Jaheim's long-delayed debut, Ghetto Love, is due Tuesday (March 13), but bootlegged copies of the album are already so popular in England, his label is enticing fans with some extras.
The R&B singer has added a new song, "Just in Case," and a remix of the first single, "Could It Be," to the album, due to be released in the U.K. on March 26.
"Could It Be," a midtempo jam set against swirling, densely mixed horns, is at #4 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and at #27 on the magazine's Hot 100.
"They respect music and they appreciate it very much," Jaheim said about audiences in London, where he performed a sold-out show in December at the Hippodrome. "I love them all. I can't wait to get back."
Advance copies of Ghetto Love are causing a stir with critics, as well. The Source and Vibe have already published reviews that echo the acclaim its receiving from British fans.
Bootlegging albums makes some record executives see red, but in Jaheim's case, Warner Bros. vice president of international marketing Colin Gayle sees only green.
"[Jaheim's] record is the most bootlegged record on the street," the exec exulted. "All the urban stations are playing it, and they're going four and five tracks deep. He's a ghetto superstar in London."
The singer hopes to achieve that status Stateside, as well.
"I don't want to be know as the next 'this person' or the next 'that person,'" Jaheim (pronounced Ja-HEEM) said. "I want to be known as the new Jaheim. Hopefully, years from now, I'll be known simply as Jah. Everybody will know who Jah-Jah is."
For now, though, Jaheim, 21, will have to settle for being likened to some of the outstanding names in R&B.
"Jaheim is a new millennium Teddy Pendergrass or Luther Vandross," Ghetto Love executive producer Kay Gee said. "One of the sultry, sensual voices. A voice that can capture the ladies straight off the top."
Kay Gee (born Kier Gist) is the longtime producer for East Orange, New Jersey hitmakers Naughty by Nature ("O.P.P."). These days, Kay Gee is no longer affiliated with Naughty by Nature, but he's in demand as a starmaker, thanks to his work with the hit R&B groups Next and Zhane.
Jaheim (born Jaheim Hoagland) attracted the producer's notice when he dropped a demo tape at Naughty by Nature's Naughty Gear store in Newark, New Jersey, three years ago. Kay Gee liked what he heard.
"I thought if we could combine [Jaheim's voice] with the newer sounds and newer-style production and younger-style production and hip-hop beats, we could create something new," Kay Gee said.
The process has taken a while. Jaheim's career was on hiatus for a time while there was a management shuffle at Warner Bros. Records, Kay Gee said.
The downtime might have been beneficial for Jaheim, who grew up in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
"[Jaheim] learned patience," Kay Gee said. "He's learned how to become a writer, he's learned to format songs, he's learned studio elements. With the time it took, it ended up being good for him and us. If we threw him out to the wolves, [the album] might not have been as tight as we wanted it to be."
Jaheim wrote the lyrics for the album, and Terry Dexter, Next, Lil' Mo and Castro contribute performances. Kay Gee, Williams and Eric Lighty produced the LP.
"He already had a great voice, but we had to translate that into a great record maker and now transform that into a great showman," Kay Gee said.
The wide-shouldered Jaheim, who wears his hair in cornrows, recently spent time working with a dance instructor in Los Angeles to improve his stage presentation. It was a type of R&B finishing school.
"I didn't move around too much ... dancing around, that ain't my thing," Jaheim said. "[But] you got to get a crowd. You can't stand up there like a deer in the headlights. They got to feel you.
"It's speaking with your body language, speaking with confidence, singing with confidence and just having the energy," he added. "That's what I'm working on now, putting my show together. I want to be precise when I go out there."