Beginning with his 1996 album My Heart, singer/songwriter/producer Donell Jones recorded a jazzy and soulful style of urban pop for LaFace Records and scored a few modest singles in the process. His first two singles — “In the Hood” and “Knocks Me Off My Feet” — established his reputation within the competitive urban market. In particular, the latter song, originally a Stevie Wonder song from Songs in the Key of Life (1976), became a substantial hit for Jones, climbing to the upper reaches of the Billboard R&B chart and driving the album up the charts as well. In addition to his own music, he also wrote songs for other urban artists such as Usher (“Think of You”) and 702 (“Get It Together”).
Born the son of a gospel singer, Jones immersed himself in music at a young age. Later, he began to fall victim to the temptations of Chicago’s South Side, where he grew up. At one point, after involving himself with gang culture, he decided to dedicate himself to music rather than the streets. He met Edward “Eddie F” Ferrell (former Heavy D & the Boyz member turned Untouchables Entertainment president), and the two formed a partnership with LaFace. Following the success of Usher’s “Think of You” in 1994 (number eight R&B), a song written by Jones, LaFace executives L.A. Reid and Babyface gave the blossoming artist the go-ahead to begin work on his solo debut. Executive produced by Ferrell, Reid, and Babyface, My Heart peaked at number 30 on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1996, propelled primarily by the success of “Knocks Me Off My Feet” as well as two other singles: “In the Hood” and “You Should Know.”
When Jones returned three years later in 1999 with his second album, Where I Wanna Be, he had become known as an accomplished songwriter. He penned songs for 702 (“Get It Together,” 1997) and Drea (“Not Gonna Letcha,” 1998) and was well regarded within the industry as a result. Unsurprisingly then, Jones attained impressive success with Where I Wanna Be and its singles: “U Know What’s Up” and “Shorty (Got Her Eyes on Me).” Shortly after the album’s release, he contributed a song to the Shaft soundtrack (“Do What I Gotta Do”) and to Guru’s Streetsoul album (“Hustlin’ Daze,” which he also contributed vocals to). Following some time off in 2001, Jones returned in 2002 with his third album, Life Goes On. The album peaked at number three on the album chart, but he wasn’t able to follow it up until 2006’s Journey of a Gemini, which charted even higher. Despite this, Jones and LaFace parted ways after a 2007 best-of compilation. Three years later, Jones signed an independent deal with eOne and released Lyrics (2010) and Forever (2013), two albums for which he performed, wrote, and produced nearly everything.