Montell Jordan: Def Jam’s R&B Ring Leader

Montell JordanBack in the mid-‘90s, Montell Jordan was a multi-platinum recording artist for Def Jam, the first R&B solo act to be signed with the label. The 6’8” singer from South Central made his debut in 1995 when he released the single, “This is How We Do It.” The record was a smash hit, a mixture of classic hip-hop and R&B.  Jordan’s crafty song was labeled as hip-hop soul because he was singing over furtive hip-hop beats.  He also sampled Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” a classic hip-hop comedy rap song which is another reason why the single topped the charts. “This is How We Do It” was certified platinum and number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks.

Toward the end of the 90s and early 2000s, Jordan released his other top-most singles including “Somethin’ 4 Da Honeyz,”  “Let’s Ride” featuring Master P and Silkk the Shocker, “Fallen,” “Get It On Tonite,”  and “I Like” featuring Slick Rick. Jordan mentioned in many interviews he was honored and privileged to work with the hip-hop legend because he had transcended so many barriers in the musical genre.  When Rick was featured on the song in 1996, it was a great comeback for him after being released from prison.  Jordan’s ballad, “Fallen,” was also an instant hit from his second album, More. Even though it was a slow tempo ballad, Jordan still managed to incorporate hip-hop on the record by sampling MC Eiht’s song, “Streiht Up Menace,” and adding Flesh-N-Bone from Bones Thugs-N-Harmony on the remix.

During his time at Def Jam, Jordan was credited as a songwriter, writing songs for Deborah Cox, Sisqo, Lil’ Mo, 98 Degrees, Shae Jones, and Christina Milian. He wrote Sisqo and Cox’s chart-topping hits, “Incomplete,” and “Nobody Supposed to be Here,” respectively.  He added songwriting to his list as a way to the let the label know he wanted to be respected as more than just an artist who could make up-tempo contemporary R&B records.  Even though Jordan was a money-maker for Def Jam, he was transitioning as an artist and man after admitting to his faults and failures to his wife when he was on the road.  He was tired of being the entertainer who was viewed as a sexual muse, especially for women. Based on his interview on TV One’s Unsung, his career was at a crossroads because he was maturing musically.  Unfortunately, Def Jam wasn’t receptive to his important transition because Jordan was Def Jam’s meal ticket on the R&B side, and they still wanted him to be that R&B sex symbol.

Jordan didn’t accept or agree with Def Jam’s vision and he parted ways with the label in 2003.  After releasing two albums on an independent label and overcoming financial hardships, Jordan ended his relationship with the music industry for good and became a minister at Victory World Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Even though Jordan is no longer active in mainstream R&B, he opened the doors for singers to have successful career at Def Jam including Dru Hill, Kelly Price, Case, and Rihanna. We continue to recognize his contributions to Def Jam 20 years later, and Jordan will always be remembered for his club bangers and timeless ballads.

—Dominique M. Carson

Dominique M. Carson is a freelance music writer, critic, and a proud Brooklyn College graduate. Dominique’s work has been featured in Singersroom.com, Education Update, Bay Currents, Birthplace Magazine, Rappersoom.com, Brooklyn College’s media outlets, Pure Soul Magazine, www.thecelebritycafe.com, and www.NYCityWatch.orgShe was an honorable recipient for Blackstreetonline.com’s Black Celebration Awards’ News & Journalism category. For more information on Dominique, visit her homepageTwitter page, LinkedIn page, and Facebook fan page.

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