Pronounced Jah-Nay:apart from being the name of Zhané’s first album, it was also meant as statement of intent - we are here now. Like many neo soul/commercial crossovers of the time however, this particular Rnb duo were victims of the record labels’ ruthlessly exploitative means of churning out urban music: signed on to a 1 album contract (that sold very well), they were given the chance to record a second, 1997’s Saturday Night. Both intelligent and musically talented, they clashed with the executives over the direction the album should take, and although it faired pretty well in the charts, they were dumped.
Zhané - Groove Thang
Although they were treated very unfairly, their first album is bursting with the attitude and self confidence inferred from the LP’s title. Groove Thang is a personal favourite of mine, andnot only because Nice N’ Ripe’s 24 Hour Experience sampled it so effectively. I consider it a straight up club number, and have played it numerous times to a great response.
De La Soul feat. Zhané - 4 More
Had to include this groover, off De La’s seminal ‘96 effort Stakes Is High. Such a buttery track, I love the duo’s vocals and interspersed harmonic flurries throughout the track. Smoother than Barry White wrapped in velvet!
AZ, Ray Buchanan & Scott Gailbraith feat. Zhané - When The Cheering Stops
Produced by The Ummah and Rick St. Hilaire, this track is off NFL Jams, an album that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so good. An official NFL product, it features everyone from Donell Jones to Ghostface dueting with some of the biggest football stars of the time. In this case, NFL big dogs Scott Gailbraith and Ray Buchanan deliver the goods to the fullest - and of course Zhané handle the chorus with consumate ease. Shouts out to CHOICE CUTS favourites AZ and D’Angelo, who’s Lady is subtly interpolated.
Sometimes I wonder what a 5th or 6th Zhané record would sound like, and what Rnb in generally would’ve become if groups like this one had been given time and faith by their labels. As it happened, it was cheaper and more effective to go from group to group, churn out an LP or two and then discard them, leaving behind a trail of shattered dreams, mismanaged careers and a toxic environment in which thought and musical integrity was cast aside in favour of cheap gimmicks and glossy appearances. Whilst many fell by the wayside, victims of their own manufactured dizzying, snapshot success, Zhané landed gracefully, going their separate ways and becoming involved in many other musical projects, including collaborations with Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor. Blessings.