Published Mar 31, 2015A legacy is a damn hard thing to live up to. As one of the most influential R&B groups in the '90s, the men of Jodeci (Mr. Dalvin, DeVante, K-Ci and Jo-Jo) brought it, turning traditional genre thinking on its ass and melding gospel-honed harmonies with the sexually charged swagger of New Jack Swing. The band, known as "The Bad Boys of R&B," not so much broke up as fizzled out, as they destructively tried and failed to live up to their public persona. Still, the band's influence lives on — elements of their sound can be found in much of today's mainstream R&B music.
That said, new album The Past, The Present, The Future doesn't move the needle, doesn't really add the requisite gloss to the group's discography and, therefore, doesn't really need to exist. Vocally, the guys are still hanging in, the production is pleasant enough and yes, it's a cool thing to see the group chemistry and trademark synchronizations are still intact, but it's not enough. Opening track "Too Hot" banks on late '90s genre nostalgia (i.e. dancehall-soul-rap fusion) and feels primed for a "Summer of 2015" mixtape, and the album takes a downward turn. Subtlety was never a strong point for the group, and song titles like "Body Parts" and lyrics like "You are my stress reliever / My sex receiver" — on a song appropriately called "Stress Reliever" —ultimately pull up lame.
There are bright spots: B.o.B. lends a hand on the groove-worthy "Nobody Wins"; Mila J appears on "Body Parts," a track that manages to successfully mix an old school vibe with new school awareness; Quiet Storm jam "Incredible" is good enough that one can forgive them jacking the melody from S.O.S. Band's "Tell Me If You Still Care." But for a much-beloved group that set the template for the urban raunch that many of today's mainstream R&B artists now follow, this comeback album is a mild curiosity, nothing more. (Sony)