Donell Jones: U Still Know What’s Up?

Donell Jones was among a fraternity of 90’s R&B singers that painted a landscape of soul music that some argue was the end of an era of real soul music. The self taught musician whose influences include Stevie Wonder, The Isley Brothers and the late  Teddy Pendergrass, made a name for himself as a songwriter and producer penning hits for everyone from Brownstone, Silk and Jade, to Usher and Madonna. It wasn’t until 1996 however, that his label at the time, LaFace, and Untouchables Entertainment introduced to the world Donell Jones the artist. Jones’ debut release “My Heart” captured the hearts of romantics around the globe with his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Knocks Me Off My Feet”; but it was his sophomore offering “Where I Wanna Be” that cemented the crooner as an R&B hit maker.”Where I Wanna Be” became his signature single and the album yielded #1 hit “U Know What’s Up” feat Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes as well as “Shorty (got her eyes on me)” and “This Luv.” Unfortunately the climate of the industry changed as well as the climate of his personal life. Battling issues of being a priority at his label and the industry shuffle that occurred when Arista split, not to mention the struggles in his personal life, Jones sought comfort in drinking and soon thereafter decided it was time to take some time to focus on Donell. Fast- forward to 2009 and a clear headed, and sober Donell Jones is back. With his own label Candyman Records, he has released a compilation entitled “The Lost Files” which is a compilation of unheard music and is a precursor for a new release due out in 2010. Donell Jones sits down with AllHipHop.com and tells us why he’s exactly where he wants to be now.

AllHipHop.com: Let’s start with why you left?

Donell Jones: Basically I kinda left because I was in a situation with Jive Records that I didn’t like being in. Actually I was on Arista and then when Aritsa Records folded, they kinda shifted all the artists they had to Jive Records. So we didn’t have a choice in the matter, we all kinda got shifted to Jive. I already had a problem at Arista not being promoted. So, going over to Jive it was my last album which was ‘Journey of A Gemini” and when we got shifted over to Jive, they already had like the R. Kelly’s, the Joe’s so it almost made it even worse. When I got there I was competing against not only the Usher’s and the other people at Artista but now I was competing against the people they had at Jive too. So I mean Jive really dropped the ball on that project. For those years I was just really trying to get out of that contract, out of that situation.AllHipHop.com: They didn’t just let you out right away?Donell Jones: Nah nah they was tryin to, you know, stick me up for a minute.AllHipHop.com: Right. If they can’t make money off of you, nobody can, huh?Donell Jones: (laughs) right, right.AllHipHop.com: So were you still writing for other people?Donell Jones: At that particular time, to be honest with you, I was going through a lot. I was drinking because I was going through problems. So I wasn’t in shape to be writing for anybody. I was trying to get myself together, fix myself, you know.AllHipHop.com: What year was this all this going on?Donell Jones: Like the end of 1996.AllHipHop.com: Ok. So basically was it just personal issues or industry stuff that brought about these problems?Donell Jones: Mostly industry but I had some home issues too; you know girlfriend problems and stuff like that.AllHipHop.com: So how long was that process, what was the healing process for you, how did you kinda snap out of that?Donell Jones: Um actually, I had a problem with drinking years before that. So when that happened, I had already been to like a rehab, I did that but when any problems start, I started drinking again. So what made me snap out of it was just the fact that a lot of family and friends was like “Yo man, you kinda going back in the wrong direction.” So I just stopped. One day I said just said “Yo, you know, this is it” and I never looked back. I’ve been clean and sober ever since.AllHipHop.com: Do you think that prior to all of that, that your drinking has kind of an effect on how the label was handling you? Was it that much of a problem?Donell Jones: Nah, I don’t think so. It wasn’t an issue ‘outside’. It was more internal.  Not many people saw me like that. It never really affected my work.AllHipHop.com: So why are you coming back now? What made you decide that now is the time you’re ready?Donell Jones: Because to me, I’m better than ever. Over the years I’ve gotten better as a songwriter, I’ve gotten better vocally and I’m a better man.  I’m happy that I’m out of those situations now and I work for myself. I think that is the most special thing to me. I’ve always wanted to have my own label and do it myself. I really felt like I never really got the push from any of the labels that I was on. To me I feel like I will work extra hard because I’m working for myself.AllHipHop.com: So what is your label situation and how did it come about?Donell Jones: Well, I just decided that I wanted to put my own records out. And it’s not hard. Today, the internet is a big tool and it’s nothing to put a record out these days.

I did it through Tune core and so far it’s been great! I put ‘The Lost Files’ out to kind of gauge and see where I’m at. The proceeds from this album will go towards my new album that will be coming out in 2010.AllHipHop.com: Now “The Lost Files” is it like a best of? Donell Jones: It’s stuff that you’ve never heard. These are songs that I’ve recorded from the beginning of my career in 1996 up until about 2004. It’s just a lot of songs that, really this is just volume one, because I have a whole bunch of songs that nobody has ever heard. When I’m recording, I will usually record a lot of songs in that down time. And when they’d say, “it’s time to make a record”, I kinda just push those to the side and start fresh. So, I have a lot of songs that nobody has ever heard because that’s my process. I like to start over.AllHipHop.com: Have you been working with other artists over the last couple years?

Donell Jones: Nah, nahAllHipHop.com: Nobody? No collabo’s on this upcoming project?

Donell Jones: No. No collabo’s as of yet. I mean, usually, I don’t have a lot of features. AllHipHop.com: What’s your favorite track(s) on this album?

Donell Jones: I have two; I love them all to be honest with you. But two of my favorites are “Superman” and “Bad Boy”.AllHipHop.com: Why those tracks?Donell Jones: “Superman” because it was in the beginning of my career and its one of those songs. It’s talking about a woman taking advantage of a man, and all she thinks about is his money, and that’s all she wants from him. But anytime he needs her, she’s never there. “Bad Boy” was supposed to go on my “Journey of a Gemini” album. I liked that record because it’s real guitars in it and I love the story line. It’s about a guy who gets caught cheating, and he’s trying everything in his power to get his woman back. He acknowledges the fact that he’s a bad guy, but he’s just trying to do right.AllHipHop.com: So what is your technique when you’re recording a song? Personal Experiences? What’s you’re process?Donell Jones: Most of my songs are from personal experiences, I hate to say that…. but they are.AllHipHop.com: “Where I wanna be” seems to stay in heavy rotation even today, with that being said, it seems R&B has lost its luster and soul on the mainstream end. Do you agree?

Donell Jones: Thanks, I do agree, I think over the years and with the young guys in the R&B game now, it’s more like they want to be rappers, you know R&B Thugs now. Where as back in the day it was about love. I guess that’s why I’ll never change because I grew up on Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Teddy Pendergrass. It was about real soul. You could connect with a person through just hearing their voice, and the emotions of it. To get back to where it was I just think we need to start listening to better music. I know radio has a big role in that because they don’t play those types of records. A person like myself, I can play on any station, but because my music is “mature” I have to be played on adult contemporary stations.AllHipHop.com: In a perfect world, how would the industry be run if it was left up to you?

Donell Jones: I would be fair. A lot of people write and produce their own material, and the record companies get the majority of the money. It’s ridiculous how you have some artists that are legends and they are broke, and the record companies are still making money off theses guys. That’s why I feel if you do people wrong, it’s going to come back to you in the end, and that’s what’s happening to them [industry] right now.

AllHipHop.com: So tell me about being independent.Donell Jones: I have my label Candyman Music Inc., and I get too pretty much do what I want to do. I can make a song today and put it out tomorrow. With a record company I never had that option. It feels good to be able to work for yourself because I work harder and I know the end result.AllHipHop.com: What can we expect from you in 2010?

Donell Jones: Top of the year we are going to start doing shows. Music and more music. I know all my fans are like “Why does it take Donell 3 years to make a record?” But my future consists of me putting out an album every year because now I can. I don’t have to waiting on anybody…its my project.

Donell Jones – “If You Want”

Donell Jones – “U Know What’s Up”

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