted to be in a group. I see a lot of groups – everybody sees – somebody looked at the group as a way to get they foot in the door, as opposed to saying I want to be in a four man group. I want to make history with three other guys; I believe in the strength in numbers. It’s a whole different mentality When you have the mentality of just wanting to get your foot in the door, then yeah you’re walking through it and leaving everyone else. And for us we wanted to walk through together. We wanted to stand together. We wanted to make a stand together.AHHA: When you guys hit the scene, there were probably only a couple other acts that were based out of Atlanta. Since then, Atlanta has had a number of acts hit it big. What are your feelings on that?JE-Brandon: It’s a great thing. Anytime you know somebody personally and then you see them have success, unless you a hater you ain’t going to do nothing but feel good for them. Half of the people that came out the past six or seven years, we probably known for years and knew they were coming.JE-Wingo: Yeah Atlanta’s so close knit. We’ve seen all these cats come up. The Bobby Valentino, Usher, Youngbloodz, Monica, Outkast. We went to school with half of these people. We went to school with India Arie. JE-Brian: And Youngbloodz used to stay at my house.AHHA: So you guys have a pretty good relationship with some of the other acts that came out of Atlanta?JE-Brian: Yeah the intermingling in Atlanta goes back forever. It’s a few names that had something to do with almost every artist’s careers. From Jermaine Dupri to Kevin Wells, Dallas Austin, Ian Burke. It’s a few names that have probably touched just about every artist coming out of Atlanta.JE-Wingo: LA Reid!JE-Brian: Yeah sure don’t want to forget him! AHHA: You guys will probably have different answers for this. But what would you say has been the highest point or the happiest moment in your careers thus far?JE-Brian: One of my happiest moments period, was just being able to feed my son. Just being able to establish and provide a life for my family. We’ve never been a group that has won a lot of awards, [but] we’ve met our idols. To meet some of them and them to be almost friends of ours and admire our music, those are some of my better memories.JE-Brandon: For me, it would be just realizing a dream. The fact that we make a record… you dream about it, you damn near obsess over it for a long time. Just to say Jagged Edge, ten years standing, it’s a household name, it’s a brand name. That’s what we asked for.AHHA: Lastly, at the beginning of this interview I asked who was Jagged Edge today in comparison to who you guys were in the past. If someone were to ask you that same question in 10-15 years, what do you hope would be the answer then?JE-Brian: 10-15 years I would hope that we get some distinction amongst not just the cats that we came out with, which was a lot about ten years ago, but just any groups you can think of in the 10, 15, 20 years. Our goal has been to put our name in that conversation about who the greatest groups were. In the beginning it was kind of ambitious, but it was our real goal. So I just think another 10, 15 years from now we’ll finally be in that position where what we have done, people can weigh in on, and hopefully it will put us on top when you have that real conversation. JE-Brandon: Our first album was called A Jagged Era and that’s exactly why. And I feel like the path has been laid, all we have to do is stay on it.