Jagged Edge Chats About Latest Project, Jermaine Dupri and R&B Music
Grammy-nominated R&B group Jagged Edge released their 7th studio album, The Remedy, on June 21, 2011, promising to give R&B music what it's been missing, starting with the classic, sensual JE sound.
XXLMag.com caught up with the Atlanta, Georgia, based quartet, made up of identical twin brothers Brandon and Brian Casey and Kyle Norman and Richard Wingo, to talk about their latest project, squashing the beef with Jermaine Dupri and the current state of R&B.—Nicole LoPresti
You recorded The Remedy mostly in Miami. Did your location influence the vibe?
Brandon: You can hear the Miami influence on the up-tempo music. I know on the song “Lipstick Red” with Rick Ross on it, the vibe definitely influenced that song, but like I said, more on the up-tempo stuff I would say you could probably feel a little of the Miami vibe.
This is your seventh studio album. How does it ever not become repetitive or boring?
Brandon: As a songwriter, you can draw from so many things: from your experience, from your friends' experience, things you want to do, things you might have heard someone say. For that reason alone: that there are so many things going on in life in general and the world in general, [it feels like] you’ve never done it before.
When you guys write songs together, is it just all of you sitting in a room? How does that process work?
Brandon: Anybody can start a song. I might have an idea for a melody or a hook or something like that and somebody may come up with some lyrics, somebody may come up with the concept while somebody else could start it and I’ll just chime my little parts in. So, its really whoever has a good idea or concept or vibe or melody then everyone feeds on that and builds on that.
What do you and your group members, individually, bring to the group?
Brandon: I am one of the lead singers. Most people would say I’m the leader of the group, and I accept that. I do as much as I can for the group. I think Kyle is what I like to call the tension breaker, unless he’s in a bad mood, everybody has bad days. Kyle always knows what to say if a situation is extra tense. Wingo is always high energy. No matter what the situation is, his energy is always up and usually very positive no matter what the outlook is. And my brother, he shares a lot of responsibility with me, he’s the other lead singer. A lot of other people would say he’s the lady’s man because he loves working out and keeping his body in shape, and that kind of motivates everyone else to do that as well.
After thirteen years in the game, how have you seen R&B change?
Brandon: I have seen R&B change in a lot of different ways from the business side to the actual music. On the business side I would say that as an art form, R&B is always like the black sheep of the family when it comes to music genres. We don’t get a lot of the same opportunities that a pop artist would get or a hip-hop artist would get.
Brandon: For example, when we were in the height of our careers, early 2000s or late 90s, there were a couple of other groups out, [like] Backstreet Boys and N’SYNC, and even though we were one of the biggest groups out, there was a lot of opportunities for N’SYNC and the Backstreet Boys that we could not get. We were not allowed on award shows to promote our albums, like performing on the Grammy’s. We always had to make our noise on BET. MTV has been very supportive over the years, but it’s not on the level of N’SYNC or any of that. It’s always been like that.
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Do you still see that today?
Brandon: In mainstream music you have groups that, once they’ve proven themselves, they don’t have to worry about the support, they’re going to get the support. But with us it’s still like we’re always fighting. Even though we have albums out there that are triple platinum and double platinum, we still are fighting just to get our message out there, our music out there. Its unfortunate, but they picked the right ones because we are fighters, and we will continue to fight.
R&B groups seem to have a certain time span. Do you think there is a cap on the number of years R&B groups can be successful?
Brandon: I think the cap comes from the nature of the beast. With urban music it’s always about what’s new and innovative. For that reason, in the urban audience once we’re used to you after a while the urban audience has to feel like, ‘I’ve seen that bag tricks.’ That is the nature of the music we make and the trends we get into. But at the same time I feel like we are losing the depth and you definitely lose some of the effectiveness of music that covers more than one demographic.
Wingo: As far as longevity for R&B groups, a lot of the downfalls have been caused by the groups themselves. We have been watching Boyz II Men and Jodeci and all of them from the time they started till it was over and in each of those instances their downfall was caused by internal problems. Internal problems stopped their longevity because these guys were on a run.
Brandon: No matter how well this album does, we are winners, we’re champions, we feel like that in our hearts. I feel like a champion, no matter how many times I get knocked down I get up, and that’s what we are going to do. All of this has been hard for us, and that has never stopped us in the past. If it’s the type of thing where the respect or the support doesn’t come right off the top, we’re always ready to go in the foxhole and fight.
How has Slip-N-Slide been helping you with the effort. You have been with Columbia and Def Jam before. Is there a difference?
Brandon: Slip-N-Slide doesn’t care how big of a label or how small of a label it is. It feels like it should be able to compete with the big boys and that’s admirable. I think in any type of business or industry there’s something that you lose and something that you gain. When you’re in a big system, they can roll out a project in a way you have never seen before. When you’re in a smaller system, the roll out isn’t always as big but it can be as effective in the long run. The focus that you get from a smaller label is something that we feel like, at this point in our career, like you said thirteen years in, we still want the focus that a new artist gets, and being at a smaller label we can get that.
What is the vibe of the album? How would you describe the emotions you guys were going through when you created it?
Brandon: The emotions were the same as the message: love on. It’s so cliché, but I don’t care what the problem is if it’s as ugly as you think it can get and you be the one to approach it with a little bit of love, a little bit of compassion, a little sensitivity, you’ll get a way better result. So, that is pretty much the message and the emotion.
What’s next for you guys?
Wingo: Touring. We’re definitely going to go hit the road and promote. Every album, the promoting process is the same. The only thing different is how the music industry has changed with the Internet. We definitely have to make a big Internet presence but it is still the same formula: get out and hug and kiss the babies, make sure you get out to the radio stations and let them know that your still here, you got new music coming and the whole nine. Go out and meet with the program director, and hotel parties; the same old thing.
What’s your relationship with Jermaine Dupri like now?
Brandon: We’re cool. We don’t talk much. I haven’t seen him in a while but I have no animosity towards JD. There was a point when I was kind of angry with him but I know everyone does what they think they have to do and if that doesn’t necessarily cover everyone under the umbrella sometimes you have to make those decisions. As a grown man I understand that. I wish we always had the kind of relationship that we had had. I didn’t want to give up the music we made when we had such good chemistry.
So how did that relationship change?
Brandon: A lot of people think that the lack of focus that Def Jam put on us was because of the beef that JD was having. But at the end of the day I just feel like when the situation went bad over there, JD had business with three different buildings. He lost a little bit for it and he wasn’t willing to fight for some records, like he wasn’t necessarily willing to fight for Jagged Edge’s record. And he didn’t want to hold us back. I respect that. Like I said, I felt we should have always been able to do what we were doing. But at the end of the day I respect his decision.