R&B Bridgez: 20th Anniversary of Jon B.’s ‘Cool Relax’

90’s R&B is without a doubt, some of the best music ever recorded.

In 1997 Jon B. would release an album that would solidify that.

Cool Relax” was Jon B‘s sophomore release, the album was released on September 16th, 1997. This week the album turns 20 years old. “Cool Relax” features three of Jon‘s biggest hits; the Tim & Bob produced “They Don’t Know“, “Are U Still Down” (which features the late Tupac Shakur), and “I Do (Whatcha Say Boo)“.

Music videos were shot for all three songs, including a video for the remix of “Cool Relax” featuring Guru and “Don’t Say“. Actress Sanaa Lathan appeared in the video as Jon‘s girlfriend. “Cool Relax” was hailed as one of the best R&B albums released that year and was certified double platinum.

Cool Relax” is Jon B.‘s most accomplished and most accessible project. From the open-hearted soul of “Love Hurts” to smooth, Hip-Hop influenced “Are U Still Down,” to the easy flow of “Let Me know,” he proved himself at home in weaving the best of contemporary styles into his own special musical tapestry.

Record label “Don’t Say” promotional postcard, for the launch of “Cool Relax”

This record goes from easy-listening to a little taste of hip-hop to sexy smooth to upbeat,” said Jon B. of the release. “There’s a little something for everybody here.” The first single, “Don’t Say,” a reaffirming love song, features Marc Nelson formerly of Az Yet on vocals. “It’s a song about keeping your word and being true,” says Jon B.Love Hurts,” about finding common ground in a troubled relationship, is a gorgeously arranged ballad that feature Jon‘s plaintive voice rising over a background of rich harmonies. “Shine,” an exhilarating song of new love, effortlessly fuses Jon‘s light touch with a sultry style that lends the song an alluring warmth. “Pride & Joy” is the expression of a guy falling head over heels for a lady.

Jon‘s personal favorite & biggest hit was “They Don’t Know.” “I wrote this one night after fussing with my girlfriend,” he shared, “it’s a song about two people having the courage to do what is right for them, and not worrying about what other people say.” The platinum selling single is his biggest hit of his career.

Other songwriters & artists also contributed to “Cool Relax.” “Love Hurts” and “Pride & Joy” were written by Grammy-winning producer-artist Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. The captivating love song “Tu Amor” was written by Diane Warren, composer of countless hits for the likes of Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Aretha Franklin. “Cool Relax” also features studio collaborations with an impressive cross-section of talent, including the late Tupac Shakur, vocalists K-Ci and Jo Jo of Jodeci, and producer/DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammed of the legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest.

Some of these collaborations began as improvisations and jams between Jon B. and his guest artists, later refined into full-fledged songs.

Tupac chose me out of a group of people that he wanted to work with and called me up.”

Jon recalled. “I came to the studio where he was recording, and we wound up taping for three hours. He went to extra lengths to make me feel comfortable.” Their collaboration now is one of the highlights of the album: “Are U Still Down” features Tupac rapping over a slow, bumping Jon B. groove.

K-Ci and JoJo also made time to record with Jon B., on both the lush, sexy “Can We Get Down” and the Babyface penned “Pride & Joy.” “We just hit it off right away,” Jon stated for his label bio. “They are two down-to-earth guys who have great voices.Jon‘s collaboration with Ali Shaheed Muhammedbrought such a positive vibe that really inspired me,” Jon B. stated, and the positive vibes of their joint effort imbue the title track of “Cool Relax.” Jon: “That cut has a cool bounce that I really love. The message of that song is for people who enjoy life and don’t take everything so seriously. It’s okay to just take it easy sometimes.”

It’s no surprise that Jon B. should come equipped with so many skills. His father is a professor of music, his mother a concert pianist; his sister plays the violin and his brother, cello. His grandparents owned a record store, which exposed Jon B. early on to all kinds of different sounds. On “Cool Relax,” Jon B. was influenced by the work of several great old school artists – including Donnie Hathaway and Marvin Gaye.

This reverence for the past combines with an eye on the future to make music that’s deeply personal, yet universal. “I hope my songs speak to people as individuals, and I hope they speak universally as well,” Jon once stated. “Cool Relax” brings Jon B.‘s soulful panache to the forefront, the work of an exciting young artist who speaks the truth in his music, and who’s music speaks a truth of its own.

Jon B.’s “Cool Relax” spent a remarkable 55 weeks on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and was certified double platinum, selling over 2 million copies. Combining a sensual mix of ‘70s soul with ‘90s R&B;/Pop, “Cool Relax” definitely took the world by storm & will remain a 90s R&B classic album release!

In 1995, Jon B.‘s auspicious debut gold album “Bonafide” met with immediate acclaim, spawning a Top 10 Pop and R&B hit in “Someone To Love,” a gold single that featured Babyface. The memorable ballad was also included in the movie “Bad Boys.”

Jon B.‘s debut release established the multi-talented songwriter, producer, instrumentalist and vocalist as a refreshing new musical presence who brings a distinctively smooth, sumptuous style to contemporary music. Bridging the gap between cool swing of ’70s soul and the hip edge of ’90s R&B/Pop, Jon B. has carved out a musical identity all his own, and earned wide recognition for the passion and fire he brings to his songs.

Equally skilled on keyboards, guitar, drums and bass, Jon B. is a talented songwriter who has written or co-written hits for Toni Braxton (“In The Late Of The Night”), Az Yet (“Secrets”), After 7 (“Damn Thing Called Love,” “Save It Up,” “What U R 2 Me”), and Color Me Badd (“From The Back,” “Ooh Tonight”). Luther Vandross (“Grown Thangs”) and songs for Gina Thompson, as well as remixing Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone”. Jon also solidified his production sound with a collaboration with Jay Z and Coko (from SWV) featured on the “Hav Plenty soundtrack.”

Jon B. currently runs his own label Vibezelect Inc. and has finely obtained the creative freedom that he always wanted.

Jon B. has released five more albums — Pleasures U Like (2001), Stronger Everyday (2004), a holiday album Holiday Wishes (2006), Helpless Romantic (2008) and his last album release was 2012‘s Comfortable Swagg. In 2013, he released “B-Sides Collection.”

Jon B. was spotlighted earlier this year on TV One‘s “Unsung” and is currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on his next album release, due next year.

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