It has been three years since Joe has graced the charts, but it’s still not long enough for us to forget his music. His R&B and Hip-Hop inspired tracks take us back to the days of “I’m in Luv,” “All the Things (Your Man Won’t Do),” and “Still Not a Playa.” Times when we didn’t have to worry about record sales, we just enjoyed the music that came out. Joe hasn’t disappeared, he has just been pursuing entrepreneurial ventures, including a new tequila brand and a clothing line. He also is making his musical return this month with his sixth album, Ain’t Nothin’ Like Me. We took some time to talk to one of the smoothest in the game about his career growth, his thoughts on producers throughout his career and, of course, his memorable duets. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How has your life been in the past few years? Joe: My life’s been good. It’s been working out for me, been traveling oversees a lot. Traveling to Africa, Japan, Europe just everywhere. I been all over the planet, just been visiting a lot of people, get[ting] into the culture[s] as well. Here in New York [for the] past year and a half I been working on the record, and that’s been real good. I been all over the U.S: California, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta Georgia. Been pretty much working, putting this album together. AHHA: And you’ve been doing other stuff besides the album? Joe: Yes, of course. I been doing this clothing line, in the fashion world right now. AHHA: What did you feel was missing from other clothing lines that inspired you to come out with the J. Thomas line? Joe: Just the love for it. I don’t think there’s a whole lot missing. It’s just taking what I like to do as far as clothes. I’m more of a high-end kind of guy. I like to design clothes. This clothing line is really a collection doing everything – jeans, hoodies, button down shirts, belts, shoes – so it’s a full collection. It’s like a Gucci mixed with Dolce mixed a little bit with swagger hood. So the fit is like, Aight I can get with this. AHHA: Cool. I also know you have your own brand of tequila, Sojo? How is that pronounced? Joe: It’s So-ho spelled S-o-j-o, it’s real nice. I’m also getting into the wine business as well. So I’m doing a Pinot Grigio, so it’s more of the laid back sophisticated kind of things. Just getting involved in business things. Expanding just building an empire. AHHA: So who put the ingredients together for that Tequila? How did that come about? Joe: Well, you know tequila is tequila. It’s pretty much got the flavor of it which is very consistent with all brands of tequila. You know Patron, Jose Cuervo, 1800, you have different brands but it still tastes like tequila. Maybe some of the mints are a little bit different, but it’s giving a little more flavor to my tequila. You got different grades of it, 60, 80, 100 proof. I’m really excited about it, ’cause when it comes down to it me being in the clubs, doing shows or just hanging out at a party, that’s part of the process, that’s part of being an entertainer. Be nice to have your own bottle or you walking around in your own get up, your own clothes. It’s something people can appreciate. They be like, yeah, yeah this $250 shirt is worth it – while sipping’ on the tequila. AHHA: Yeah, I get that. What motivated you to record another album?
Joe: You know, I’m always going’ to record. I’m always gonna record, I’m definitely gonna take time to sort of live a little bit – just make sure I take time to live and let time pass. I won’t be putting out an album every year. Sometimes it may take me two or three years to do it, but that’s me growing and living a little bit. I want to be considered as a timeless artist, not an artist that’s making an album in time pieces, just taking a piece of time. AHHA: That makes sense. How do you feel about the changes in R&B music? Is the new better or worse than 5, 10 or 15 years ago? Since you put your first record out in ’93, how do you feel you have contributed to the scene yourself? Joe: Well yeah, I been part of the process ever since you know, we can go all the way back to the New Jack Swing days where it was Guy and Keith Sweat. Where that music felt good for our generation. It’s still good today. AHHA: That’s the same timelessness you were speaking of… Joe: Yeah, I was out of that time as well. ’93 my first album dropped so then I came on when Hip-Hop kinda took over, and it became the biggest thing. It’s still the biggest. Just maintaining the process, just connecting and collaborating is what it takes. You know I’ve been told my voice, more than anything, that keeps me going from generation to generation. You can write a whole lot of different songs, but it’s the way you present that song. Presentation of a record is the most important thing. AHHA: Do you feel the new R&B music will have that timelessness? Joe: Well, it depends. It’s kinda early to tell. You need at least three or four records to give a real clue. You know I’m still in that mood where it’s my chance, it’s my opportunity to make it timeless like that. You look at artists who’s had a long time. Prince is still doing it, he’s still recording, but he’s way more timeless than I am. R.Kelly still doing’ his thing. AHHA: How did the collaboration with Big Pun on “Still Not A Player” help to spawn other Hip-Hop and R&B collaborations for you? How was it working with Pun in general, and what made you want to make that record? Joe: Oh it was cool. He was a good dude to work with. Going’ back to ’97, ’98 somewhere, yeah he definitely inspired. That record just kinda got in the hood – it got all across the board. Rap and Hip-Hop and R&B together it’s just natural, almost kind of a natural feel. It just feels good together. AHHA: You have collaborated with other male R&B artists such as Chico Debarge. It pioneered the idea of a male duet. What was it like recording a track like that? Joe: It was cool. You got two brothers on a record who’s doing a lot of shows going from city to city. And when the girls saw us come out on that record there was like pandemonium. You had the light-skinned kid, you had the dark-skinned brother. I think it just worked for whatever reason, we kinda ran with it. AHHA: In the past you recorded a track with Mariah Carey. Do you see yourself collaborating with any current female R&B artists, and are there any female singers from the past that you’d like to bring back on future projects? Joe: Good question. Hmm, Wow. Well right now you got some incredible artists. Beyoncé has incredible talent. Alicia Keys is real dope. You got a few people who really who understand, that make some real quality stuff, got a voice, timeless. Brandy has always been my favorite singers. Her voice, her tone it’s just one of the best in the business. You got a whole lot of things now. You got American Idol, lots of real good talent. AHHA: In this digital age, what is your take on declining album sales and the new wave of music sales via mp3 or ringtones? Would you say it benefits you and how do you utilize it to help yourself?
Joe: Well, it doesn’t. I would say, cause you don’t get a feedback of who actually, what… It would help to know that, Aight this music was downloaded, at least they got your album. But also, in another sense when it’s the business, of course that’s a whole ‘nother level, cause the way we used to buy records, or get records, we used to buy them. We used to go to the store and felt good about the record you got. I don’t know if that’s because of the way people perceive the way the music industry has changed, the way the music has changed. Or it’s just, Ok I can get it a lot quicker, a lot easier, just by dah-dah-dah-dat! I want it, I got it, you know what I mean. So, there’s a lot of different ways you can look at that, but it definitely doesn’t help when it comes to the financial side. AHHA: How does working with veteran producers like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis differ than working with newer school producers like Cool and Dre? Joe: You know I’ve worked with Jimmy Jam and Terry in the past. I didn’t get a chance to work with them on this album, but in the past they were incredible. We did the Mariah Carey record together. I mean legendary, always enjoyed their music. They’ve always done it to perfection. When you look at producers [and] writers, their names are right there at the top. They are the best that do it – they’ve done it for so long, so many different artists. Artist’s that probably shouldn’t of had that hot record got it anyway. That’s just how good they are. They just can’t do a bad record. AHHA: How does that compare with the newer school producers? Joe: Well the new school producers they got time, they got time to really get it together. I look at Pharrell, his style is so identifiable now, but he’s been doing his sound for so long. I mean even before, people don’t know how long this kid has been in the game. He’s been in the game a long time working with SWV, all these different artists, and his production style has been hot. And the same way, almost 10 years later, his sound is really popping. AHHA: What song do you most like to sing in the shower? Joe: [laughs] I don’t sing in the shower. [laughs] I’ll put the TV or something’ on and then watching highlights and stuff. Watching ESPN – I like to keep it on the news channel or something like that, or I got the radio on. So it depends on what the mood is. But not too much singing unless I’m singing along with something that’s being played. AHHA: Do you catch yourself singing one song that’s stuck in your head? Joe: Oh man, every time on the radio. If I hear it on the radio it’s done. Even on TV, commercials. I find myself singing commercials. Like that cavemen commercial, Geico [sings] “everywhere I go… I love that joint right there. So it’s… I get caught singing the last thing I heard a lot too. AHHA: What is your favorite Hip-Hop joint at the moment? Joe: My favorite? Oh man. I don’t know if I have a favorite. I like that “This is Why I’m Hot” by Mims. That’s like, that right now record. We in the moment, and then each record comes along, there’s a record that stands out. Each year there’s gonna be a record – that crazy one. And you know for me its nice to be out during this time when I got my record on the radio. It’s a nice record, still not that record, that I knew other records probably been doing it. It may build to that, because the record is just a hot record. It says what it’s supposed to say, feels how it’s supposed to feel. It just gotta make that connection. AHHA: On your current album you have decided to collaborate with Nas, Fabulous, Young Buck, Chamillionaire and so on. Why did you choose to incorporate so much Hip-Hop on this album?
Joe: Well, that’s my culture, that’s my vibe right there. That’s sort of my generation, I grew up in Hip-Hop. You know about 12, 13 years old listening to Erik B & Rakim, you know what I mean. So, that’s why I am with it. Came up with Diddy and them, I had my album when Biggie was out, you know what I’m sayin’ – Tupac was still here, I was recording at that time. So you gotta understand something – I been in it for a long time. And that’s what kinda just influenced me to do this record with Nas – he’s from that era too. Then going to Young Buck and Tony Yayo, that’s the family with G-Unit, and also Papoose, the new generation kid that comes along. And also Fabulous that just has that swagger that’s gonna work on pretty much every record. So that’s what it is, that’s pretty much my generation. That’s who I am.