Jaheim has some big numbers on his mind.
After selling over 1.5 million copies of his debut album, Ghetto Love, the soulful crooner, who's not normally prone to making brash predictions, is very optimistic about his follow-up, Still Ghetto, due November 5.
"I'm trying to sell 10 million on the first day," said Jaheim, who began the Seagram's Gin Live 2002 Tour September 16 in Philadelphia. "You heard the last album, that was more of a cry. I was crying for position and fighting for the position I got now.
"The way I feel now, I thank the world for giving me the opportunity and acknowledging me," he continued. "All I could do is put my heart and my soul into this new album."
Still Ghetto has much of the Ghetto Love team in place. Kay Gee (Naughty by Nature, Next, Koffee Brown) is again the executive producer, and Eddie F. (Angie Stone, Heavy D), Eddie Berkeley (Next, Luther Vandross), and Eric Williams (Blackstreet) are turning the knobs.
Divine Mill/Warner Bros. executives are keeping copies of Still Ghetto tight to the vest, wary of a repeat of what happened to Ghetto Love. Bootlegging of the debut album became so prevalent in the U.K. that extra tracks were added before Ghetto Love's March 2001 release.
So far, Warner Bros. has taken the wraps off of only one track from Still Ghetto. The single "Fabulous," due to radio by October 1, features a minor-key arrangement complimented by a children's chorus and a high-end percussive treatment.
"Kids are our future ... that's the truth," said Jaheim, 23. "Some kids need to know that. When you touch them like that and they're happy and they smile, you got to acknowledge them."
Kids are attracted to Jah because of his style, which includes baggy jeans, boots and plenty of ice, said Warner Bros. senior publicist Karen Lee. But Lee feels that Jaheim's appeal can cross over to their parents, thanks to the singer's R&B loverman passion, which recalls Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross.
"I'm seeing 50-year-old women at Jaheim's shows," Lee said. "I'll never forget seeing this one woman with a cast on her leg who hopped out of her seat and hopped down the aisle to give Jaheim a rose."
A rose for Jah's sensitive side.
"He's a man who opens himself up, and he's sincere," said fan Krystal DeVille, 32, of the Bronx, at a recent Jaheim show. "But he has that thug look and hardcore mentality."
Jaheim is currently headlining the Seagram's Gin Live 2002 Tour with featured acts Truth Hurts ("Addictive") and hip-hop legend Biz Markie. The outing, which is raising funds for the nonprofit social service group One Hundred Black Men, concludes October 18 in Los Angeles.
The tour gives fans a chance to see the performers in smaller venues as well as the opportunity to watch Jaheim perform with a live, four-piece band for the first time since he became a star. The outing is also Jaheim's first as a headliner.
The rough-times-to-riches story of Jaheim Hoagland began in the projects of New Brunswick, New Jersey. His father died when he was two and his mother, Julia, died when he was 17. There were times when Jah ran wild while he was growing up, but he eventually found direction in his music.
Jaheim was able to get a tape of his singing into the hands of producer Kay Gee five years ago, and subsequent years were spent polishing Jaheim's style. The time also was spent recording songs for Ghetto Love, which produced the hit singles "Could It Be," "Just in Case" and "Anything."
Now it's time for Jaheim, the sequel.
"If you are Jaheim fan, for sure, go out there and get this album the first day it comes out, because it's going to be hard to get it the second day," Jaheim said. "It's going to sell out."