How Naughty By Nature Played a Key Role in the Success of Zhane’s ‘Sending My Love’
When you think of the girl-group Zhané, what probably comes to mind is their hit single “Hey Mr. DJ.” You know, the midtempo track from their 1994 debut studio album Pronounced Jah-Nay that is the ultimate '90s R&B jam—right behind "Tell Me" by Groove Theory. "Hey Mr. DJ" became a Billboard hit and featured the classic “ho, yo, there's a party over here. Yo, oh no, the party's over there,” line from Fam of Rottin Razkals, but what you may not know, is that the hardcore rap group Naughty by Nature, specifically DJ Kay Gee, was the mastermind behind Jah-Nay’s B-side ballad, “Sending My Love.”
The song peaked at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was accompanied by a stunning music video directed by Antoine Fuqua, who would go on to direct big screen films like Training Day. The flawless harmonies and minimal beat cemented the duo’s status as a contemporary R&B gem.
As for the union between an ultra-feminine group— Zhané comprised of the Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-raised Renée Neufville and Rhode Island-born Jean Morris-Baylor —and a boom-bap rap group, well, it was a match made in music heaven, literally. “[When we first came together] a gentleman who took us up to some of the record companies in New York. The one that stuck was Flavor Unit — Latifah’s management company turned record label.” Morris-Baylor said in an interview. “That’s where we started to work with Kay Gee of Naughty by Nature, as he was looking for a girl group. We were still in our last year of college. We would go to the studio on the weekends, come back home, go to school and that’s when most of the first album [was created].”
“Hey Mr. DJ” had a strong hip-hop element, but Zhané offered Kay Gee a chance to explore his softer side, and his love for ballads, specifically with a song like “Sending My Love.” “It was kinda shocking to everybody that my first artist would be R&B, but not to me. If you think about Naughty by Nature’s productions, they’ve always been R&B heavy. My love has always been R&B, so it fitted that the first group I put out would [center around that genre].” Gee told You Know I Got Soul.
The girls were able to deliver melodies that were smooth as silk and presented themselves as some of the classiest ladies on the scene, but they put in work at the studio. “At that time, Naughty by Nature was starting to hit, and it was at the beginning of their careers. So, Kay Gee didn’t have his own facility, yet. He was working out of a spot off of Route 1 and 9 near Jersey City,” Neufville told Wax Poetics. What resulted was music that was ahead of its time. As witnessed on a track like “Sending My Love.”
But their moment had run its course, as the landscape of R&B changed, so did the group's dynamic. Zhané would eventually go their separate ways, with Renée embarking on a jazz career, and Jean becoming a lacrosse player before forming a band with her husband called The Baylor Project. The girls will always be remembered for formidable moments like “Sending My Love,” and one can’t help but to thank Kay Gee for assisting them to find their voices through music that would become a staple in R&B history.