Jodeci Singer JoJo Hailey Talks Tupac, Death Row, & His New Record Label
“All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo forever goes down in history as one of the most iconic, romantic ballads in music.
Both natives of Monroe, North Carolina, the R&B brothers rose to stardom as members of Jodeci alongside DeVanté Swing and Mr. Dalvin.
Albums like Forever My Lady, Diary of a Mad Band, and The Show, the After Party, the Hotel produced classics like "Stay," "Come and Talk To Me," "Feenin" and others, which sold millions for Andre Harrell's legendary Uptown Records.
In 1996, K-Ci and JoJo formed a duo and helped deliver Tupac one of his biggest songs, “How Do U Want It.” Their vocals blaring through on the record are a perfect example of both artists’ influence on the music game — especially hip-hop.
Now, JoJo Hailey is ready for his comeback. In fact, he released his first-ever record as a solo artist titled “Special,” to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
The new single marks the beginning of a new decade, released through he and his wife’s record label JT Entertainment.
Rocking a JT chain, JoJo founded the label for his family: two daughters and his nephew — all of whom will be releasing “amazing, amazing music.”
Having been to rehab three times, JoJo is proud to stand sober today.
Pushing through music industry hardships and his own mental health, JoJo arrives in Los Angeles with a smile on his face and gratitude on his sleeve.
AllHipHop caught up with JoJo to discuss working with Tupac, sobriety, and new projects on the way.
AllHipHop: “How Do U Want It” with Tupac is a classic, bring us back to that studio session.
JoJo Hailey: The studio session for “How Do You Want It” with Tupac, K-Ci, and myself was an amazing night. We were hanging out up at Death Row Records. Rest in peace Tupac and Johnny J, the producer. We walk in, Pac was singing something “how you want it, how you feel” — and he sounded crazy. He said “can y’all just do that part for me?” I look at K-Ci and K-Ci looked at me. I said “yeah we can do it, but I ain’t gon’ do it that way!” I had to put my little creativity in there and make it swing a little bit. That was here in LA.
AllHipHop: What was Tupac like then?
JoJo Hailey: The same way he was when he passed. Loud, outspoken, and very intelligent.
AllHipHop: Any stories about Pac or Suge you have never told?
JoJo Hailey: Nah, I choose to stay out of that. Because that relationship was between them. Very few people know a lot about that. Only thing I know is that I love both of them, that’s all I can say.
AllHipHop: Talk about the early days at Uptown. What was the label like before you signed?
JoJo Hailey: The label was Uptown in Uptown New York. It was a family environment. There wasn’t any glamour to it, it was just a place that you wanted to be. That we wanted to be. Especially the way that Guy, Al B. Sure, and everybody…. it was a good feeling. A good space. A good place to be.
AllHipHop: What was it like working with a young Andre Harrell and Diddy?
JoJo Hailey: It’s an amazing story, especially when you see where he’s at today. Because he was a street rep for the company, Andre assigned him to us. We did the baggy jeans and the hats, he was a part of all that. For him to be where he’s at today: his creativity, his creative mind is in-f##king-credible. Mr. Harrell, [whistles] Andre is a visionary! He gave Puffy his vision. He opened the door for him to see everything. I just love the guy, I love the whole thing.
AllHipHop: Diddy is getting bashed for keeping artists' publishing. Did you ever have an issue with your publishing working with Uptown?
JoJo Hailey: Not with Uptown. We didn’t have any issues as far as publishing because Uptown was also distributed by MCA. So we had problems with MCA, not Uptown.
AllHipHop: How did you maneuver that?
JoJo Hailey: With prayer. [laughs] A whole lot of prayer and patience. We did by the law, by the book.
AllHipHop: Why did you want to leave Uptown for Death Row?
JoJo Hailey: That’s where everybody gets it twisted: nobody ever left Uptown. Uptown left us. Andre Harrell decided to hold and sell Uptown. He sold all the artists. We were just out there so we had to fend for ourselves.
AllHipHop: Do you regret NOT signing with Death Row?
JoJo Hailey: No, I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made. I’m happy to be here. [smiles]
AllHipHop: What happened to the deal with Baby Face's label, Soda Pop Records?
JoJo Hailey: We were never signed to Baby Face’s label.
Manager: That was more for TV when we did the show. It never really happened. It didn’t materialize. We were, but Soda Pop Records never really materialized.
AllHipHop: Are you still working with Timbaland for a new album?
JoJo Hailey: I haven’t seen Timbaland in a long while. God bless his soul, he’s doing a great job at what he’s doing. But he is a little brother of mine and I respect him. I’m proud of him.
AllHipHop: What are the biggest changes you've seen in the music biz over the past 25 years?
JoJo Hailey: Good or bad? [chuckles] The dynamic of the music has changed, I could say that’s a good thing. But the kids today have now entered that autotune and all that other type stuff. The bad part is that there’s no real music anymore. They singing and talking about nothing really. But anything else, they’re doing what they have to do to survive and God bless them.
AllHipHop: Can you and K-CI still be competitive with all the trap/hip-hop/R&B mixing together?
JoJo Hailey: To be honest with you, no. It’s a whole different genre. It’s a whole other generation. We can only be K-CI & JoJo – R&B.
AllHipHop: Are you still cool with the other members of Jodeci?
JoJo Hailey: Yes, those are my brothers.
AllHipHop: You guys were known as R&B bad boys. Tell us about your sobriety. How long has it been?
JoJo Hailey: Omg, it’s been forever. My sobriety is going to go on forever. I don’t want to put myself in a position: I’m not, I won’t, I don’t. I would never put myself in that. I live day by day and I keep God first in all my moves. It’s been forever and it’s going to be a forever. I’m in a good space right now.
AllHipHop: What did you learn going to rehab that you have kept with you to stay sober?
JoJo Hailey: The best part I got out of going to rehab 3x is really loving myself. Like damn, you’re alright. If you chill out a little bit, you could be cool. You don’t need nothing to have an edge to be cool. Because you’re good.
AllHipHop: How is your health/pancreas doing?
JoJo Hailey: Thank you Jesus, I’m healthy. I’m fine. I just thank God I’m happy everyday. One day at a time, that’s all you need.
AllHipHop: Tell us about your new projects.
JoJo Hailey: JT Entertainment, that’s my heart. It’s a business that my wife and I started. It’s an entertainment company. We’re bringing out JoJo, family and friends. I have two of my daughters and one of my nephews, which is K-Ci’s son. They’re coming out with amazing, amazing music. I wanted to do this not just for myself, but I wanted to let them have something to be a part of. Because they’re passionate about it. I just love it. It’s a project that I love and a family reunion. A family gathering.
AllHipHop: What can we expect from “Special”?
JoJo Hailey: Only expect it to be special. I want everybody to really listen to the words of the song. It’s a happy, dance, love song.