Jag-ged what you deserve…

| February 10, 2010 | 0 Comments

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Clockwise starting @ top left (Wingo Dollar, Quick, Case Dinero, and Brasco)

Many R&B and soul groups endure the rise and downfall associated with fame and success: strings of hit singles, hit albums with the plaques to show for it, sold-out shows, heavily rotated music videos, screaming fans, high-profile break-ups, financial troubles, drug addiction and solo careers.

This is clearly not the story of Atlanta’s own Jagged Edge (JE): a musical force that tells me individually they’re blessed, beautiful, in their prime and all three qualities wrapped up with no mayonnaise. The Grammy Award-nominated, two-time Soul Train Music Award-winning group stands stronger than ever: a solid unit constantly in transition along with an ever-changing recording industry. Unlike the many groups that precede them, JE dodges the many pitfalls that other groups succumb to. Because of JE’s optimism and heavy hand in the music, the group has a new deal on the table; a new album in the works and a positive outlook on their future.

Brandon “Case Dinero” and Brian “Brasco” Casey may be twins, but their musical co-horts Richard “Wingo Dollar” Wingo and Kyle “Quick” Norman round out a tight-knit musical family. As JE, the guys are siblings through song: equipped with gritty vocals, soulful ballads, uptempo R&B music and crossover pop appeal minus flamboyant matching outfits and precise choreography.

JE channels the harmonies of old school vocal groups (The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Stylistics, The Delfonics, The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, The Jackson Five); their contemporaries (New Edition, DeBarge, Troop, Hi-Five, Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Next, Dru Hill, Silk, 112) but run counter to their blue-eyed teeny-bopper alter egos (B2K, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, B5, Day 26). It’s been well over a decade for the quartet, 14 years to be exact, but the fellas show no signs of aging. The guys all sit in the corner of rapper Fabolous’ restaurant, Room Service Lounge, this sunny Sunday Oct. 11, 2009 afternoon. They can’t stop laughing and joking together.

JE still feels on top of the world. Their latest single, the Mad Skrews -produced “Tip of My Tongue,” is a haunting banger that features JE’s signature street-savvy vocals over a ticking beat and The Art of Noise’s “Moments In Love” sampled chants and melody. Featuring label mate Trina and fellow ATLien Gucci Mane, the record is on repeat the entire time. The single is the first release from their upcoming seventh LP, The Remedy, also their debut effort on the Miami-based hip hop label, Slip-N-Slide Records (also home to artists Trick Daddy and Rick Ross).

“Tip of My Tongue” is purely déjà vu for JE fans: street-friendly, hard-hitting R&B. 1996 seems like yesterday; singer/songwriter-turned-Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Kandi Burruss first introduced JE to producer/So-So-Def Recordings CEO Jermaine Dupri (JD) via a demo tape. To this day, JE is responsible for an infectious brand of hit singles that easily cracks the pop and R&B charts: “The Way That You Talk,” “Gotta Be” (#23 pop, #11 R&B), “He Can’t Love You” (#15 pop, #3 R&B), “Let’s Get Married” (#11 pop, #1 R&B), “Promise” (#9 pop, #1 R&B), the Nelly-featured “Where The Party At?” ( #3 pop, #1 R&B), “Walked Outta Heaven” (#6 pop, #2 R&B), “Good Luck Charm,” “the Ashanti-featured “Put a Little Umph In It,” “Stunnas”  and “Keys to the Range.” The collaborations continue: Usher, Nivea (Brian’s and Brandon’s 2002 cameo appearance on “Don’t Mess With My Man” peaks at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100), Bow Wow, Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G., Nelly again (“Nasty Girl”) and Fabolous (“Trade It All”).

JE steps the music game up several notches. The members are heavily involved: writing and co-producing the bulk of their catalogue (the Caseys even co-wrote R&B group Ideal’s 2000 single, “Creep Inn” under their publishing brand, Them Damn Twins Music). Even when JD’s distribution deal ended with Columbia in 2002 and he struck another deal with Arista, JE remained active on Columbia’s roster until they resigned with So-So-Def/Island Def Jam in 2007. JE oversees a record label, the 581 Muzik Group, in a joint venture with Slip-N-Slide. In the process, JE’s albums consistently sell very well: A Jagged Era (1997, gold); JE Heartbreak (2000, double platinum); Jagged Little Thrill (2001, platinum); Hard (2003, gold); Jagged Edge (gold) and Baby Makin’ Project (2007). So don’t call JE’s deal with Slip-N-Slide and The Remedy a comeback.

JE knows they’re consistent: giving off as much energy individually as they feed off of between each other. They never stop having side conversations even during their interviews. They continue to laugh and joke together. One would think that they’re the perfect frat brothers; sports teammates or some new younger act. Even when I call them “a collective hit machine” prior to us interviewing as well as meeting, they couldn’t have been more excited. “I like that one,” Wingo says to me. “Let’s get it, man! Let’s get it man!” The guys yell and clap thunderously; Quick is quiet but chimes in with the rest of the group. JE knows they’ll be together for many years to come.

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…on JE’s musical career

Wingo: “I mean, it’s a blessing. Anytime you’re able to get a new deal in this business, it’s hard enough to even get one deal. And we’ve had two or three, you know what I’m sayin’? At the end of the day, you make the best of your situation. That’s what we try to do in any situation contractually or with anybody. Four heads are better than one; we gon’ do the same thing with [Slip-N-Slide]. They say they behind us, and we gon’ see; it’s goin’ down!”

Brasco: “I agree; I second that. I concur.” (laughs)

…on JE as multi-talented: songwriters, producers and recording artists

Wingo: “Forever man; that’s another way in this business that you can bless your family and make a good mark. We’re writers; producers; artists – the whole nine.”

 …on JE’s new sound and music with Slip-N-Slide Records

Case Dinero: “You can tell by the first single, you know, that the swag is a little bit different. The music is a little different. We try and incorporate that, and it does come out in our music. Overall, it’s probably more club, mid-tempo songs on this album more than any other.”

Wingo: “Gucci. Trina. We gettin’ ready to do a song with [Rick] Ross and about two or three other guys on this one song. That’s all we’re goin’ for on this album to be honest with you.”

…on JE’s relevance as a male singing group

Brasco: “We’re in our prime. Music right now, where it’s goin’ on the production side of things, it’s goin’ places it’s never been before. That’s a constant; that’s just a constant change in music. I think what we represent is just a bit of a throwback: we still sing. We sing hard. We sing from the heart. We incorporated Auto-Tune and all of that as well. We just talked about it. Honestly, we used Auto-Tune before [T-Pain] or anybody to be totally honest with you. We just didn’t saturate our sound with it. [Like you said], music is changing. We still gon’ give you what we do, but we gon’ give it to you in a way that it’s changing.”

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