Jon B Just Wants Us To "Understand"

Cecilia Smith | 6/13/2019, 9:30 a.m.
Jon B sits down for a one-on-one HSM writer, Cecilia Smith.

There’s a reason nostalgia for 90s R&B has endured, namely because it birthed a body of music that’s simply too damn good to ignore. A legacy that continues to fill seats across the country at shows featuring acts like 112, Dru Hill, Xscape and more. From soulful bands to soaring singers, it’s an era that proudly offered a little of something for everyone, including the golden voiced Jon B.

From production for Michael Jackson to writing for artists like Toni Braxton, Jon carefully built his craft before proving he could pen hits of his with the release of his platinum selling debut, Bonafide. Not showing any signs of a sophomore curse, just two years later he would go double platinum with the 1997 release of Cool Relax. Since then he’s enjoyed more than two decades in the industry, and he’s not slowing down, recently teaming up with Donell Jones for a sultry single called “Understand.”

Back on the road, during a stop at Houston’s popular Arena Theater the “Don’t Say” singer sat down for what we promised would be a (relatively painless) interview. Warm and relaxed, he shared laughs while getting candid about everything from his legacy and his refusal to go pop, to what it was like recording “Are You Still Down” with the late Tupac Shakur.

On stage he’s a professional, working with the stage crew to ensure that the night ahead will go smoothly. After soundcheck he’s warm and relaxed, sharing laughs while getting candid about everything from his legacy and his refusal to go pop, to what it was like to record “Are You Still Down” with the late Tupac Shakur.

Jon B. and HSM writer, Cecilia Smith

Jon B. and HSM writer, Cecilia Smith

Behind the scenes:

I write and produce all of my own music. A lot of the songs that you know and love, I wrote those songs. I love to collaborate with other producers though, I like to have more than one sound on an album. If I didn’t have a voice or a calling to be a writer I don’t really think I’d have the same impact with people.

Collaborating for “Understand:”

Recently, I just finished working with Donell Jones and it was a pleasure to work with someone who has influenced me creatively. There are certain elements that you can’t help but be influenced by. Donell’s been a heavyweight in R&B for years so the fact that he even wanted to do the record with me was a blessing. It was an opportunity that reminded me of when me and Pac got together. Same kind of energy.

Tupac’s creative process in the studio for “Are You Still Down”

He was a great guy in the studio. A lot of people see the videos and they think he was a hostile person to be around, when it was the exact opposite. He was very much down for whatever he supported, he was down to a default. If you’re going to be productive you want to be apart of something that’s moving on the way up. Everybody in the room that night, they were pumped for us that night. Pac was one of those guys, if you were there and you felt some type of way he would pick up on that energy and call you out like, “Hey man, what’s up?” He would pull you out of your element.