93 ‘til Infinity: A scientific list of 6 reasons why Jodeci’s ‘Diary of a Mad Band’ is the best R&B album of the ’90s

OPINION: There were a lot of amazing R&B albums released in the 1990s, but the sophomore offering from Jodeci stands above them all.

Jodeci, best album, Diary of a Mad Band, theGrio.com
Jodeci perform onstage during the Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour at The Forum on October 4, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Live Nation)

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

The 1990s are a decade chock full of amazing, hall-of-fame-level R&B releases. Janet Jackson’s “janet,” Mary J. Blige’s “My Life,” Maxwell’s “Urban Hang Suite,” D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar” and, depending on how you classify it, Lauryn Hill’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” among a litany of others. All of the aforementioned albums are classic bodies of work that not only moved the needle then but matter still today for cultural and artistic reasons. But one album, released on Dec. 21, 1993 — almost as if it was a Christmas gift of musical perfection for the world over — stands out, even amongst the greats: Jodeci’s sophomore album, “Diary of A Mad Band.” 

Listen, for my money, Jodeci is my favorite R&B group of all time (with SWV coming in at a VERY, VERY close 1a). Of course, I love all of the groups you have to love like New Edition, TLC, Jagged Edge, 112, Xscape, etc., but there was something about Jodeci that really stood out. I will die on this hill until everybody else joins me on it: DeVante Swing is THE most underappreciated R&B composer and producer ever. Ever. K-Ci and JoJo Hailey were the perfect voices over his productions. And the more interviews I hear, Dalvin seemed like the perfect glue guy for the group (along with his background vocals backing). Their first album, “Forever My Lady,” is an instant classic. They even managed to shoot a music video — “Stay”— with a woman riding a rocking horse. It makes absolutely no sense but do you realize how good a song you have to make for that to be OK? Exactly.  

But when they dropped “Diary of a Mad Band”? The game changed. It is undoubtedly the best R&B album of the 1990s, and I mean that with my whole heart. But check it, I can hear you looking at me. What is he talking about? He literally MENTIONED five albums in the first paragraph that are better. Oh, and you forgot that one dude we won’t mention who released an album with a number and a joyous child activity. Pfft. I said what I said. Since you need a little convincing, which we both understand will not change any hearts or minds, I decided to share with you a quick, non-exhaustive listicle of scientific reasons why “Diary of a Mad Band” is the best R&B album of the 1990s. 

1. There is no better six-song run than the first six songs of “Diary of a Mad Black Band.” 

The first six songs of this album are as follows: “My Heart Belongs to U,” “Cry for You,” “Feenin’,” “What About Us,” “Ride & Slide,” and “Alone.” That is a murderer’s row of songs. Each song is different and wonderful in its own way and literally does not let up off of the gas until “Alone” fades out. No other album has a six-song run of songs THAT good. 

2. “Feenin’” is arguably the best R&B song of the ’90s. 

Look, I know this is a big statement. But I mean, come on. It’s “Feenin’.” Anybody who was alive in the early 90s and old enough to listen to music knows this song and still loves this song. “Take my money, my house and my car…” We all know the words. And it instantly gave us a word to use for anybody who had us straight trippin’, boo. 

3. “Cry For U” is also perfect. 

I mean, come on. I don’t even have to say it, because I know you know what I’m saying. It’s science, baby. Science. 

4. We get some of that early Timbaland and Missy Elliott magic on the back half of the album.

DeVante Swing was notorious for creating The Bassment (or The Swing Mob), for better or worse, up in Rochester, N.Y., and bringing all of this talent up there that would eventually morph into the Timbaland and Missy world of musical creation. But before branching out, DeVante had Timbaland and Missy writing and producing and some of that early sound was available on this album on songs like “Won’t Waste You,” “In the Meanwhile” and “Sweaty.” “In the Meanwhile” is a classic record just for the music alone and “Sweaty” is ahead of its time; it sounds as if it’s the precursor to Ginuwine’s “Pony.” 

5. Let me go back to the first bullet: The first six songs are SO good, it almost doesn’t matter that the last six aren’t AS good. 

Don’t get me wrong, the uptempo songs still go. For instance, “Success” is a banger that tells their story and could rock any dance floor. It’s just that the slow jams are SO good they make everything else pale in comparison … even though they still jam. 

6. This album demonstrated how you could be super edgy and still be sensitive and emotive, something that has literally become the blueprint for male R&B singers … for better or worse … since its release in 1993. 

“Forever My Lady” was an introduction, but “Diary of a Mad Band” kicked that ethos into high gear, influencing generations of male singers to come. It’s science, baby. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

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 it here.