NJS4E: It’s good to hear both sides of the story for once. Having so many artists under his wing must have been a difficult feat, considering what he was trying to achieve with many of you, and how young he was too, and then to be deserted by people he trusted to stick by him. Do you think that it all took its toll on a young man who had the reputation of being a genius & a workaholic so long, irrespective of whether the reasons people left were right or wrong?
That’s just it – DeVante was SO young and what he was doing was something no-one had really done before. I think being young like that and inexperienced, having the responsibilities financially and mentally over so many of us must have been really overwhelming and too much to deal with at the time. That’s a lot of people that you have to take care of you know? We were all under his wing. We were all young and dependent on him. He had to secure deals for each and every one of us, develop our skills, produce our music, pay for our studio time, pay our rent etc. He had very good intentions but I think that there was a lot of pressure on him, on top of his responsibilities with Jodeci who were really really hot and continually blowin’ up, and other artists he’d produce for that had nothing to do with his label.
I think it was a case of having so much to do in terms of managing people, their music, their careers. He’s a perfectionist as well, and he wanted the perfect situation for all of us collectively and independently. He was never gonna settle for anything less and he was always going to take his time to get it right. When Da Bassment started breaking apart the way it did because of all those reasons I’ve mentioned, it was just so much to deal with from beginning to end. I really think he just felt he had nothing to show for it after he had done so much. He probably felt like he wasted a lot of time and money for no reason, and over people he relied on to be patient and loyal to him- that people used him and left him. I think in the end, he was burnt out and stressed out by the whole affair and he just needed a break away from it all. That’s probably why he closed off on a lot of people in the music industry that he didn’t regard as his family or close friends.
NJS4E: I guess that would explain the Jodeci album being put on hold?
It would explain it, though I don’t know for sure. DeVante had worked so hard for so long. All his teenage years were put solely into making the Jodeci dream come true. Then he had so many other responsibilities which were removed from Jodeci: managing and or producing other artists etc. Then he had the Da Bassment situation- paying for us all and maintaining our lifestyles- from recording music to living. When you’re writing, producing, playing the instruments and coming up with the creative music for almost all your projects for a number of years and then you have a bunch of artists you’re responsible for, at some point you just need to take a break anyway. I just think what happened with Da Bassment really took it out of him emotionally & mentally, and I think that was what forced him to take the time out to recharge his batteries.
NJS4E: Understandable. Jodeci’s fans and the music industry in general definitely suffered from DeVante’s absence.
Yeah I know! But that shows you how big a part Jodeci played in the industry. I’m still waiting for their new album!! I still listen to their old albums like I did all those years ago, and I’ve been waiting to hear their new material like everyone else! I know it’ll be awesome when it does come out. Jodeci were always just so incredible musically.
I do think that them coming out like that does depend on DeVante though, and what he is thinking and wants to do. DeVante really was the one who led the group from the beginning and I think as much as Jodeci wouldn’t be Jodeci without any one of the others, DeVante is the key person that sustains them. I just think he was burnt out by everything and he decided to give himself some rest.
NJS4E: It’s a shame we haven’t yet seen a Jodeci album, nor did we ever see any of Da Bassment material since that too was never released through DeVante. I can only imagine how great it would have been.
Yeah. It’s just sad he wasn’t able to put all of us out the way he was planning on doing. A lot of the songs that we did with him that he probably still has, I’m sure if he were able to put them out now, they’d still be up to date. That’s how current the music is and we’re talking about material made way back. Da Bassment was doing things long before it’s time and it’s sad it didn’t ever get released like planned. It would have changed music as we know it, forever.
NJS4E: I read in an article once with Static (Major), that he said very similar things – that it was a shame that the group did break apart because you would have taken over the airwaves and dominated the charts as a collective and as individuals, because Da Bassment consisted of immense talent and because the music you made together was incomparable to anything else. Had it lasted with DeVante it would have been phenomenal.
And he was telling the truth … he was telling the truth. To me, I still feel like it’s not too late and that if everybody reached out to one another and came together and just did it, it could still happen. And I mean DeVante too, because it wouldn’t be the same without him. A lot of people may have emotional scars from the past and some may not have even healed fully, but I really feel that at the end of the day the love for the music and each other hasn’t been lost, and we are older and wiser and able to understand situations and people differently to how we used to 14 years ago. It would mean letting go of the past and forgiving each other and focusing on all the great things we were, when we were together and happy and because it was so big, and it really was. And it’s something I can’t help but think because it’s always been one wish of mine that we do reach out to each other and do it just one time. That’s my feeling towards the whole thing.
Tweet, Smokey and I have even done a song together not so long ago, so it’s not impossible. It’s just that all of us would have to get together and have that same attitude of moving on from the past. I’ve always hoped one day that might happen, whether that’s to make music or not. I always have hoped, at the very least that we could all be in one room again, like the old days. Making good music together even just for the one time would be a bonus!
NJS4E: If it happened, that would be fantastic! Does it surprise you that Da Bassment & the form of music that was developed during that era is still something that’s talked about so many years on?
It’s crazy!! I get people contacting me on Facebook, and they are SO excited that they found me. They know about my group, Da Bassment and all that, and it’s just crazy because my group was never able to come out, besides Tweet coming out as a solo artist. I remember once this guy contacted me on MySpace asking me if I was Susan Weems from Da Bassment, and if I was, that he was actually a songwriter and he worked with a producer and wanted me to write some songs for them, because he had assumed I was good because of Da Bassment. I was like “Are you serious?!”. I honestly thought it was a joke at the time because Da Bassment happened so long ago and I never came out as a solo artist. It was just so unexpected! As we went back and forth with messages, he told me his name was J-Influence and that he was from Philly and was a huge fan of Da Bassment. He knew all about my group and the others, and he’d been following us for years. In fact, he was actually part of a clique that consisted of who we now know as Musiq Soulchild, and as a group they were trying to mimic and model themselves on Da Bassment. They actually wanted to duplicate the same kind of movement that DeVante and all of us had accomplished all those years back. I was like WOW! It’s crazy but that’s the kind of thing that keeps happening after all these years. We are respected SO much, yet we were never released as our individual groups or as Da Bassment crew. Da Bassment has only ever had one track released and that was on a soundtrack you know?!!
So yeah I’m surprised about that happening, because no one publicly has heard us. It’s just amazing to think that we had that impact. People really followed us! Am I surprised? Well at the beginning yeah I was surprised that people still talk about us after all these years, but as for the reason why? No and because of lots of things. Firstly, because of DeVante and the success & following Jodeci still has after all these years. Then, it’s because a lot of the artists that came from Da Bassment and/or Swing Mob have blown up since then- Stevie J, Timbaland, Missy, Ginuwine, Tweet, Chad Elliott- the list is so long. And finally I’m not surprised because of what Da Bassment was about and the level of talent there and the hype that was created from knowing it existed. DeVante really did know what he was doing when he put us together like that- everyone was just extraordinary. Collectively and independently, it really would have been hard to compete with.
So when you think about all those things together and no wonder it stands out- Da Bassment was just a one-of-a-kind type thing. There’s only one DeVante, there’s only one Jodeci and there’s only one group affiliated with them that contained one-of-a-kind people that created one-of-a-kind music. All of that together really isn’t a common and regular thing- it’s not something that’s ever happened before that you can say about anything else in music. DeVante was the only one who had that idea before anybody else- to work with so many true talented artists and create a movement so to speak.
What Puffy’s doing now with Making the Band is just a duplication of the idea DeVante had way back. The only difference is that DeVante had something really big and really different to what people had so far seen and heard in music. Da Bassment was SO unique- we were a singing, rapping, production movement that started a new genre of R&B/hiphop and nothing like that had ever really taken place in music. On top of it all, we were a family unit you know? Not just a band. It’s just amazing to know that people still appreciate that- it really is.
NJS4E: We still appreciate it because it really set the standard for R&B. How do you feel about R&B today?
I don’t listen to the radio, if that answers your question!!! I listen to a lot of old R&B, New Jack Swing, and a lot of Neo-soul too. There’s just a whole lot of reminiscing goin’ on. I feel like music today is really lacking a whole lot of stuff that was a compulsory before: amazing vocals, a beautiful melody, an outstanding beat. Everything was really special and sounded incredible. You couldn’t be mediocre to make it you know? I respect what people are trying to do nowadays and people’s different creative styles, but for me personally, it just isn’t as good as before either. It’s incomparable to music from back in the ’80s and the ’90s. There’s not much else I can say other than that.
NJS4E: Finally, and my last question – out of all the producers you’ve worked with and come across in your lifetime, who would you say is the most inspirational and the best producer you’ve ever seen in action?
DeVante. Without a doubt.
(Interview by: Rashmi Susannah Vasanthakumar, May 2009)
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