An ode to ‘A Jagged Era,’ the album that brought Jagged Edge into your heart—and mine

OPINION: I knew from the first time I heard this album that Jagged Edge was going to be part of my musical life, and I wasn’t wrong.

Jagged Edge during the 6th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California, United States. (Photo by S. Granitz/WireImage via Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

In October 1997, I was a freshman at Morehouse College in Atlanta. To listen to Atlanta radio back then meant that you heard a song—produced by Jermaine Dupri—by Jagged Edge called “The Way That You Talk.” I can’t say that I was in love with the song, though I really enjoyed the vocals. You could tell the members of Jagged Edge—twins Brian and Brandon Casey, Richard Wingo and Kyle Norman—could sing, and it was enough to make me buy the album, probably from Peppermint Music in West End Mall when it released on either Oct. 14 or 21 (there’s some internet dispute on this), 1997. But it was the next single, and the song that I and everybody else seemed to gravitate towards that changed the game, “I Gotta Be.” 

I knew from right then that Jagged Edge was going to be a group that I would ride with until the end. For the record, I’m still on the Jagged Edge train; when Spotify did those yearend wrap-ups that everybody posted, my 2020 wrap-up was literally nothing but songs from Jagged Edge’s latest album, “A Jagged Love Story”—an album that STILL gets bump in all of the speakers attached to me. 

I’m a Jagged Edge fan. I’ve seen them at least once in each decade. I have written about them multiple times, including a time that was critical of a concert they did in Silver Spring, Md., that resulted in an Instagram DM back and forth with either Brian or Brandon Casey where I had to clear up just how much of a fan I was. Hell, I would sign up to write the definitive work on Jagged Edge’s career and life as musicians; that’s where I am with my fandom. And it all started back in October 1997.

I remember listening to that album and loving “Wednesday Lover,” playing it over and over. “Slow Motion”? Stop it. Perfection. I’m fairly certain that I annoyed my roommate, an R&B purist who preferred Babyface and Boyz II Men to the new era of hip-hop/R&B that was all the rage. No matter; I was all in on Jagged Edge. So much so that I even took a side in the non-existent Jagged Edge versus 112 “Battle for Atlanta” that raged on in the hearts and minds of fans and haters alike. It’s amazing how fandom can make you choose a side nobody ever asked you to take. Not for nothing, Jagged Edge and 112’s song “Both of Us” off of 112’s 2017 album, “Q Mike Slim Daron” is AMAZING.

Brian and Brandon Casey are amazing songwriters and producers, and their talent and skill set has carried the group into a 25-year career. They’ve released 10 albums, all of which have amazing hit singles and records. The group has chart success and platinum and gold albums and singles, including their classic “Let’s Get Married” remix that will be played at Black weddings until the planet blows up. As far as amazing careers go, Jagged Edge can boast of having a successful and productive one. And one that pays tribute to the artists that have come before and after them. One of my favorite parts about listening to their albums is the insane number of easter eggs in their songs, song titles and album titles that pay tribute to artists they love. 

And it all starts with their debut album, “A Jagged Era.” That album walked so that they could fly with the release of their amazing sophomore album, “J.E. Heartbreak,” their 2000 album that was a hit factory, including “He Can’t Love U,” “Let’s Get Married,” and “Promise.”  Also, the “Promise (Remix)” goes SOOOOO hard in the paint. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak on the fact that one of the biggest and constant criticisms of Jagged Edge is that they have one sound, and all of their songs sound like remixes of every other song they’ve ever made. And you know what, that isn’t untrue; Jagged Edge has a signature sound, and they’ve stayed true to it in sound and scope. But here’s my issue with that criticism: That sound is so good. The harmonies are great, and the music itself is just dope. Like the decision to complain about Jagged Edge’s sound is just that, a decision. You know what you’re getting with Jagged Edge, and that is why I will listen to every single album they ever release and why I’ve never been disappointed. I may love some songs more than others, but that’s going to be the case with any album, even classic albums full of perfect records from top to bottom. I appreciate that I know what I’m getting: quality songwriting that speaks to me, quality production that works in the car, house and event, and ultimately a sound from a group that must be doing something right to still be around—and intact—some 25 years after their debut album. That says something and is what I’m here for. 

Salute to Jagged Edge, one of my absolute favorite musical groups and their debut album, ‘A Jagged Era,’ that introduced them to our hearts back in 1997. 

I gotta be…saying thank you. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.

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