Born Jonathan DeBarge on June 23, 1966, in Grand Rapids, MI. Addresses: Record company--Alove/Koch Entertainment, 22 Harbor Park Dr., Port Washington, NY 11050.  A member of a musical family that notched major successes in the R&B field in the 1980s and 1990s, Chico DeBarge went his own way stylistically. While the other DeBarges offered romantic harmony singing that recalled the 1960s heyday of their label Motown, Chico DeBarge was a full-throated soul singer whose lyrics tended toward raw sensuality and toward serious reflections on the temptations of the criminal life. DeBarge, composing much of his own material, drew on his experiences during a nearly six-year prison term he served after being convicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Born on June 23, 1966, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jonathan DeBarge received the nickname Chico from a relative. He was the tenth of 13 children, several of whom formed the vocal group DeBarge in the late 1970s. Several others were members of another R&B ensemble called Switch. Chico DeBarge was too young to join these groups, but his appearances with a local church choir made it clear that he had inherited his family's musical talent. After attending high school in Detroit, he broke into the music business himself and was signed to Mowtown.

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His debut album, Chico DeBarge, was released in 1986. Even at this stage of his career, DeBarge's music differed from the sweet harmonies of DeBarge and their falsetto-specialist lead singer El; Chico's music had a funkier edge. The album's leadoff single "Talk To Me" ascended the charts rapidly, and the family seemed to have produced yet another musical sensation. Then, a month after the album's release, DeBarge's world came crashing down when he was arrested on drug conspiracy charges. Specifically, police alleged that he had introduced two cocaine dealers to each other. His prison term ended up being longer than those of either of the dealers themselves.

DeBarge would overcome this setback to his career, but in an interview with London's Independent newspaper, he expressed bitterness over his conviction. "I felt in court that I was a victim of racism," he said. "I definitely feel that had I not been the creed I am I would not have received the sentence I got." He came out of prison in 1994 with a knife scar above his left eye, but also with skills he had developed on several new musical instruments. He also had composed a notebook full of songs, which would find their way onto the albums he released after putting his career back together. When DeBarge was released, he told the New York Daily News that a prison guard sent him off with a taunt, "See you in a few months." That experience would find its way onto DeBarge's Long Time No See album, which opens with the sound of a cell door and a voice predicting the singer's return to prison.

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Additional Bio's .

Troubled by his family's disappointment in him, and by a relationship that had ended due to his prison term, DeBarge kept out of harm's way by pitching some of his new songs to other performers and rebuilding his network of friends in the music industry. He was signed to a contract with the new label LaFace at one point, but the project planned by that label fell through. In 1996 DeBarge finally caught the ear of executive Kedar Massenburg, one of the most astute talent-spotters of the late 1990s and a major force behind the musical movement that became known as neo-soul.

Neo-soul was partly a reaction against the studio-driven, heavily electronic sound of hip-hop music; it featured traditional instruments and virtuoso, highly ornamented vocals, often on romantic themes, yet had a tough attitude that marked it as part of the 1990s. The timing was perfect for DeBarge, who had honed his instrumental skills and was ready with a large collection of songs that fit what Massenburg was looking for. The executive, who was in the process of turning around the flagging fortunes of the durable Motown label, signed DeBarge to a contract, and DeBarge found himself making music for the label that had issued his brothers' greatest hits.

Even though he was something of a black sheep within his family, DeBarge once again enjoyed their support. "I have a lot of respect for them, and never once did they make me feel bad because my music was different from theirs," he told Billboard. DeBarge's second Motown album, Long Time No See, was released in the fall of 1997. Massenburg produced the recording, which mostly featured music composed by DeBarge himself. With a mixture of romantic songs and music about prison life and the pressures of the streets, DeBarge drew comparisons, not with the romantic Motown vocal groups that had inspired his brothers, but with the hardest-edged member of the Motown artist stable, Marvin Gaye, whose "Trouble Man" DeBarge often performed in concert.

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