Last updated: 02/21/2014 06:45:19 PM
Jaheim Hoagland's story is one of struggle, strength and salvation. And on his dynamic Warner Bros. Records/Divine Mill debut album Ghetto Love, people worldwide-young and old-will hear and empathize as they view and experience the life of a naïve boy who is slowly transformed into a focused and tenacious man. "When I came in the game, I was a newborn. I was blind to everything," says the 21-year-New Jersey native. I took my time and sacrificed things. And a bunch of pieces came together. It's been hectic, but I made it through the storm."
Ghetto Love is riveting rhythm and blues balanced by hints of hypnotic hip hop beats. Ghetto Love is Jaheim's soul-searching diary that takes one through the caged-bird battles of boyhood and on to the experienced, free-soaring wings of manhood. On the engulfing "Looking for Love," Jaheim's raw vocal prowess flies above a funky and smooth bassline as he tells of his slow and careful search for love. With a hook illustrating his lust-filled frustration he sings, "Looking for love in all the wrong places/been around seen a lot of pretty faces/I know I'm the one for you/Only lying I would do is in the bed with you." Jaheim explains: "I've been looking for love for a while. And I got my heart broke once. So it's hard for me to trust again," he says. "All I want is happiness."
Eventually the songbird does find his sunshine, but not without a fight. The brassy trumpet punches of "Let it Go," jab straight to the face of the still-emotionally-hooked ex-boyfriend of Jaheim's new love interest. And as Jah's heat boils, while intensely crooning of his vow to commit a crime of passion, Missy Elliott's prodigy Lil' Mo lends a helping production hand to the radio-friendly vibes of "Finders Keepers." "This song is like I really got to explain it to [the ex-boyfriend] now. I'm like, 'You lost, you had something good going on, but you wanted to act up and now she's with me. So finders keepers, losers weepers,'" Jah contends. "That happened to me a long time ago."
But Jaheim does win the female fight and ultimately moves on to keep his love relationship tight. On the emotionally mature ballad "Waiting on You," Jah collaborates with Ms. Jones to create a wonderful melodic promise of patience and romantic persistence that will definitely be a serenade for every special woman. And after much waiting, Jaheim falls in love, telling the world of his fluttering heart on "Remarkable." Here, songstress and University/Warner Bros. Records artist Terry Dexter joins Jah for an incredible tribute to life-long commitment. Written by RL from the multi-platinum R&B trio Next, "Remarkable" will surely be a wedding song for many.
From cheerful dreams of wifeys at home and shorties on the side on tracks like "Happiness," to opting for monogamy and eternal bonds on the open-souled realization of "Forever," Ghetto Love illustrates the life and times of a scared youngster turned fearless adult. Jaheim brings pure, real and simple skill to the music of Ghetto Love.
Jaheim has been singing since he could speak. As a child growing up in the projects of New Brunswick, New Jersey, Jah's life was one of tribulation. At the age of two, death took his father's soul before Jah had a chance to truly know him. Raised in a single parent household, Jah would grow susceptible to the inevitable ugliness of street-life, bouncing in and out of trouble, always following and never truly knowing his path. But music was Jah's saviour and relief from stress. "Singing was my way out," he says. "I focused on teaching myself how to sing by keeping Luther Vandross in my ear all day long. Everywhere I go I sing."
Other R&B and gospel musical influences filled the ears of Jaheim's young body and old soul: his one-time professional singing grandfather, older brother, and notables like Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and Stevie Wonder. These were mixed with the sounds of poetic hip hop artists like The Notorious BIG, Tupac, and Mobb Deep. His inspirations echoed through every talent show that Jaheim touched and won-from Uptown Comedy Jam singing bouts to a three-time winning streak at The Apollo at the age of 15. It seemed that Jah's vocal triumphs were endless.
But tragedy never ceased to follow and at the age of 17, Jah's mother died. "When I lost my Mom I thought I lost everything," he says. "But I had to be strong for my little brother...I'm the strength now."
While relentlessly shopping his demo tape and attaining minor singing fame aboard New Jersey Transit trains, he dropped a demo at Newark, New Jersey's Naughty Gear store. It would fatefully fall into the hands of super production wiz kid Kay Gee (who's propelled phenomenal acts like Zhane, Next, and his own group Naughty By Nature to platinum-plus success). A week later Jaheim was asked to audition for Kay Gee. Two years later through his company Divine Mill, Kay Gee would help Jaheim sign a deal with Warner Bros. Records. Now, another two years later Jaheim's Ghetto Love, is released.
Ghetto Love features Kay Gee as executive producer and is filled with majestic ballads and uptempo pleasers written by Blackstreet's Eric Williams, Next's RL, Darren and Cliff Lighty, as well as the power-packed creations of Jaheim himself. It mixes rambunctious R&B with hardcore hip hop, stylistically portraying the world of a boy who's witnessed street-stories lived out in view of death, jail, poverty and life-saving ghetto love. After 19 tracks of the melodic diary of a lost-and-found man, Jaheim comes to epitomize the meaning of his name: God's wisdom. "I used to be a sheep with wolves around, but I was born again," he says. "I thought if I took my time and got right with God first and put Him ahead of everything, He'd bless me. I know He's got a job for me to do. Like, if I can get everybody to sit down, be quiet, and listen, I'll touch the whole world." And with Ghetto Love, Jaheim is well on his way to doing just that.
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