You know the voice. It’s the sensuous, hot-buttered tenor oozing through such hits as “Put That Woman First,” “Finding My Way Back” and “Fabulous.” It’s also the sizzling, seductive charmer pushing temptation on such additional fan faves as “Anything,” “Ain’t Leavin’ Without You” and “Age Ain’t a Factor.”
Now that singular voice is back as Jaheim heats up the airwaves once again–this time with the aching ballad “Back in My Arms.” The track doubles as the lead single from the three-time Grammy Award nominee’s new album, Struggle Love. Jaheim’s seventh studio album, due this fall, is also the first under the recently minted association between the singer/songwriter’s Julie’s Dream Music Group and Primary Wave BMG Label Services.
“It’s a serious, serious ballad; one of those songs where you don’t want to give up on love,” says Jaheim of his latest single. “Because there’s still fire at the end of the tunnel.”
The same can be said of Jaheim. As Struggle Love proves, he’s lost none of the spark that first stoked attention in 2001 with debut album Ghetto Love. Written and produced by Jaheim, Struggle Love embraces all of life’s ups and downs from falling in and out of love to just plain surviving. “We are all going through a struggle right now,” the singer explains. “Losing jobs, respect, love … It’s time to pull it all together.”
The album’s conceptual theme is revealed in the title track, which the singer describes as “up-tempo with a Jaheim feel. It’s about looking back at where you came from and telling yourself you wouldn’t mind going back there for a minute.”
Then there’s the spiritual mid-tempo “Speak Up,” that touches on domestic violence and constitutional rights. A simple yet powerful read on being able to speak your mind, one key verse succinctly points out, “a closed mouth will never get fed.” Born and raised in the hard-knock projects of New Brunswick, New Jersey, Jaheim Hoagland began singing his mind at five years old. He came by his vocal talent naturally: Jaheim’s grandfather was Victor Hoagland, a member of legendary ‘60s group the Drifters.
“I’d be singing Luther Vandross songs at the top of my lungs on the way to school daycare,” recalls the artist. “His voice was the one thing that made me sit still and say, ‘Ahh, that feels good.’”
Before reaching 17, however, Jaheim was buffeted by two major, life-altering events. His father died following a biking accident when the fledgling singer was just two years old. Then his mother–a huge fan of Whitney Houston, another Jaheim influence–lost her battle with cancer when he was 16. By then he was competing in high school and local talent shows (including three wins at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater) while also discovering a penchant for juvenile delinquency. “Trouble always seemed to find me,” Jaheim remembers.
Singing the Sam Cooke classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” at his mother’s funeral service became a prophetic moment for Jaheim. “After doing her service,” he reflects, “I realized I could perform in front of anybody.” The Apollo gigs evolved into performances at Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson’s popular Sugar Bar as well as other New York City venues. Four years after his mother’s death, a tape of Jaheim’s work made it into the hands of Naughty By Nature DJ Kay Gee. He signed the newcomer to his Warner Bros.-distributed label Divine Mill Records in 2000.
The platinum selling debut album Ghetto Love arrived a year later, followed in 2002 by Still Ghetto, his second platinum album. The sophomore set also yielded the platinum single “Put That Woman First” as well as the top 40 tracks “Fabulous” and “Anything.” Third project Ghetto Classics in 2006 gave Jaheim his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Rounding out his subsequent catalog are three more albums: The Makings of a Man (2007), Another Round (2010, featuring “Ain’t Leavin’ Without You”) and Appreciation Day (2014). The latter notched No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on both Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and R&B Albums, thanks to the single “Age Ain’t a Factor.”
Drawing early comparisons to such crooning idols as Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass (“We later became good friends”), Jaheim was nominated for three Grammys in 2011: best R&B album, best male R&B performance and best R&B song. That same year, his standout vocals graced Ledisi’s top 25 R&B hit “Stay Together.”
In 2002, Jaheim launched Julie’s Dream Music. Named after his mother, the label was reinstated in 2014 with a growing roster that includes Chicago rapper Nixta and Brooklyn rapper Anthony Foust. It’s all part and parcel of Jaheim’s ongoing love affair with music.
“I’m still learning about me,” says Jaheim, who now calls Hillsborough, NJ home. “But there’s one thing I do know. Just hearing a beat, hearing all the different instruments still excites me. For me, singing is expressing your love for the creative … a message that only people’s spirits and souls can relate to.”