Whenever people reflect on 90s R&B, two names always enter the conversation. Boyz II Men and Jodeci were the two biggest male quartets in the game for the better part of a decade. The styles of singing and dress were contrasting, but the end result was the same. Jodeci and Boyz II Men each found immense success because of their steamy slow jams, party starting up tempos, and individual styles. Music fans had never seen anything like it. Two groups making the same type of material, except from adverse points of views.
Boyz II Men were fashioned as the guys any girl could bring home to mom. They were polite and accessorized anything with a smile. Bow ties, cardigan sweaters, and slacks were their uniform. Individual flair came into play with Shawn rocking a high top fade, Michael looking suave with his cane, Nathan had thick glasses, and Wanya’s ears were adorned with diamonds. Parents appreciated their daughters pining after guys like these. Their image was what a good boy was supposed to be. The only problem with Boyz II Men’s look was there were plenty of females who weren’t attracted to the cookie cutter good guys. They wanted something a bit more street.
Everything about Jodeci said antithesis of Boyz II Men. Whereas the guys from Philly were classically trained vocalists, Jodeci’s vocal stylings were fried in country soul. The texture of their vocals were rougher in comparison and appealed more to the people of the street. Diddy’s vision for the group was to make them edgy. So instead of suits and ties, they wore combat boots and snap back caps. Parents were a little concerned just by looking at them. Those concerns intensified once they heard the opening line to “Forever My Lady.” With lyrics talking about having babies out of wedlock, the older generation wasn’t ready for all of that.
Boyz II Men has sold over 60 million records worldwide. They won four Grammys in 1992 and hold three spots on the list for longest number one streak on Billboard’s Hot 100. “End of the Road” was number one for thirteen weeks. In 1994, “I’ll Make Love To You” spent fourteen weeks atop the pop charts. “One Sweet Day,” a duet with Mariah Carey outlasted both of those records by staying number one for sixteen weeks, which is still the record for longest number one streak.
While Boyz II Men dominated the pop charts, Jodeci were lords over the R&B charts. Their debut album, Forever My Lady, contained three number one R&B hits. Arion Berger of Entertainment Weekly gave the project a positive review, calling the album “sophisticated beyond the band members’ years” and continued that “if they can keep up the momentum of this commercially successful debut, Jodeci will be a force to be reckoned with.” Jodeci have won several Soul Train Awards as well as BillBoard Awards. They were nominated for a host of others, but went home empty handed.
So who was the best male R&B group of that decade? Was it the clean and crisp Boyz II Men or the rough and tumble Jodeci? We can debate all day as to why they both deserve the title, but now it’s time to settle the dispute once and for all.
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