Jodeci will forever go down in history as one of the most iconic R&B groups to ever do it. Insert Mr. Dalvin, who was low key the eye candy of the group, alongside producer DeVanté Swing and singers K-Ci and JoJo. After releasing their debut album Forever My Lady, the rest was history. From “Cry For You” to “Come and Talk To Me” to “Freek’n You,” their endless catalog of hits will forever bring us back to that timeless era: 90’s R&B.
Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, Davlin wrote, produced, arranged vocals, and even styled as far as fashion. He states, everybody brings to the table what they bring to the table. Everybody plays their role.”
Fast forward to 2020, it seems the group is still on great terms. While we’re all stuck quarantined inside our homes, Mr. Dalvin can’t wait to get back on stage and perform. Most recently, he hopped on the remix to JoJo Hailey’s “Special” remix, and reveals he’s actually been working on a ton of new music.
AllHipHop caught up with Mr. Dalvin who was posted at his crib in Las Vegas, for his first Instagram Live ever!
During the conversation, we discussed how Raekwon and Ghostface landed on the “Freek’n You” remix, what he’s currently working on, the recent VERZUZ battles, and even took questions from the fans.
AllHipHop: First off, happy birthday! How’d you celebrate?
Mr. Dalvin: I was in the studio all afternoon. I didn’t do anything, nothing. I find joy in performing and being in the studio, that’s where all my joy is. I had a good time, I came up with some stuff. That’s a good birthday gift in and of itself. I don’t look for actual tangible gifts anymore, as long as I can still create, be healthy, and do things I like to do.
AllHipHop: What’s a day in the life of Mr Dalvin now?
AllHipHop: Have you been working with any of these new cats?
Mr. Dalvin: I have a studio at my house. I got a guy named Goods out of New York, he’s a battle rapper but he’s one of the dopest MCs. I did a single with him. He’ll send me a verse, I send him a beat, since we can’t really travel and work together. I’m working with a lot of unknowns, people I want to give a chance to who are really talented. What Jodeci was known for is finding talent and discovering great artists. Artists like Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Stevie J, Ginuwine, Flo Rida, the list goes on and on.
Now I see young cats, the younger generation wants to understand and redo the 90’s. You see everything’s coming full circle. Somebody gave us a chance, I try to give them a chance to shine. They come in, give me new energy. Give me a new outlook. I’m very open with artists because artistry is very important. I give them a chance to express themselves. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. I want to get through to you, we come together and we make good records.
AllHipHop: Have you been in contact with Missy or Timbaland?
Mr. Dalvin: By way of liking posts on each other’s Instagram. As for physical conversations, I saw Missy at the Soul Train Awards. We’re on different coasts, we don’t really bump into each other that much. But it’s all love.
Mr. Dalvin: The thing is, I used to do all types of remixes coming up. I started with the “Freek’n You” remix of Wu-Tang Clan with Raekwon and Ghostface. After that, it became a tradition. A custom to have me remix it. When he put out the single, c’mon JoJo, you know what it is.” We went back in the lab, came up with that.
AllHipHop: You guys were in the lab together?
Mr. Dalvin: He sent me the actual record, the files, and I stripped it down. He came out to Vegas, so to have his energy around made it a lot easier. I’d already finished it but I’m feeling it out, seeing what I’d want to tweak. He liked it the way it was. I changed the whole thing, I said “give me the acapella, let me do what I’ma do with it.” Add vocals, take vocals out, etc.
AllHipHop: How has your guys’ relationship evolved since the Jodeci days?
Mr. Dalvin: It’s great, we’re still cool. We still have a lot of fun, we still laugh like teenagers. It’s the same, nothing’s changed. Got a little wiser, but we still hang out.
AllHipHop: How did Raekwon & Ghostface end up on the “Freek’n You” remix?
Mr. Dalvin: That’s a funny story. We released the original version of “Freek’n You” first, it was different. People weren’t ready for that Jodeci sound, going from ballads and love to “Freek’n You.” We almost jumped over. It was a time hip-hop was transitioning to becoming mainstream more than R&B. Jodeci being a hip-hop soul group, I had to marry the 2. Wu-Tang’s one of my favorite rap groups. I wanted Method Man originally, to be honest. Method Man was first coming out of the Wu-Tang camp, the only one everyone was familiar with.
So I call RZA, the captain of the ship. “RZA, can I get Method Man to do this R&B, Jodeci remix?” Method Man was in Tokyo. RZA said “I got these 2 new guys coming out next in line, Raekwon and Ghostface. They’re not known yet but they’re next, trust me.” I said okay. Anybody from Wu Tang because I like Wu-Tang. Sent them guys to the studio, they’ve never been on an R&B record. I came up with the beat, they got on it and it was history. We had fun, it was an experience for them and for me.
AllHipHop: What was it like working with Wu-Tang in the studio?
Mr. Dalvin: It was cool. The funny thing about them is they didn’t know what to expect from me, and I didn’t know what to expect from them. They came with 40 dudes with machetes, these masks on to the studio. I didn’t know what was going to happen.
AllHipHop: Fondest memories from the “Forever My Lady” days?
Mr. Dalvin: DeVante wrote a lot of those songs, we’re 15 years old making songs for our girlfriends to play locally around town. We figured “hey, let’s give it a shot.” We knew we had something special, but didn’t know what it was. We took a trip to New York, history was made the next day.
AllHipHop: Will we see a Jodeci biopic?
Mr. Dalvin: The million dollar question. The story’s gonna be told, leave it at that. It’s gonna be told very well. An exact date remains to be seen. Good things come to those that wait.
AllHipHop: How was it working on the set of “Strictly Business?”
Mr. Dalvin: That was cool, Halle Berry’s first movie. We got to meet Halle Berry, the first time we got to spend 9, 10 hours to record a 3-minute segment of a movie. It’s over, then you do it again. You watch the movie and think you’ll be in the movie for 9 hours — 36 seconds. [laughs] You on set all day to film the part that you’re in for 62 seconds. It was Tommy Davis’ first movie. A lot of people that went on to be successful, that’s their first shot at it.
AllHipHop: Someone said you’re a fire interior designer, is that true?
Mr. Dalvin: I mean, I guess. To be honest, I try to dibble dabble in a bit of everything. I’m a Leo, all Leo’s think and know we can do anything. I’m a jack of all trades. Master of not all, but master of a lot. You can throw interior decorating under that hat too.
AllHipHop: You don’t smoke weed, why’s that?
Mr. Dalvin: Never have. Never been a reason for me to try it. I’ve probably got contact because everyone around me smokes so much. I’ve been around Death Row. Everybody smokes there, I’m pretty sure I’ve been high and didn’t even know it. I never actually tried it.
AllHipHop: What are your fondest memories from the Death Row days?
Mr. Dalvin: Being around artists like Snoop, Dr. Dre, we all learned from each other. Pac was a ball of energy everytime we’re around him. Even learning from Suge, it was cool. People might paint him as being this monster but he’s really knowledgeable of a lot of things outside of music, and life. He guided you and gave you seeds of wisdom that were really useful.
AllHipHop: What’s the biggest gem he laid on you?
Mr. Dalvin: How to navigate through the industry, how to understand what we’re worth. He came in and renegotiated a lot of our deals. We sold millions of records, living like we’re regular artists. Everybody thinks it’s through physical violence, but it wasn’t. He sat us down and showed us how numbers make sense, when it comes to publishing, this and that. A lot of different things.
AllHipHop: Someone asked how you got to work with Mary J. Blige on “No One Else”?
Mr. Dalvin: We’re both at Uptown Records. She’s dating K-Ci at the time, they wanted to do an uptempo together. K-Ci asked me “hey D, I want some old school…” We burst out an Al Green sample, gave them old school flavor. We all sat in the studio and wrote it together, me, him and Mary. We’re always on tour together: Jodeci, Mary J Blige, Uptown families starting off. Everything we did in-house.
AllHipHop: What do you miss most about tour?
Mr. Dalvin: Being on stage is the ultimate high for me. That’s my weed right there. Put me on stage and there’s no stopping me. I could live on stage, that’s what I miss. The fact that nobody can do shows, I know a lot of artists are really going through withdrawals not being on stage.
AllHipHop: How are you holding up during quarantine, have you picked up any new hobbies or interests?
Mr. Dalvin: I’m focused on all these musical programs that take a lot of time to learn, because I’m used to recording on tape machines and the soundboard. Now it’s laptops and digital. I’m re-programming the way that I process recording my whole life, forgetting everything you learn and learning over. That’s taking all my time. The first day they said we couldn’t come out for 2 weeks, I bought a program a couple of my producers use. I said “I’ma teach myself this.” Being on YouTube and reading instructions, erasing a lot of stuff because I didn’t know how to save it, going through all the trial and error, it’s tedious work. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty fun. I play a lot of video games so if I can master this video game, I can master this. This is my life.
AllHipHop: Have you been tapped into the VERZUZ battles?
Mr. Dalvin: I have, it’s entertaining. It’s fun to watch. I don’t know if it would be fun to be a part of.
AllHipHop: What’s been your favorite one so far?
Mr. Dalvin: I liked Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin. That’s a good one. I watched a little bit of the Snoop and DMX, that was funny. I watched all of them. I watched the T-Pain and Lil Jon, that was funny. It makes you realize how many hits these people really have, because you forget. That’s the good thing because it brings everybody back to a period in their life when that was their song.
AllHipHop: What’s Dalvin’s favorite Jodeci song?
Mr. Dalvin: Believe it or not, it’s a 2-part question. I like “Cry For You,” I don’t know why because I don’t cry at all. I don’t find it necessary, but that’s another conversation. That’s my favorite Jodeci song to listen to, but my favorite song to perform is “Freek’n You.”
AllHipHop: Are we getting a Jodeci album?
Mr. Dalvin: That’s a good question. You never know what’s coming from Jodeci. Every time we sit down and talk, we’re always cooking up something. It’s important that everybody has the chance to express themselves individually, that creates a longevity for any group. Look at every successful group, everybody’s getting the chance to express themself individually. A group is all a melting pot, everybody puts in. People should understand the individuals as well as the collective. Jodeci is 4 people, we can’t be Jodeci individually. Sometimes people get confused, they want individuals to sound like Jodeci. I don’t care if it’s Devante, K-Ci, JoJo, or myself, you’re not getting Jodeci from one individual. People look at bands like “you don’t sound like this.” I’m not supposed to, that’s not me. I’m only a part of what you think that is. We make magic together as Jodeci but individually, we create our own magic in our own lane. If JoJo’s doing a solo project, K-Ci, Devante, or myself, people tend to expect that to be a Jodeci project. When we come together and put all the ingredients back in the gumbo, then you got Jodeci.
AllHipHop: Grouchy Greg from AllHipHop asked if you have any epic Tupac, Suge or Biggie stories.
Mr. Dalvin: I got a lot of Tupac stories. He’s a good guy, a great guy. He was a lot of fun, unpredictable and fun. I have one good story about “How Do U Want It.” I was at the Bellagio Hotel in West Hollywood on Sunset and Tupac brought me a cassette tape. He came to my room and said “I got a song, I want you guys to be on the song.” He put the tape in, he’s singing the hook actually. He said “I don’t like my voice on the hook,” it’s real dark and real low. I said it’s dope, he’s like nah. We went to the studio, he said “let’s take my voice off of it.” But I built the harmony around the note he was singing. He’s actually still on the song, I never took him out. He thought I took him out, but his voice is the low note. He’s singing the bottom note of “How Do U Want It,” with K-Ci and JoJo.
AllHipHop: Okay, now you gotta tell one about Biggie.
Mr. Dalvin: I knew Biggie before he got signed, before he became Big. The pre-Biggie. He was a good guy, kind of shy. You watch him come out like a caterpillar to a butterfly. He was always amazing lyrically, he’s always speaking knowledge. Back then, you didn’t know because it’s all based on image. He wasn’t the best looking guy which he said himself, but he’s always lyrically way ahead of his time. Me being able to pick an artist, he’s something special. Didn’t know what lane he’s going to be in, like Missy. Missy wasn’t the light-skinned girl with the typical look for R&B, she’s something special. That meant more than what it was physically or appearance-wise. Puffy saw the same thing.
AllHipHop: How did you know Big originally?
Mr. Dalvin: Puffy brought him around. He brought him around. He did the “Party and Bulls##t” record, we’re on that soundtrack too.
AllHipHop: Is there someone you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
Mr. Dalvin: I like DaBaby because he’s from North Carolina, he’s dope. I like Drake. A lot of my heroes have passed away. I got to have really personal conversations and friendships with a lot before they passed. Being a kid, I wanted to meet Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston. I got to spend time with them, my brother had worked with them. Devante got to work with Michael Jackson, I got to sit in the studio and experience that. Tell jokes with Michael Jackson, that was pretty cool.
AllHipHop: Did you learn anything from that studio session?
Mr. Dalvin: Devante did this one song. Tempo’s the BPMs” how fast a song is, how slow a song is. He came, the tempo was 140. Back then, the tempo’s based around 120. The producer’s landmark is 120, you go down or up from 120. Michael Jackson liked his songs fast. He’s a dancer so Devante started the BPMs at 140, which is not that much of a difference to the naked ear. In the club you don’t know the difference, you’re dancing and having a good time. He starts the song at 140, Mike had left. The next day I got there, Devante’s playing the song and speeds it up to 147 which is microscopic. It’s 7 BPMs. Mike doesn’t know he speeded the song up. I say “play it again,” I couldn’t even tell. Mike came in and played the song, the first thing he said to Devante is “you speeded this song up didn’t you?” Devante said I told you. He’s on top of it. You’d never tell. When it’s 20, 25, it feels different. But 7 BPMs? He knew.
AllHipHop: Who are you bumping nowadays?
Mr. Dalvin: Myself. I’m working on an album, so I have to constantly listen to myself. I try not to be influenced by what’s trending. I like to make music for myself, music I believe in and not something possibly played on the radio. I like a lot of artists. If I’m driving and something catches my ear, I’ll listen. Other than that, I constantly play myself to know where I’m going. Not losing my focus and mark on whatever I make. Sometimes I get confused: “ah man, sounds like the same song.