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Jodeci: A Balancing Act Between Sex and the Gospel Truth

Ask any young female R&B; fan about Jodeci and you’ll probably get a swoon-filled discourse on the sex appeal of the four young singers whose debut album, “Forever My Lady,” was one of last year’s surprise hits. To date, it’s sold 1.5 million.

But here’s something that probably won’t thrill most of those fans. That roguish sexiness is largely a veneer. These guys are more like choir boys than playboys.

“We’re all deeply religious, not like we come across to some of the fans,” said Dalvin DeGrante, 20, whose older brother, DeVante, is also in the group, along with another set of brothers, JoJo (Joel) and K-Ci (Cedric) Hailey.

As this group knows well, religion and romantic tunes don’t mix. “When we sing we have to have a seductive attitude,” Dalvin said. “You have to create this sort of lustful atmosphere. For the most part you’re singing to women and you try to excite them and make yourself very appealing to them.”

For Jodeci, though, that’s like false advertising. “We like girls but we’re not going to go out chasing them like wild men and acting like young studs in heat,” DeGrante said. “That’s not how we were raised.”

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The four singers had a strict religious upbringing in Charlotte, N.C., including extensive gospel music training. But in their teens they were so smitten by R&B; that they moved to the New York area 2 1/2 years ago, dreaming of a record deal.

Their prayers were quickly answered. Jodeci (an amalgam of bits of their names) signed with Uptown/MCA, which was impressed by their sleek, gospel/R&B; vocals and the writing and producing potential of DeVante, 21, who masterminds the music.

For Jodeci, though, success hasn’t been quite as sweet as it might be. “We’re walking a tightrope between two worlds--R&B; music and religion,” DeGrante said rather gloomily. “It’s not easy to do.”

The devoutly religious parents of both sets of brothers still don’t like the idea that their sons are now prominent figures in that hotbed of sin known as the record industry.

“My mother and father won’t even listen to our album,” DeGrante lamented. “The other guys’ mother is the same way, but their father thinks a bit more progressive about it. My mom did hear a little of ‘Forever My Lady.’ I played a little of it for her but she said she couldn’t listen. I even tried to sing it to her and that wouldn’t work either.”

He has mixed feelings about the parents’ attitude. “I understand how the parents think and I respect them for sticking to their views,” he said. “But deep down it hurts a little that they’re not into what we do. It takes some of the fun out of our success.”


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