By G. Brown
He mixed a pumping beat with a smooth groove to release the quintessential house party anthem of the mid 90’s, but R&B singer Montell Jordan’s career crashed as fast as it rose.
After graduating from Pepperdine University in the early 90’s, Jordan took a detour from the path his bachelor’s degree in communications was paving before him and instead headed towards music. At 6’8”, Jordan was used to standing out in a crowd and arrived on the music scene with the same expectation. Just four years out of college, Jordan released his first single which would go on to become his biggest hit. “This is How We Do It” was an ode to the party life in his home of South Central L.A., but it struck the right note with the hip hop crowd from coast to coast and all points in between. The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and dominated the charts for seven weeks.
“This Is How We Do It” not only put Jordan on the map, but also his record label Def Jams. Capitalizing on their new hit artist, the label followed up Jordan’s debut with “Somethin’ 4 Da Honeyz”. The follow-up wasn’t nearly as big a hit but still brought in more sales.
Handling his new found fame kept Jordan busy, but not too busy to write and craft hit songs for other artists like Deborah Cox (“Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here) and SisQó (“Incomplete”). Even juggling all that, Jordan still found time to try out a bit of acting with roles in 2004 movie “The Fighting Temptations with Beyonce and 1996’s “The Nutty Professor” starring Eddie Murphy and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
With hit records, fame and fortune, Jordan was living the life many could only dream of but it was soon time to wake up. Jordan’s wake-up call came one night in Arizona. After years of performing to packed houses around the world, only seven people sat in the audience. Jordan put his crushed pride aside and walked onto the stage to perform for those seven people as if the concert hall was packed. He said the entire time he was thinking, “I love something that no longer loves me back.”
In 2004, waning popularity wasn’t Jordan’s only problem. The IRS filed a lien against the singer for failure to pay taxes between 1999 and 2001. By 2012, Jordan owed a staggering $627,987 to Uncle Sam.
To help bail himself out of his problems, Jordan sold his music catalog for far less than it’s worth and applied the half million from the sale to settling his IRS debt which was eventually cleared.
Even though some might say Jordan fell from grace, the opposite is actually true—he fell into grace. During that low point in his life, Jordan says he went on a 21 day fast consuming only liquids and God made it clear to him it was time to leave Hollywood and the Hollywood lifestyle far behind. Jordan packed up his wife and family and moved all the way to the east coast where he still lives. Jordan is now an ordained minister where he works on the pastoral staff of Victory World Church near Atlanta, Georgia. He still sings, but now primarily, it’s to worship God.
Jordan seems at peace with his new calling. He and his wife minister and counsel couples through marital problems. Jordan says, “I felt like when I was in the music business, I led a lot of people in the wrong direction. I sang things that probably caused people to cheat on their spouses, to have sex out of marriage. I represented the music industry well and because of that, I probably led a lot of people on the pathway toward hell. My goal is now to lead more people to heaven than I possibly could have led to hell.”
He still gets offers to perform the music that made him a star all those years ago. Sometimes, he accepts like 2011’s Super Bowl preshow. When asked if it’s hard to stay away from life in the limelight, Jordan took a moment to reflect on it all and finally said, “I think it would be harder to say yes.”
Here’s a look back at Jordan’s official video for his first hit song, “This is How We Do It”.