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Jagged Edge talks 'Hope,' 'J.E. Heartbreak Too,' and reuniting with So So Def

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The men of multi-platinum R&B group Jagged Edge have been performing together for nearly 20 years, and are currently doing shows nationwide in support of their new single “Hope.” The sexy track is the first release since their 2011 album, The Remedy, and since rejoining Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def Records in 2013.

Original members Brian and Brandon Casey, Kyle Norman, and Richard Wingo will release a new album this fall—J.E. Heartbreak Too—a sequel to their chart-topping 2000 release, J.E. Heartbreak. Although their debut album, A Jagged Era, reached #11 on the Billboard R&B charts, it was J.E. Heartbreak that propelled the group to superstardom. “Let’s Get Married,” “Promise,” “He Can’t Love You,” and other songs from that album are flawless examples of R&B music at its best.

Jagged Edge hopes to rekindle some of that magic on J.E. Heartbreak Too, and spoke exclusively to Examiner.com about their chemistry with Dupri, the secrets to their longevity, and being more than a "throwback."

EXAMINER.COM: How have you guys managed to stay together (keeping the original members) with label changes and nearly two decades in the industry?

JAGGED EDGE: This relationship is no different from any other relationship that you may have. I think the key to it is respecting each other’s space, respecting each other’s opinion and, number one, you got to have some type of love for each other. I think all of those things are why we’ve been able to stick together.

You reunited with So So Def last year – what keeps drawing you guys back to the label?

Number one, we have great chemistry with Jermaine. When we look back on our career, the time that we were most poignant, most powerful in the industry, was when we had our first team together. Like they say, ‘If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it.’

There’s certain things that happen that are out of your control. The whole separation between us and So So Def was really So So Def’s separation from Columbia [Records]. It was always out of our control, and it was never a relationship that any of us sought to break up. So I guess that’s why we always ended up finding our way back to each other.

What’s the status of [your label] 581 Muzik Groupe? I also see a new imprint, Hard Case Records.

We still have the 581 imprint, but we switched it up – we’re starting something different more in partnership with Jermaine. This is not an “artist deal,” this is a partnership between us and Jermaine, an then between So So Def and BMG.

Are those imprints primarily for financial control of your own music or to sign artists?

For us it was always about bringing on artists. Sometimes young artists don’t realize that this is a waiting game when it comes to getting started. Any artist [we] ever had, when they were ready to leave, [we] let them leave. Even though [we] might have had paperwork, whatever, whatever. Sometimes, as a company, that’s a setback. But as [men, we] sleep good at night. At the end of the day, it’s always about putting out artists. We don’t want an imprint just for name’s sake only.

On your last project, you had a single with Rick Ross (“Lipstick”). Will you collaborating with other hip-hop artists on J.E. Heartbreak Too, or are you strictly taking it back to the great R&B of the ‘90s and early 2000s?

Not even ‘take it back,’ because we’re not going in the studio like, ‘Let’s make songs like we used to make.’ But we are going in the studio and saying, ‘Let’s give people what they love.’ It’s not really about taking them back, but you do want to give them things, just like before, that evoked emotion – that may have had [them thinking] a little bit, that may have had [them diving] into some emotional things that they might not have known how to tackle, but then you heard it framed in a song and it’s like, ‘Oh wow.’

J.E. Heartbreak connected with a lot of people... and that’s all we wanted to do by naming this album J.E. Heartbreak Too. This album will be just like that first album—examining relationships from all different angles.

You’re performing around the country with a lot of great R&B groups like Blackstreet, Dru Hill, and 112. What’s it like behind the scenes at the shows?

Honestly, on a good day it’s a lot of love, it’s camaraderie, it’s all of that. On a bad day, everybody kind of just stays to [themselves]. You might get either one... there’s no telling which one you’re going to get.

All of those groups came out a while ago, [including yourselves], but you guys are still relevant, and the fans still love the music. How does your team plan to market the new album to communicate ‘We’re not just a throwback group’?

We never market ourselves to be on certain bills where there’s all older artists on the bill. Most of the bills, the artists are even older than us. But those bills are put together for people who love real music. Sometimes the promoter doesn’t know how to frame his thought process behind bringing all of those artists together, so they say ‘throwback,’ or they say ‘90s groups.’ Truth of the matter is, Jagged Edge’s first album came out in ’98, so we’re not really much of a ‘90s group.

At the end of the day, we make music that you can’t put an age group on. We relate to a lot of different people, a lot of different age groups. You come to our shows now, you see younger women. It’s not just 40-year-old women or 30-year-old women. It’s women of all ages. All we have to do is keep making music that touches people, and people of all ages gravitate towards that.

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Jagged Edge's new single, "Hope," is available on iTunes now.

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