When TV One initially approached R&B quartet Jagged Edge about being profiled on the cable network’s award-winning docuseries Unsung, the fellas initially declined the offer. The Grammy-nominated ensemble comprised of twins Brandon “Case Dinero” Casey, Brian “Brasco” Casey, Kyle “Quick” Norman and Richard Wingo didn’t believe an episode chronicling their back story was necessary.
Extremely nervous, Jagged Edge had ongoing conversations with Unsung producers about the direction of the show. The members eventually grew more comfortable with sharing and revisiting their past. “[TV One] convinced us that they were turning over a new leaf,” shares a chatty-yet-throaty Wingo via phone. “They were doing a lot of newer artists, and we were convinced that it wasn’t going to be that type of platform for us. A lot of our dirt got looked over [laughs]. We wanted to give our fans a little insight into our run thus far.”
Forming in Atlanta after the Casey twins relocated from their hometown of Hartford, Connecticut, the clean-cut, rugged foursome formerly known as Twin AK were signed to Jermaine Dupri’s So Def imprint in 1996. Jagged Edge consistently churned out gold (1997’s A Jagged Era and 2003’s Hard) and platinum (2000’s J.E. Heartbreak and 2001’s Jagged Little Thrill) albums. Memorable hit singles like “I Gotta Be,” “Let’s Get Married,” “He Can’t Love U,” “Promise,” “Where the Party At” and “Walked Outta Heaven” placed them atop the R&B charts while also landing impressive slots on the pop charts.
The self-contained, Soul Train Award-winning group wrote and co-produced their material, comprised of crooning colloquialisms and catchphrases coupled with soulful harmonies over heavily rhythmic and melodic songs about love, relationships and good times. Dupri was especially impressed with Jagged Edge’s work ethic but was initially apprehensive about signing the quartet. The members were so prolific, they also penned songs for Usher, Nivea, Bow Wow and Toni Braxton.
“We sounded good, but he thought somebody else had their hands in the pot,” recalls Wingo. “Everything you’ve ever heard from Jagged Edge, we’ve written it. He could leave us in the studio by ourselves with a beat, and we’d come out with a hit. Producers salivated over that because they didn’t have to go through the whole grooming process.”
As R&B groups began to evaporate from the pop and urban music landscape with the dawn of digital streams, Brandon believes Jagged Edge’s consistent, unorthodox approach to music made them an accessible mainstay among urban and mainstream audiences.
“People now shy away from talking about love,” says Brandon, who was once romantically involved with Xscape member/reality star Kandi Burruss and former Destiny’s Child member Latavia Robertson. “We were that one shining light, so we wanted to keep it relatable. We used real terms, stuff that you would have a conversation with, and that reached a lot of people.”
Like their Unsung-featured predecessors, Jagged Edge’s meteoric rise wasn’t without its share of problems and ego trips. The self-coined “protective and rough around the edges” group were required to attend anger management classes after signing their recording contract. They often partied days at a time, spending their royalties on excess and lavish things. After the release of the group’s 2011 album The Remedy via Slip-N-Slide Records, tensions mounted, and the group members contemplated pursuing other projects.
The unapologetic vocalists would chastise venue and show personnel if things didn’t go their way. Sometimes, they wouldn’t perform at all. The group was kicked out of public places numerous times for erratic behavior. Norman’s highly-publicized 2015 aggravated assault against his wife followed by several probation violations landed him in and out of jail. Norman is still serving time in Dekalb County, Georgia.
Despite everything, Jagged Edge remain loyal to Norman and to each other. “To be honest, Kyle ain’t gon’ make the [Layover] album, but he’s here no matter what,” Brandon confides. “We ain’t kicking him out the group.”
The foursome’s upcoming ninth studio project, Layover, which Wingo refers to as “a mini album,” was slated to be a seven-track EP for release this coming July 11 on their label, Hard Case Records. The follow-up to 2014’s J.E. Heartbreak 2, the final version of the new record now includes 15 songs, and represents another chance for the vocalists to drop an independent project and give their fans new material.
“It started off as an EP, and we’re still calling it an EP,” Wingo says. “We wanted to give our fans a gift, and let them know we haven’t forgotten about them.”
Brandon continues: “This record has no politics, or as the industry would say ‘politricks.’ There’s none of that with Layover. We’re not doing it with a label or big-named executive producer. This is our record. Anyway you look at it, it’s all Jagged Edge. We’re willing to either live or burn with it.”
Jagged Edge still actively tour, priding themselves on entertaining their fans for the last two decades. More importantly, being on the road gives the men a chance to make sure they’re all on the same page. “Traveling time is bonding time,” Brandon shares. “It might take 10 hours to get to the next city. We shoot the shit and kick it with each other. That’s what we do and have done from the very beginning.”
Jagged Edge’s Unsung episode premieres on TV One this Sunday, July 9th at 10pm ET/9pm CT. The group, in retrospect, appreciates watching and learning about band dynamics from the eye-opening profiles primarily centering on African-American musicians. However, the group reiterates it’s far from being done with playing gigs or releasing new material. “We never ever stopped working,” says Brandon. “I don’t care if we put out records or not, we are on somebody’s tour in somebody’s country.”
Wingo cosigns, “We ain’t even finished yet. We love each other, man. We’re just turning over a new leaf and keeping it going. We’re gonna flood the airwaves with music, and do it the way we know how to do it.”