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Published May 2002 


Better Days Are Here

By Cheryl "Nneka" Hazell

The last time I spoke to Joe was almost two years ago. He had a new album out, he had a new music video in pre-production and great things were simply just happening for him. Since then he has continued to capture the hearts of women and men alike with his soothing voice, and lyrics which transcend bling-bling culture and weeded-out wet dreams.

Joe's latest venture, Better Days captures a deeper essence of the man without totally compromising the style for which fans appreciate him. Different themes come across Better Days from pregnant teens to loneliness, from saluting inner city children to bringing back a dated Neptune track. Collaborating with long time friend and producer, All Star, wasn't a bad move either. The first single "Let's Stay Home" is a tell tale sign of the creative power of these two soul brothers. The track titled "Changed Man" mirrors Joe's own ways.

"I'm just speaking from what I feel - I think a person can definitely change: to the White House from death row, from the projects to Hollywood, from bad to good. I think that's possible to happen."

The Neptune collaboration "Is This the World" isn't anything new. Joe dug up and dusted off the six-year-old track whose "lyrics will affect everybody in one way or another. "There's people who can't afford to buy food to eat. This is happening across the country, across the world."

When asked if he's found his 'voice', Joe responds, "It's only my 4th album so I think you only get better with time and the more you expand you start to find your style, yourself. But I think I'm still in the process of experimenting." How about dabbling in the spiritual, then?

"You have to practice what you preach. If you sing about it you gotta experience that in some kind of way. I don't believe in that phony stuff. If you sing about having God in your life, He's gotta be there," says Joe in a bid not to come across as a hypocrite.

"I don't want to say that I would never record a gospel song. I grew up with gospel music, it is my background but I still feel that there should be a respect level there and I don't want to cross that boundary trying to make a gospel record. But I would consider doing some inspirational music."

Joe can't even begin to think about writing for his new album since he'll be on tour for the next three months. And while many of his counterparts cross over to the thespian line of work, Joe shakes his head at the notion. "First things first. I would love to [act] but right now it's all about the music with me and I don't want to lose my focus. A lot of artists do that and sometimes it takes away their credibility as a musical artist. And music is my first love and is where I want to be right now."

Music may be where Joe wants to be but there are two other places that hold a special place for him. Although he considers himself an island person when it comes to vacation getaways, France and Capetown, South Africa have left an indelible impression on this Grammy nominee. He would definitely like to purchase a little get away nook right on the French coast near the water "where I can listen to the waves."

When at home, the New Jersey-based artist, who is definitely single but not necessarily looking, is still trying to break in his new digs. "I don't know if I'm looking but if it comes my way then...I've got a beautiful home here. I walk from room to room trying to put my vibe up in here. It's kind of crazy, the house is huge, so many rooms that you can't really get comfortable."

Sports are another favourite of Joe's and not only watching games but working up a little sweat from time to time also. "I play it all - basketball, bowling, pool. I've made a couple bucks on pool but I think bowling is my best sport."

And basketball?

"I like Sacramento. They hot, they hot...don't expect me to say Toronto Raptors!!" he chuckles. Speaking to Joe is like talking to my brother. This down to earth, bald, brown skinned recording angel continues to strive to be different, definitely capturing a nu-soul sensibility on the deep and moving Better Days.

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