Ghetto Classics

Studio Album by released in 2006

Ghetto Classics review

Soul singers’ childhood often serves as a lifelong inspiration

Like more than a few R&B warriors hailing from the cracked sidewalks of Any Ghetto, U.S.A., be them a Motown rambler like Marvin Gaye or a Chicago born hustler like Curtis Mayfield, many soul singers have found that their childhood often serves as a lifelong inspiration. Hip-hop balladeer Jaheim Hoagland hails from New Brunswick, NJ, where he grew up in the 176 Memorial Parkway Homes public-housing project. From the very beginning, life has never been easy for Jaheim. After losing his father when he was still a child, he and his two brothers were raised by their loving, yet constantly struggling mother, moving through various relatives’ floors and taking overnight stays in motels. Serving his bid at 16-years-old, Jaheim came out of prison a new man. After he was set free, his then sick mother suddenly died. Listening to Ghetto Classics, one can hear the grains of those experiences, in Jaheim’s wonderful voice. Jaheim, whose vocal heritage comes from his grandfather Victor Hoagland, who sang for the legendary The Drifters, won numerous competitions at local and national talent shows – including the legendary Showtime at the Apollo three times – before getting his big break in 2001.

Ghetto Classics paints the raspy-voiced singer as a sensitive roughneck

Like Jaheim's previous albums, Ghetto Classics paints the raspy-voiced singer as a sensitive roughneck, and it is a fitting contradiction. But the gem of this old school-flavored set is its low-key grooves that rely on thought-out storylines and not just sweet-talking jargon. The dazzling street-corner serenade of The Chosen One is an aural standout. As Jaheim sings, “I chose you,” over the swirling soul music, this superb track is sure to have ladies swooning across the world. Having picked-up some studio tips, Jaheim flexes his own production muscle on the hot chocolate bubble bath of Come Over. With his smooth voice convincing a beautiful woman to leave her no good man, this ballad proves Jaheim to be a triple treat (singer, writer and producer) in the universe of soul. Though Jaheim finds love on tracks like The Chosen One and lead single Every Time I Think of Her featuring Jadakiss, alongside those sugary lyrics are equally soulful cuts that are endearing yet aggressive. Daddy Thing finds him embracing his father-figure role, while Forgetful scolds his unappreciative lady. Though Fiend featuring Styles P. falls into the love-as-drug cliche, Jaheim still manages to come off genuine, and with his third consistent album in a row, remains one of the best at crafting meaty narratives.

What Gamble and Huff were to Teddy Pendergrass that is KayGee to Jaheim

The singer was discovered by KayGee of Naughty By Nature, who subsequently signed Jaheim to his Divine Mill label. For Ghetto Classics Jaheim teams up with KayGee once again to continue to build on their success with Jaheim’s previous platinum releases – Ghetto Love and Still Ghetto. It is obvious that KayGee and Jaheim bring out the musical best in one another. What Gamble and Huff were to Teddy Pendergrass that is KayGee to Jaheim. The two have a thrilling chemistry that can happen in the studio between a select few producers and singers. Their brilliant collaborations blend a love for tradition with a new jack soul sensibility. The release also sees production from Jaheim himself, in addition to producers Scott Storch, Giz, Eric Williams, Wesley Hodges and Bink (Beanie Seigel, Lil’ Mo, Nas). With the release of Jaheim’s third disc, perhaps the most mature of the trilogy, Ghetto Classics serves as a re-introduction to a stellar talent that has been laying low for a minute. While citing Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Sam Cooke as musical muses, it is the harmonies of the great, late Luther Vandross that really encouraged him to move towards the mic. From the time he was just a kid singing in the mirror, it was all about the music of this true R&B superstar.