"Sometimes it's just the wrong timing," Jodeci member Davlin "Mr. Dalvin" DeGrate tells Yahoo Music, explaining why the iconic R&B/hip-hop band has not released any new music since 1996's "Get on Up."
"You can fall into the trap that a lot of artists fall into by just putting records out there because fans are excited and start tarnishing your legacy and body of work you've created. People waited all these years for some quality music – not just throwing music out there. "
After an 18-year hiatus, the timing is finally right for the North Carolina quartet that changed the look and sound of popular urban music with three albums and hits "Forever My Lady," "Come and Talk to Me" and "Feenin'" to bless its audience with a new track.
Mr. Dalvin, DeVante Swing, K-Ci and JoJo will perform a snippet of their new song "Nobody Wins" on the Soul Train Music Awards 2014 when the event tapes in Las Vegas on Nov. 7 and airs on Centric and BET on Nov. 30. They are planning to release the record before the event.
"Nobody Wins"' chorus exhibits Jodeci's signature lush harmonies and the soulful music bed takes a more mature turn for the group. The ballad's synthesizer chords and kick drums draw refreshing, old-school R&B comparisons as the lyrics call for peace in relationships. They sing, "Nobody wins when we fight, fuss, and argue," and Atlanta rapper B.o.B contributes the song's verses.
The group felt now was a good time to put out a song discouraging domestic violence. "Domestic violence has always been an issue in relationships, but because of the caliber of people being charged recently, it's being brought to the forefront," Dalvin says about the song's content. "It's definitely something people are going to listen to because domestic violence should not be tolerated in any situation, not just between men and women, but people in general."
Despite recording dozens of songs together over the last 18 years, the group did not feel that they had a cohesive body of work for their fourth studio album. "We've recorded hundreds of songs, even if it's bits and pieces and fragments of songs that we could probably live off of for the rest of our lives," Dalvin says. "But when creating this album, we chose a body of work that really represents us as a group and represents what people are expecting to hear from Jodeci as a group. People will be pleasantly surprised."
Fans can expect to hear their artistic growth. "Some fans want 'Come and Talk to Me' Part 2, and that's not what it is, and we don't get pigeonholed by the radio and let our fans grow with us."
As with their earlier work, most of the music will be self-produced. However, Dalvin confirms that Timbaland, who was discovered by DeVante, will collaborate. "Timbaland, who started with us, I know he's going to be somehow involved in the project," he reveals.
The album release date is to be determined, but Jodeci is signed to Louis Burrell's Sphinx Music Entertainment, and they are considering options for distribution. Burrell, MC Hammer's brother and former business manager, booked Jodeci, TLC, and Boyz II Men on Hammer's 1992 2 Legit 2 Quit tour. "These guys are the black Beatles of R&B and Hip Hop," says Burrell who reteamed with Jodeci in December 2013. "I don't think there will be another Jodeci in my lifetime."
Jodeci has maintained friendships with many of their peers from back in the day, including the members of TLC. Dalvin laughs about being portrayed as T-Boz's cheating boyfriend in the VH1 movie CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. "Oh man, don't even remind me," he says jokingly about the film that premiered last fall. "I spoke to T-Boz about that. I was like, 'Man, why y'all got to do me like that?' We're still really good friends. We still speak to this day. I felt they portrayed me a little wrong. There are three sides to every story – mine, hers and the truth."
As far as contemporary acts, Dalvin appreciates the love Jodeci has received. "It's cool. You can still hear our influence on people like August Alsina, Drake, J. Cole and Justin Timberlake," he says. "They always give respect where respect is due."
Mr. Dalvin is particularly appreciative of Drake's tribute "Jodeci's Back" with J. Cole and his recent "How About Now" that samples the group's "My Heart Belongs to You."
"Drake is one of my favorite rappers," he says. "He really shouts out to Jodeci. I look forward to working with him. He keeps the sound alive. And knowing that we are still relevant to this new wave of entertainers, to see their respect means a lot."
Jodeci dismisses the rumors that they broke up. "Over the years, even with K-Ci and JoJo's and my solo things and DeVante's producing we never stopped recording as a unit. We just didn't put out albums," Dalvin explains. "People thought just because we weren't seen together we had broken up, but that is a misconception."
The group has also been plagued with reports of bouts with drugs, alcohol, and internal conflicts. Dalvin says the group's personal dramas are normal. "I look at it like this, everybody in the world has issues," he says. "Nobody's perfect. Being that we live under a microscope, so to speak, it becomes 10 times magnified. People making a living off of negativity and are destroying lives and careers. At the end of the day, they have to live with that. Every man has a right to live the way he wants to as long as it's respectful to the law and other people. As far as issues, don't think there's nobody that lives amongst us that has none. Our group is the same as anyone. Whatever those issues are, I think people are smart enough to get them and fix them."
Dalvin also says that their concert at London's Wembley Arena last year did not turn out as planned. Only three members – Dalvin, K-Ci and JoJo – performed, and video posted online shows some booing from the audience. "It was on a verge of disaster," Dalvin says. "I don't want to blame nobody. But it's a fine line. It wasn't what we wanted it to be."
Dalvin is not worried about any such issues with their Soul Train Music Awards performance, their first U.S. date since 2006. "The circumstances are 1000 percent different," he says about the London show. "Those circumstances were totally different and we had no control over them. We tried to manage what we had control over. It was an opportunity where somebody could capitalize over it and they did. We had the short end of the stick."
In addition to performing a snippet of "Nobody Wins" on Soul Train Music Awards, Jodeci will sing a medley of their hits. Regarding their new look, the group that popularized the combinations of baggy jeans and Timbaland boots has already started discussing their award show style.
"You got to stay current," he says. "Jodeci has always been known for our fashion. We got to make a statement to be consistent with the Jodeci that people love and look forward to seeing."