ESSENCE: Welcome Jaheim!
JAHEIM: What’s up, y’all? How you all doing?
ESSENCE: Fine, great.
ESSENCE: So, what’s your new video for your next single, “I Choose You,” going to be like?
JAHEIM: I don’t know yet. We’re actually shooting the video this week. I’m excited, and I can’t wait to put it out there.
ESSENCE: Can you share the concept with us?
JAHEIM: Basically I want to choose somebody special. Maybe we could choose somebody in here.
ESSENCE: How much writing and producing did you contribute to this album?
JAHEIM: I have a team of producers and writers. There are guys that go out and put the tracks together. Then we take the tracks and sample them, and we have the band come in and play it over.
ESSENCE: How many takes did you have to do?
JAHEIM: Sometimes it takes, maybe three or four hours to get it perfect, and you’ve got to do different takes.
ESSENCE: What’s the biggest difference between Ghetto Love, your first album and this, your third album, Ghetto Classics?
JAHEIM: Ghetto Love was louder, you know, in the ghetto. I felt like Ghetto Love was slept on, so we came out with Still Ghetto. I still felt like we were being slept on, so now I’m coming out with Ghetto Classic. So now, when people go into the record store, saying “Ghetto,” they have three different albums to choose from. They might not know that or they might just be new fans. Some might buy all three of them. Some might buy one and come back next week to get the others.
ESSENCE: Now that you’ve done the third album and you’ve been out for a while, do you feel like you’re still in control of your music? A lot of artists say that by their second album the record company gets too involved. Do you feel like you’re still in control of your music?
JAHEIM: You really aren’t in control of your music unless you control your masters. So, I don’t think it’s about control. It’s about keeping your fans satisfied.
ESSENCE: Is there one particular song that just reflects the full Jaheim experience?
JAHEIM: All of them. All three albums. The songs that define me are “Ghetto Love,” “Happiness,” and “Looking for Love” from my first album.
ESSENCE: Have people come up to you and said, “Oh, I made my baby to your songs?”
JAHEIM: Yeah. In a lot of different countries, many people have named their kids after me. It’s crazy.
ESSENCE: Oh, wow!
JAHEIM: It’s a lot of love.
ESSENCE: You said you feel like you’re still being slept on a little bit. What would it take for you to feel like, “I made it, this is it, I’m at the pinnacle?” Is it winning a Grammy or reaching platinum-status?
JAHEIM: I’m not searching for a Grammy. I’m just going to work hard and let it rain down. I want more. But I’ve got to work harder in other areas now, so when opportunities come to the table, I can show everybody that I’m not just the man behind the music. This is what I want to do. And I want everybody to take me seriously. It’s not like I’m trying to be a big shot, but, somebody’s got to do it, and I want to carry this torch right.
ESSENCE: So, what are your other goals, after this?
JAHEIM: I don’t want to just be a singer I want to be a great singer. I want to be known for giving something to the game. You’ve got your young crooners out here and they all sound the same. I think I have something different. That’s not to take away from what they’re doing. I listen, but I try to stay away from the radio, because if you get trapped into it, you start feeling everybody else’s melodies, and then your songs will all sound the same. So I stay away. I have my own writers and I’m really digging the old school.
ESSENCE: So, you stay away from the radio, but who are your influences?
JAHEIM: My grandfather was my first musical impression. He would sing and I’d repeat after him, like a parrot. I loved that and I wanted to do it for him. I get a lot of inspiration from Luther Vandross when I sing. I’m from the church and it supported me. But I’m also from the ghetto, from the hood.
ESSENCE: Have you ever recorded a gospel song? Do you think you would?
JAHEIM: I would do it and I think I’d do it well.
ESSENCE: We heard that you won the Apollo when you were 15. How was that?
JAHEIM: I don’t remember I was young. It was amazing. I was afraid, but the people just took to it. But I was young and I really wanted it.
ESSENCE: What did you sing?
JAHEIM: “A House is Not a Home.”
ESSENCE: I saw you perform it at the ESSENCE Music Festival. Did you ever get a chance to meet Luther?
JAHEIM: I met Luther twice. Once at the SRO Studios and another time at BET.
ESSENCE: How was it? Can you tell us what it was like?
JAHEIM: It was amazing, because this was a guy I looked up to. I was in the men’s room. My friend came in and said, “Luther’s downstairs.” I said, “What?” So, I finished doing my thing and went out to meet him. I said, “Luther!” He wasn’t really trying to hear it. At his status, I could respect that. But, a lady said, “That’s Jaheim!” Luther said, “Jaheim? From ‘Anything’? Sit right here.” I was like, “Whoa.” It made me feel good, because this is a guy I had watched from day one. I used to listen to him on the Walkman, everywhere. Only Luther. I had to grow out of that into Jaheim. But it’s good to pay tribute to people, especially the great ones. I love Sam Cooke, too. He’s my number two, my second favorite.
ESSENCE: What’s your favorite Sam Cooke song?
JAHEIM: All of them. I just love them all. Sam Cooke, Luther, Marvin Gaye, David Ruffin and The Temptations.
ESSENCE: People always compare you to Teddy Pendergrass. What was that like meeting him?
ESSENCE: Have you had any other star struck moments where you’ve met people that you’ve really revered?
JAHEIM: No. I’ve stayed real grounded.
ESSENCE: You mentioned going overseas, and people naming their children after you. When you’re abroad, what’s the perception? Obviously it was positive, but were you really surprised?
JAHEIM: Honestly, the perception of my albums overseas is the most beautifullest thing of anyone could ever imagine. The doors were just open. They treated me like I was a god. It’s a whole other world over there.
ESSENCE: What countries in particular?
JAHEIM: In Holland and Amsterdam they give it up. They show so much love. They sold my concert out in, like three, four hours. It’s crazy, but there’s a lot of love. It’s scary, though, when you’ve got people just running up to you and you don’t know them. It’s like another world out there.
ESSENCE: Is it true that you’ve been bitten by the acting bug. And if so, what type of movies are you interested in?
JAHEIM: I want to get into the acting thing, and I think I have a natural talent for it. I think I’ve got it. I’m youthful. It’s about getting the right connection, and connecting with the right people. I’ve been trying to go for a while. It’s like with singing, it’s not easy to put albums together. If it were up to me, I would have 20 albums. I have my own studio, now, so we’ll see.
JAHEIM: How does everybody here feel about the album?
ESSENCE: It’s good. It’s really good. How long did it take you to do the album?
JAHEIM: The album took about two years. We did 30 songs, but mixing and mastering, and just getting the right production, and playing things over take time. I don’t know where it really went wrong at the beginning, but you know all I do is make records.
ESSENCE: Have you ever encountered a situation where you’re in love with a song, and you play it for your executives, and they’re like, “Nah, it’s not good enough.”
JAHEIM: Everything we do, they like. It just boils down to picking the right record. And it’s hard to pick singles, too.
ESSENCE: When you relax do you listen to your own music?
JAHEIM: Sometimes I listen to the radio and I hear my songs being played. Then sometimes, I flip back to the CD. I really love the CD. I’m not just saying it because it’s me; I’m supposed to like it. It’s something that I enjoy.
ESSENCE: That’s great. I like hearing that from you. How did you get your start in the music industry? Were you discovered by someone? What was your journey into it?
JAHEIM: I got up one day, and I went into the studio with these young cats. I was a Luther fan, so I did “Never Too Much” to a street club beat. Everybody liked it. That pushed me to go out and stop doing the wrong thing. I was doing everything but the right thing. So, it was a start for me to get out of trouble with the law. I found myself going back and forth for five or six years before I finally got a deal, and then boom I was all over the world.
ESSENCE: What’s it like going back home to Jersey? Are you still just regular Jaheim, or are you, like, Jaheim, the star?
JAHEIM: I don’t know yet. I don’t get caught up into that. I’m really shy. But after a couple of minutes, I feel like I know everybody. I’m a homeboy.
ESSENCE: How did you know you wanted to start singing?
JAHEIM: My mother sang. My brother sang. My grandfather. My uncles all sang.
ESSENCE: Does your brother sing on any of your records?
JAHEIM: No, he’s actually putting his own thing together, because it’s never too late for anybody to do whatever they want to do. If you’ve got a gift, it’s a gift.
ESSENCE: Now, I have to ask, how many tattoos do you have?
JAHEIM: I stopped counting.
ESSENCE: I met with Jermaine Dupri once, and he said that with a lot of artists today, you’ll only get two or three albums. That’s pretty much their career. But I definitely see you having a very long career. Congratulations!