One of the most consistent male groups in R&B, Jagged Edge is back with a new deal and a new hustle. After a wavy departure from Def Jam, the group has signed with Slip-N-Slide Records and is prepared to usher in a new blend of Hip Hop and R&B.
One-fourth of Jagged Edge, Brandon Casey talks with Brokencool.com about the perception of R&B music, vocal integrity and the group’s relationship with former boss Jermaine Dupri.
Brandon Casey on the group's relationship with Jermaine Dupri:
"...we rolled with So So Def. We stayed down until we couldn’t stay down no more. I feel like, and we loved Columbia, we had a lot of different things on the table but as an artist some of what we do is definitely for respect and for recognition or acknowledgment of being good at what you do. I think JD never gave us that respect."
Maxine Ross: So tell me what’s been happening.
Brandon Casey: [laughs] Wow, that’s such a general question!
MR: Ha, ok. Let’s start with Slip-N-Slide, which is the newest thing.
BC: Well Slip-N-Slide came about a few months ago. We were entertaining a few record labels and they came to the table. I think it’s a lot of people in music that won’t understand the connection between Slip-N-Slide and Jagged Edge with them being a rap label but we look at it like it’s a hustler’s label. They might not be or have access to all the things that a major record label has access to but they still get the same results because they hustle. Put that, the hustle, with their track record it’s a good team. I think the record sales and the content and quality of the record will show that as well.
MR: What was Jagged Edge looking for in a label?
BC: We were looking for attention to be honest with you. That’s what we needed. Not just someone that could go out there and get these records but someone that make us feel comfortable in that they would be excited about getting these records for us. We needed someone to bring to the table as much as we were bringing to the table in terms of effort level. Right off the bat I met with Ted Lucas one time and I felt his passion for what he does. One thing Jagged Edge has always been missing is a fighter. I think Jermaine Dupri is a wonderful producer and he creates a wonderful energy to combine with ours but I think we’ve always been missing someone to go in and fight. Every door may not always be open for Jagged Edge, for whatever reason, we all have our own theory. Sometimes what it takes is someone to go in there and fight and let people know what they are missing out on. If you don’t get on the boat, this is what you’re missing. That’s what Ted Lucas is...a fighter by nature. His label, they all hustle. Just from being there for a few months I already see that.
MR: Will the connection to Slip-N-Slide make it easier to blend the sounds of Hip Hop and R&B?
BC: For us it won’t be a new effort. We feel like we’re always heavy with ballads on our records but no matter if there’s three up-tempo songs, or four, or whatever we’re still gonna go hard with the up-tempo songs with the same mentality to bang the club out with up-tempo records. We don’t want to just make a fast R&B song we want a club banger and that’s what we tried to do with the “Let’s Get Married” remix or “Where The Party At” or the song with Biggie, whatever we did we wanted it to be in the club. With Slip-N-Slide being a rap label and the fan base being more clubs oriented, I think that will show through even more with this project.
MR: Are you saying that Jagged Edge is moving towards being a Hip Hop group?
BC: No no no! Not at all! I’m saying like, if you take “Where the Party At” it’s an R&B record but it was heavy in the club. I’m saying that every fast R&B song is not a club banger. I think that with Slip-N-Slide we have the opportunity to go hard in that lane. We’re still gonna come with the ballads, our fans love us for ballads but there will be a better mix.
MR: What is your perception of R&B right now?
BC: [laughs] Wow. I’ve been asked that question SO much.
MR: Ok, I can ask it a different way because I want a new answer. Is it time for some of the others in R&B to take a step back and learn from what Jagged Edge is about to do?
BC: I mean I would never tell anybody to take a seat back because we all have families to feed but to learn a little bit, yeah. I’ve done it. I stepped back and learned from the guys that are better than me or before me. It’s not even a knock on anybody. I think we all have to understand what our limitations and our weaknesses are and better ourselves. Jagged Edge, we’ve got a lot of weaknesses. That’s why I said we’re probably making a push toward more up-tempo sounds because in the past we were so up-tempo shy. I think it’s for everybody, we can all learn something from everyone. What I would say to new artists, and I love what they’re doing, it’s not a knock on what they’re doing but sometimes all the processing we’re doing with music, you lose the real feeling, without all the processing and the auto-tuning, you’d sound just as good. That would be my advice if anything. I think with auto-tuning it makes everything perfect and you can feel it when it’s perfect because you can feel a good melody anytime but in order to touch a person they need to really feel you. If it’s something that’s painful, they need to feel your pain. If it’s happiness then they need to feel that too. That comes through the tones in our voices, the different things we do with our songs to make the message come across. That would be my advice, let it be. Let it be a little raw or a little sharp sometimes if that’s the case and people are still going to feel you, I promise you.
MR: I guess things have changed so much. I never would have thought I’d hear Puffy singing R&B and it would be good, successful and popular. How is Jagged Edge going to compete and maintain vocal integrity?
BC: [laughs] I think the same thing goes for Jagged Edge. We can use some of the new tricks that are going on now. We can incorporate some of those things in our music and I think we’re doing it right now; it will come across in the new project. When auto-tune is something you use song after song and no one ever gets to hear your voice it’s almost like a disservice and people are feeling it but you’re not touching them. They can’t be feeling it when so many people are complaining. I think that’s a lesson that we all can learn to pick up on whatever we’re weak at or whatever we’re lacking and put that into your game, that’s how you get an A-game.
MR: You mentioned that you take the time to learn from other artists. Was there a time when you just locked yourself in the studio with Prince and Marvin Gaye records and just went hard?
BC: [laughs] That’s so funny because there was a time in my life when I did just lock myself away, maybe not in the studio because that came later on in life but there definitely came a time when I would lock myself in a room. I would listen to Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie, even though it wasn’t really my time-period, I got it from my mom. My mom and my dad would listen to their records and tapes and I would lock myself in my room for hours, for days as a matter of fact and listen to those things and try and feel. Sometimes you’ve got to close your eyes and let the music navigate and that’s what I did for a long time.
MR: What’s new about the themes and concepts of this new music?
BC: I think a new twist for Jagged Edge period, is that we tried to flirt with sexy type records; I don’t want to say freaky because we’re not going there, but we will be flirting with those concepts a lot more. Not just let’s get married and make a baby type records, if you know what I mean. This is a big chance for Jagged Edge to not be so serious. It’s not so meaningful with every single song but our vocal performances are heartfelt with every single song and it comes across with the same conviction. Even though we’re talking about different concepts, I think the same message will come across in every song.
MR: What kind of success is expected with the new album?
BC: I learned to stop expecting success. It’s a new journey. Every time you drop a new record it’s a journey. Many times in the past I did expect that only to be let down. It’s like when you start expecting things, you almost lose the whole meaning of doing what you love and that’s just to get up every day and have fun doing it. The one thing in this world that I love doing and the one thing in the world that I’m good at I get to do every day. I get to feed my family by doing what I love and that’s the only expectation that I have.
MR: What producers are working on the project?
BC: We’ve worked with Jim Jonsin, Bryan Michael Cox, Ryan Leslie, Drumma Boy, Babyface and Teddy Riley. There are a lot of people on this record this time around.
MR: You know I want to ask you about the relationship with JD (Jermaine Dupri).
BC: Yeah I do. It’s funny because even this many months or a year and a half later I still don’t really know how to answer that question. In my heart, I’ve got nothing but love for JD. My mother raised me better than that to be so unappreciative and to not have love for that man who gave me such an opportunity. At the same time it’s mixed emotion because I know that my group, not just myself, my group, we rolled with JD; we rolled with So So Def. We stayed down until we couldn’t stay down no more. I feel like, and we loved Columbia, we had a lot of different things on the table but as an artist some of what we do is definitely for respect and for recognition or acknowledgment of being good at what you do. I think JD never gave us that respect. He made plenty money off the records that we did and he never really showed us the love or the respect that we felt like we deserved for soldiering that label. To this day I got nothing but love for that man and don’t have anything bad to say about that man, I just feel like Jagged Edge was going to be in a whole other place if JD had been willing to take on a few of the fights that he didn’t take on. That’s all politics, and the fans may not understand that, but it’s all business and politics. When you’re an artist, you’re a business person and it’s all rolled into one. It’s hard to have the positive emotions about the opportunity and not feeling negative when you feel like he kind of left you at somebody’s door step and turned his back.
JD brought us to Def Jam, we had plenty options, there were many things we could have done at that point in time and we went with JD on the respect and love that we had for him and his label. When things got rough or whatever the relationship was between him and L.A., whenever things went sour with them he almost didn’t take into account that we’re men and we have mouths to feed. Even though y'all might be sour over there, let me make sure we straight over here. That never happened with Jermaine. As a matter of fact he got us on the label and basically said to go and fend for yourselves, after he just put out a record on us that sold 300,000 copies. We had much better options for us at that time. He could have kept his hands off of us and let us do what we were gonna do if he wasn’t going to be committed to making it work. I know it’s a lot but it’s hard for me to go into it because I don’t want to be unfair to him either. It’s hard for me to go into it and not say everything.
MR: I appreciate you talking about it because it’s something that people wonder about. And damn, it’s really a lot. With that said, how does Jagged Edge maintain longevity?
BC: I think it’s just the fact that we understand the seriousness of it being a job. This is how we feed our children. We’ve all got kids and we understand that this is how we take care of them. Nothing is big enough for us not to support our families. We look at it like a business and individually that takes us a long long way.
MR: Are you using any of the usual social networking sites to keep in touch with the peoples.
BC: We're Twittering, Facebooking, Myspacing still even, you can Google all of it! Also slipnslideworld.com is the label’s site where all this information is available.