In a world where many artists are one and done (one hit album or song followed by a permanent fade out), Joe has managed to stay a successful and relevant artist for well over a decade. Since 1993, he's released a string of six successful albums. His latest, Ain't Nothing Like Me, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's R&B albums chart and No. 2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart earlier this month. But despite being a household name among R&B fans, Joe says he was unsure how his current album would sell.
"I was a little concerned," he revealed during a phone interview from his home in New Jersey. "I don't usually follow the numbers, I'm never really concerned with the charts, but with this album, for some reason, I was." His concern turned out to be unfounded, however, as Ain't Nothing Like Me, turned out to be his highest debuting album ever on the charts.
"After all these years, that was amazing," he said about the high debut. (Read the About R&B review of Ain't Nothing Like Me HERE).
Embracing Hip-HopAlong with his longevity, another thing that Joe's known for is his embracing of hip-hop in his music. Long before it was prevalent like it is today, Joe reached out to and collaborated with rappers like Big Punisher's Terror Squad family and 50 Cent's G-Unit clique. Joe, who was born in 1973, says he's been a hip-hop head since the '80s.
"Ever since Eric B. & Rakim, Paid in Full," he said. "Since then, it's been on. From Biggie to 2Pac." But unlike many other singers who are such fans of hip-hop that they take pains to emulate the attitude and lifestyle, Joe doesn't go that route. He's a straight up and down R&B singer: you won't catch him using a whole lot of slang or trying to cater to the latest hip-hop fads. And unlike some of the younger singers out today, Joe definitely doesn't rap.
"I wouldn't wanna embarrass myself," he said. "You know what it is? I respect rappers too much to try and do what they do."
"Where You At?"But despite not wanting to spit a rhyme or two himself, he still has much love for rappers. Among the ones who appear on Ain't Nothing Like Me are Young Buck and Tony Yayo (of G-Unit) on the title track, Nas on the opening song, "Get to Know Me" and Fabolous on "Let's Just Do It." There's also another rapper, a young talent named Papoose from New York. Although relatively unknown outside the New England area, Papoose was not only handpicked to be on the album, the song he appears on, "Where You At?" (stream the full song HERE) was chosen as the first single, proving that Joe has confidence in the up-and-comer.
"I heard Papoose on the radio doing a freestyle. The only thing he's missing is that big hit single, that radio song." "Where You At?," which is about a man trying to find his former love, wasn't quite that hit single, but it's still a memorable song: "'Where You At?' is really about loss. It's that desperate situation," Joe said.
The State of Contemporary R&BAlthough he frequently collaborates with rap artists, you'll almost never hear of Joe collaborating with other R&B artists. "It's pretty intentional," he reveals. "There's not a lot of driven R&B singers. I haven't really seen that much potential. Maybe at some point, the game will step up." But despite his comments, Joe isn't just a hater: he's does respect at least a couple of young singers.
"I see the potential in Chris Brown. There's a lot of potential. It'll be interesting to see what happens once his voice drops. And I like Ne-Yo, definitely. His songwriting is pretty good."
But when it all comes down to it, Joe says the only person he's competing with is himself. "That's when your creativity comes in," he said. "You have to compete with yourself."