What Millennials Should Know About… Donell Jones’ ‘Where I Wanna Be’


VIBE spotlights some of music’s most essential timepieces for Gen Y

DONELL JONES Where I Wanna Be (1999) Most Slept On: “It’s Alright” Halfway through a project that’s equal parts lust, confidence and class, Donell Jones dangles ’76 Dom Perignon and a dime bag in front of his lady’s eyes as foreplay. That should tell you everything. Seductive chords set the mood as he lays a very direct agenda: “Plan on making you moan.” And (even more direct): “We gon’ do it tonight.”

A soundtrack to: —Transporting to the 1940s and relaxing in a jazz lounge —Sobbing in front of a window —Sex —Picking up the opposite sex (for sex) Top-5 Breakup song ever (“Where I Wanna Be”): “I just left my baby girl a message, saying I won’t be coming home/I’d rather be alone/She doesn’t fully understand me/’Cause I’d rather leave than to cheat/If she give me some time, I can be the man she needs/But there’s a lot of lust inside of me.” Jones flips the “It’s not you; it’s me” trope into one of R&B’s most effective and candid break-up anthems. Explaining why he needs a breather from his teenage love, he’s genuine, vulnerable and selfish (“Do I leave? Do I stay? Do I go? I think about my life and what matters to me the most”). As suave as the song sounds, you never want to be on the receiving end of his message.
Song that might not fly in 2014: On “Have You Seen Her?” Donell tries to find a mysterious PYT pushing a GS4 (that’s a Lexus) and goes about it by asking if anyone’s seen her. These days, he’d just put an APB out on Twitter and/or lurk in her Instagram. Perfect pickup lines: —“Would you mind if I take this seat right here?/’Cause you’re sitting alone/If you’re sippin’ on Cris, girl, I’m buying, yeah” —“I must admit I got a thing for you/It’s just a little taste of all the things I’ll do for you” —“All this love, are you gonna be the one to get it?” —”It’s a quarter past 3, girl, what’s it gon’ be?” Bet you didn’t know: Jones’ pre-solo pen credits include co-writing (with Faith Evans) Usher’s 1994 breakout single, “Think of You.” Synopsis: Most R&B heads will fight to put this project in their top-whatever lineup, for the replay factor alone. Donell Jones slipped us an undercover classic (and a classic Left Eye verse on “U Know What’s Up”) and tip-toed out the door. He’s released five albums since this platinum-selling sophomore effort, but none as musically dapper and truthful. Where I Wanna Be could even be considered a forefather to Usher’s testosterone manifesto Confessions. Hard truths are softened and dirty deeds are done, but Donell always comes across like a smooth criminal (“I understand you got a nigga that lives at home, but I wanna be the cat that makes you moan.”). It’s not exactly a diamond—his vocals beg beyond its limits sometimes. But BabyFace’s buttery touch is apparent, and Jones and company’s storytelling and slight edge scream sophistication. It’s so easy and simple that it’s good for you.