BY KEVIN JACKSON—
IN 1993, the duo Zhane scaled the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with the hit single, Hey, Mr DJ. Their follow-up hits, including Groove Thang, Jamboree (featuring Naughty by Nature) and Sending My Love, made them a hot commodity.
After releasing two studio albums, Zhane called it quits in 2000.
Renee Neufville and Jean Morris comprised Zhane. Neufville, who has Jamaican roots, is getting ready to release a jazz song titled Watching Me.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Neufville spoke about her Jamaican heritage and years with Zhane.
“My parents, Albert and Joyce Neufville, are from Jamaica. My father was born in Portland and my mother was born in St Catherine. I was the youngest of three children and the only Brooklyn native of the household,” she said. “In November, I really am looking forward to returning to Jamaica for a few days before heading to Nigeria.”
Neufville and Morris met while attending Philadelphia’s Temple University. Their first professional recording was background vocals on the DJ Jazzy Jeff/Fresh Prince hit, Ring My Bell. It was at the suggestion of a record company executive that they decided to form a duo.
Zhane was first featured on the all-star compilation Roll Wit Tha Flava (produced by Queen Latifah’s Flava Unit label). Their track, Hey Mr DJ, became a party anthem and helped land them a contract with Motown Records.
Neufville recalled their initial meeting with Queen Latifah and working with Naughty By Nature’s Kay Gee.
“After we recorded a single on Will Smith’s Home Base album, we met Queen Latifah who then introduced us to Kay Gee and that was where things began to take shape.”
She pointed out that no disagreements led to Zhane’s split 15 years ago.
“Jean decided to leave to pursue a solo career. Since then she and her husband have been making music and are very happy. I am happy for them as well. She and I do keep in touch from time to time, which usually turns into comedy. She has always been very animated,” said Neufville.
Morris married musician Marcus Baylor in 2000. She released the solo album, Testimony: My Life in 2011, and a Christmas album, Light Up The World, that year.
After Zhane, Neufville hosted an Internet series called 88 Soul. Guests included artists such as Jill Scott, Carl Thomas, Kelis and Joe. She later contributed vocals to albums and videos by India.Arie, Will Downing, Heather Headley, Leela James, and Aaliyah.
Watching Me, which she wrote and produced, is Neufville’s first solo release. It is influenced by the work she has done with jazz musician Roy Hargrove’s RH Collective for the past 13 years.
“It is a song designed for the underserved listening audience. Throughout the years, whilst touring with jazz legend Roy Hargrove, I would often hear grievances from music lovers about
the kind of music they miss,” Neufville explained. “It’s really a great-feeling record with a solid groove. As a producer, I attempted to capture the soulful, yet sleek essence of the very music that shaped me. It was a lane that was abandoned; the feel-good music lane.”
Neufville also hopes to try some reggae in the near future.
“Chronixx is a favorite of mine and we have discussed a possible collaboration,” she said.