Streetwise R&B balladeer Jaheim Hoagland hails from New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he grew up in the 176 Memorial Parkway Homes public housing project. Misfortune hit early: his father died in 1981, when he was only two years old. Coming from a musical family helped him overcome the tragedy and the many pitfalls of his environment. His grandfather, Victor Hoagland, sang with many top groups, including the Drifters, and their family reunions were big songfests. Singing at family reunions and local talent shows preceded a successful tryout at the Apollo Theater's famously tough talent show. The crooner, whose sound resembled an unlikely hybrid of Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross, won the contest three times when he was 15.
Two years later, Jaheim experienced more tragedy when his mother died, but he kept the faith and became a sensation in New Jersey at talent shows. Four years after his mother's death, he recorded a demo that led to a deal with producer Kay Gee's Warner-supported Divine Mill label. Ghetto Love, Jaheim's first album, featured an all-star crew that included Next's RL, Blackstreet, and Darren and Cliff Lighty. Driven by the number two R&B/Hip-Hop single "Could It Be," it reached number nine on the Billboard 200 chart. His second album, Still Ghetto, was released in November 2002. Another Top Ten hit, it placed two singles in the Top 40, "Fabulous" and "Anything." Ghetto Classics followed in February 2006 (Valentine's Day, to be exact), and became his first number one album. The Makings of a Man, released on Atlantic in December 2007, was as drawn from classic R&B as his previous recordings, with references to Bobby Womack and Atlantic Starr. In late 2009, the single "Ain't Leavin' Without You" announced the coming of Another Round, which followed in February 2010. It was his fifth consecutive Top Ten R&B album.
Although Jaheim had amassed eight Top 20 R&B/Hip-Hop hits and continued to make sturdy retro-contemporary singles during the 2010s, his sound was marginalized by commercial R&B radio, which was favoring relatively immature and hedonistic content more than ever. His sixth album, Appreciation Day, came in September 2013 and went Top Ten pop and R&B/Hip-Hop without significant radio play. The album featured some of the singer's most humorous and emotionally powerful material, including "Florida," a tribute to Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was fatally shot by a neighborhood vigilante. In 2014, Jaheim reactivated his fledgling Julie's Dream label, named after his mother, to support younger artists. Around the same time, he went independent through BMG Rights Management. He continued to record lyrically frank, traditionally rooted R&B with no stylistic concessions. Struggle Love arrived in March 2016. ~ Andrew Hamilton & Andy Kellman