”I’ve brought worlds together. Hip-hop and R&B, East Coast and West Coast,” brags Montell Jordan, whose messiah complex is not entirely justified. After all, rap and pop were being mixed and mated even before the Sugar Hill Gang sampled Chic’s ”Good Times” on ”Rapper’s Delight” in 1979. What the 23-year-old Jordan has done, however, is sell an ungodly number of records: more than a million copies of ”This Is How We Do It,” off his debut album of the same name. Thanks to its danceable hook, the song — an atypical depiction of L.A.’s South Central not as a war zone, but as one big picnic — spent seven weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B singles chart, as well as the Hot 100 singles chart (a first for Def Jam, Jordan’s label).
Despite his self-aggrandizing, Jordan is sensitive to the fact that his blend of rap and R&B has its detractors. ”People have said, ‘Why don’t you save that singing s—. That’s not really hip-hop,”’ he grumbles. ”And some say adding rap lyrics to a song isn’t really R&B. If that’s the case, then what the hell was Lionel [Richie] doing when he was talking over tracks like ‘Easy’?” As if to thumb his nose at those critics, the rapper, an ardent soul fan, has included a straight-up remake of the Teddy Pendergrass ballad ”Close the Door” on This Is How We Do It.
The 6’8” Jordan takes such pitfalls of instant stardom in (a very long) stride. ”It’s been cool,” says the South Central native, who hasn’t been home since his tour started two months ago and who’ll hit the road again this summer with Boyz II Men and TLC. ”I mean, nobody’s stalking me.”