Jagged Edge Embarks On 'Thrill' Ride

Still riding the momentum of its popular 2000 sophomore release "J.E. Heartbreak" -- which spawned three hit R&B singles, including "Let's Get Married" -- the Jagged Edge is excited about this wee

Jagged Edge is definitely taking the adage "strike while the iron's hot" to heart.

Still riding the momentum of its popular 2000 sophomore release "J.E. Heartbreak" -- which spawned three hit R&B singles, including "Let's Get Married" -- the male quartet is excited about this week's release of "Jagged Little Thrill" (So So Def/Columbia).

In fact, Jagged Edge finds itself in the uniquely enviable position of having three records on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart simultaneously: "Promise" (from the "Heartbreak" album), "Puppy Love" (as featured guests on the Lil' Bow Wow-led song), and "Where the Party At," the new set's playful lead single that features Fo' Reel/Universal rapper Nelly.

"I remember we'd say, 'It would be tight if we had just one song on the chart,' let alone more than one," recalls Kyle Norman, whose group mates include Brandon Casey, Brian Casey, and Richard Wingo. "Now after working so hard and digging our niche, it's a beautiful thing. This album has a little of everything. We've still got our ballads, but the first single lets people know we can party too."

That's the plan producer/So So Def principal Jermaine Dupri says he had been contemplating, especially given the No. 1 success on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart of the "Let's Get Married" dance remix. Dupri explains, "That remix and the Run-D.M.C. version showed me that the public wanted Jagged Edge to do an uptempo record, something that would do the same thing as my 'In My Bed' remix did for Dru Hill.

"Dru Hill were balladeers," Dupri continues. "When I did the record, I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't think the remix would put Sisqo in the hip-hop community. But Dru Hill saw a new light after that and started making fast records, too. 'Party' contains those same elements and is going to definitely start generating a new audience for Jagged Edge."

Adding to that edgier evolution are numbers featuring Ludacris ("Cut Somethin'"), Trina ("I Got It"), and "This Goes Out," with guest artists Big Duke and Tatu. Also of note is the midtempo track "Nothing Without You" and the emotional relationship ballads "Best Man" and "Head of This Household." All the songs' lyrics were written by Brian and Brandon Casey.

Joining Dupri at the production helm once again were Bryan-Michael Cox and Gary "Gizzo" Smith, and such others as Bert "B-dert" Young, Jason Rome, and Da Corner Boyz.

"We're just trying to keep reality in our songs," Norman says about the group. "We're from the 'hood. We didn't grow up around a piano in the middle of the living room. But we're not mad. There's fun and love in the 'hood. We're R&B, hip-hop, and love gospel. So there's some of everything on this album."

To capitalize on its connection with fans, the act will make in-store appearances this week, stopping in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, and Detroit. "Jagged Little Thrill" also was also released yesterday (June 26) in Europe and Canada, and will be out July 4 in Japan, and July 9 in Australia.

The group also appeared on the inaugural BET Awards (which aired June 19). Forthcoming is a spot on the network's 106 & Park program. BET also debuted the Dave Meyers-directed "Party" video.

Additionally, the quartet will conduct online chats via urban and mainstream Web sites from the road and provide behind-the-scenes commentary during the 42-city Seagram's Gin Live concert tour with Mystikal, Jaheim, Public Announcement, City High, and Nivea. It kicked off June 12 in Kansas City, Mo., and wraps Aug. 6 in Sacramento, Calif.

So far, according to SoundScan, the group's first album, 1998's "A Jagged Era," has sold 613,000 units domestically, with "J.E. Heartbreak" coming in at 1.77 million U.S. units.

With that success behind them, and a new album in stores, Norman says the group isn't about to rest on its laurels anytime soon. "We're working on another new album now. We want to work harder and harder, just trying to elevate ourselves every chance we get."