DAR Music: The Def Soul R&B Era

By @TrueGodImmortal

Def Soul was a division of the Def Jam brand that had a lot of notoriety throughout the 90's and early 2000s. They would reshape how Def Jam was viewed by many, as Def Soul was focused on the R&B genre and had a lot of artists in the fold that truly showcased amazing talent. Today, we wanted to look back at the Def Soul lineup, their legacies, and what made each of the artists on Def Soul so special. Let's take a look.

*Montell Jordan

-Perhaps Montell Jordan was one of the crown jewels of the Def Soul imprint, but he definitely was a huge part of the Def Jam family through his entire run. He would officially become a member of the Def Soul family in 1999, with the release of one of his biggest albums Get It On... Tonite. The album wasn't a classic like his debut and didn't impact the charts as much, but the title track was a huge hit and one of the most memorable singles in his career. His self titled fifth album would follow in 2002, as the short lived run of Def Soul started to lose its luster, but he was still an important part of the Def Soul run, and he was one of the most important pieces for the label without question.

*The Isley Brothers 

-It might sound crazy, but yes, the Isleys were a part of the Def Soul label. They were actually a pretty important part of the label in the later years. With their Def Soul debut, Baby Makin' Music, the group would have some momentum again and as a result, they would see moderate success with this release. The group worked with producers like Tim and Bob, Jermaine Dupri, and others during this run, as well as their frequent collaborator R. Kelly. While this album was not a huge success, it was yet another notch in the belt of one of the greatest groups to ever make soul music, thus it was noteworthy to mention here.

*Kelly Price 

-She was a part the Island Music Group initially, but eventually transferred over to the Def Soul subsidiary for a while starting in the year 2000, but Kelly Price was one of the most slept on artists at the time in the genre. She was successful and notable, but never got the credit she really deserved. If we count her work with Island, then she had a nice run as an artist on the Def Jam based label. Her second album Mirror Mirror is solid, and her third album Priceless made some noise on the charts. Kelly Price is one of the more underrated singers of our time and she was a very integral part in the Def Soul growth without question.


So, Case was tecnhically Def Jam alone, but I feel the need to include him in this lineup. He was one of the premier artists for the Def Soul run, and I look to his 1999 release Personal Conversation and the 2001 release Open Letter to help drive home the fact that he was such an important part to the Def Soul world. He was successful, garnering platinum and gold plaques during his time on the label, and he stands as one of the most underrated 90's R&B singers.


-Surprisingly, this songstress never got the love she deserved and never released an official album. She was signed to Def Soul, but her claim to fame was taking a Hi-Tek production and making a classic hit in the instantly recognizable "Round And Round". She would release a single titled "So Wassup" featuring Redman, but that never materialized into an album. Essentially, Jonell is one of the bigger "what if" scenarios that came from the Def Soul era, but she wasn't the only one of course.


-This group was heard next to Sisqo and Dru Hill and numerous occasions and there was a belief that at some point, they would make an impact. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The first female group on Def Soul would release a number of singles and songs, but their album never materialized unfortunately. Sisqo was instrumental in the group getting to Def Soul, but one can only wonder what could have been if they were given the chance to release their debut. The lead singer of LovHer, Chinky would have a solid career as a featured artist, but the group missed their potential.

*Musiq Soulchild

-One of the first Neo-Soul artists to really gain notoriety in the 2000s, Musiq was a slight breath of fresh air for Def Soul. His style wasn't unique, but his music brought a flare with it that we had not heard often before. Musiq would be the driving force in the 2000s for the label, racking up platinum plaques and gold plaques and hit records as the Neo-Soul wave hit the highest peak. My favorite album was Juslisen, the sophomore release from Musiq that featured some of his best work including the hugely successful single "Love". When we look back on Def Soul, Musiq Soulchild is firmly near the top of the list of artists.


-Of course. The biggest artist basically on the label from a sales standpoint has to get a mention. Sisqo was on top of the world when 1999 hit, seeing multi platinum success with his Dru Hill brothers. As a solo artist, he would step out on his own, keeping the Dru Hill sound in tact, but taking his artistry to another level. His debut solo album Unleash The Dragon would see huge success, selling over 7 million copies in the United States on the strength of "Thong Song", "Addicted", "Got To Get It", and the ballad "Incomplete". His second solo Return Of Dragon wasn't as successful, only moving 1.5 million copies, but those two albums stick out as two of the more commercially successful albums on Def Soul. Sisqo had a short run as a solo artist, but it was extremely effective.


-So, this group that began with Puffy would end up on Def Soul? It sounds a little crazy right? The group went from Bad Boy to Def Soul as Def Soul was still trying to find the next act to take them to platinum heights. Their 2003 album Hot & Wet was a moderate success, but their 2005 release Pleasure & Pain managed to make a little more noise due to the big single "U Already Know". Of course, neither of the Def Soul releases fared as well as their first three albums on Bad Boy, but at least 112 managed to break away from Bad Boy and find some success on their own technically.

*Dru Hill

-While Island Def Jam is credited with the success of the first two albums from the group, the group was a part of the imprint, pretty much the entire time. Still, even if you don't want to consider them a part of the label in the late 90's, they would release Dru World Order in 2002 on the imprint, an album that saw platinum success of course, but barely. With singles like "I Should Be" and "I Love You", the group would have hits, but for the most part, they were in the process of a sharp decline due to internal issues and egos. Regardless, if you want to put Island Def Jam artists on the Def Soul ship, then of course, Dru Hill has to get a mention, as the perennial Def Soul artist.



Popular Posts