“U Know What’s Up”…..the dearly departed Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.…..”Where I Wanna Be”…….baby makin’ crooner and one hell of a talent.
Yes, those are all of the music memories and moments that make up the career of one sleek and sophisticated R&B maestro and songwriter, Mr. Donell Jones, who in his late ’90s/early ’00s hey day…..simply had it goin’ on.
Born the son of a gospel singer, Jones grew up on the South Side of Chicago and threw himself in music at a young age to escape the streets that plagued his road to stardom during his younger years. Working hard to keep his passion afloat, Jones met former Heavy D & The Boys member “Eddie F” Ferrell along the way and together they formed a partnership with L.A. Reid and Babyface’s legendary label, LaFace.
Mr. Jones first hit it big in 1994 thanks to his penmanship on Usher‘s “Think of You,” which hit number eight on the Billboard R&B Charts. It was from there that Reid and Face gave him the green light to record his solo debut, which would end up being the stylish, soulful 1996 release, My Heart.
Although the album was a moderate success thanks to singles “In the Hood,” “You Should Know,” and Jones’ cover of the Stevie Wonder classic, “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” it was the singer’s songwriting and music production that caught the ears of everyone in the industry and beyond. This would lead Jones’ quickly becoming an established songwriter in the late ’90s, penning songs for 702, Drea, a few more for Usher and many, many more before releasing his smashing sophomore set, Where I Wanna Be, in 1999.
Of course, it was this album that truly put Jones on the music map, as it not only went platinum, but gave us bedroom ready smashes like the still woke title track, the thumping, “Shorty(Got Her Eyes On Me,” and of course, “U Know What’s Up,” which features that irresistible cameo from the one-and-only, Mizz Lopes.
Jones released a two successful follow ups–2002’s Life Goes On and 2006’s album chart topping, Life of a Gemini, but let’s face it, the careers of pretty much every late ’90s dominating hip hop and R&B artist seemingly became forgotten right around then and Jones’ later sets–Lyrics and Forever–failed to resonate with that mainstream audience (meaning…all of us) that he once owned.
But if there’s one thing that we do know, it’s that you actually had to have talent to make it happen like Mariah back then, and Donell Jones simply had it and then some.
And that’s something we should never, ever forget.
Plus, you know that you’re still trying to be Julia Stiles in that classic “U Know What’s Up” flavored Save the Last Dance montage. Yes, you.
Groove on, Mr.Jones, groove on.