Twenty years. It’s been 20 years since Dru Hill, the quartet from Baltimore, Maryland wooed the hearts of R&B lovers with 1996’s “Tell Me” and “In My Bed,” followed by a slew of ballads and red hot romancing tracks.
Original members Mark “Sisqo” Andrews, Larry “Jazz” Andrews and Tamir “Nokio” Ruffin alongside 2008 addition Antwuan “Tao” Simpson, who won “Dru Idol,” a competition to become the fourth member of the “How Deep is Your Love” group, recently took to the stage of Hammond, Indiana’s The Venue, performing fan favorites including the Babyface penned “We’re Not Making Love No More,” and “Tell Me” last week. Donning powder blue and angel white, attendees robbed them of the song, belting lyrics for them as if strolling down memory lane.
It’s been more than five years since the foursome blessed music with an album: 2010’s InDRUpendence Day, released on Kedar Massenburg’s label Kedar Entertainment Group, but it didn’t matter. The multi-platinum group fans are loyalists, selling out the second show after a highly demanded encore concert was scheduled.
Celebrating two decades strong as a R&B staple, The Source caught up with the 90s favorites during their ‘Ladies Night’ tour, sharing the marquee with fellow R&B mainstays Avant, Tank and Ginuwine as they dished on their career and why their new single, “Change,” due in a few months, is just what music needs.
What’s the secret in a industry where groups break up, one hit wonders, etc.?
Nokio: What’s the secret? The fans. More than anything, it’s the fans because a lot of times when you grow up- have families, you move into another part of life, but no matter what we do the dragon symbol’s in the sky.
Jazz: It’s the love of what you do and not just up here faking it to make it. We’re true to the core. It’s almost like you’re driven and drawn to do it regardless. It’s just amazing, just to be around each other, like we shock each other!
Nokio: Even though we didn’t understand totally when we first started, people made sure we became marquee artists and they gave us lifetime records. Nowadays you kind of just go in the studio, make a record and it’s whatever, spend a bunch of money to make people think it’s good when don’t nobody know what the f*ck you talking about.
But, we’re the last part of the generation where it’s about the artist that made careers for everybody else; artist development, the right records, putting us with the right producers who would teach us a lesson, we’re the last of it.
In the 90s, R&B had so many groups from Dru Hill, to 112, to Jagged Edge to dozens others. What happened to the groups?
Nokio: They can’t spend the money to do that sh*t. It takes a lot of money. The first thing that I thought when we won our first Soul Train Award- I was hype, but I wondered how much this award cost? Not that I was belittling our talent, but we know what it is.
Sisqo: You have to look at the business behind it.
Jazz: Basically it’s a fickle market right now and as an investor, who’s really going to gamble their whole pot on something if you don’t know what’s going to come back.
Nokio: And you can have a group that can really sing but people are so untuned to what real music is now.
Do you guys have a favorite song you like to perform the best?
Tao: All of ’em!
Nokio: It’s like every song. People really don’t understand what it takes to do this for real and the foundation of records.
Can we expect new music?
Nokio: We have a record called “Change” coming out. Us being from Baltimore and everything that went on with Freddie Gray and police brutality across the country in general we felt like we needed to say something. You get to do all the other stuff- make love, have babies off our music, but you get to a point where you have a responsibility.
Sisqo: And the song is unbiased, too.
Nokio: It’s pretty much asking, ‘If you understood how I felt, would you change?’ A lot of times if you talk to people, the biggest divide between the police and the community is they don’t understand the community because they don’t live around us. It’s not like back in the day with Officer Friendly. My daughter is seven years old, and when she was five she saw the police and got scared and thought she was going to jail!
We wanted to create a platform- and believe me, before this record got done I went to a lot of police officers and I just played it for them. It’s not a record going at the police. What it is is a record saying, ‘We don’t understand you and y’all don’t understand us.’ How can we get you to understand that every time I walk out of the house I feel like I might not make it home for some reason I can’t even think of? And that’s a burden.
You can listen to the snippet now, and it’ll be out within the next few months.
Along with that we got a book we’re working on and a lot of surprises coming up.
Sisqo: I just did a song with Marie Osmond called “Give Me a Good Song.” And she was awesome- how many artists can say they’ve worked with someone who worked with the Jacksons, to Elton John to Babyface.
Nokio: We’re from Baltimore, Maryland; where everybody take the sh*t we do and act like they didn’t get it from there. So much sh*t comes out of Baltimore. We carry our city on our back!
Sisqo: Blonde hair! *laughs*
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Photo credit: Twitter, Getty Images