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Dru Hill is an American singing group, most popular during the late 1990s, whose repertoire included R&B, soul, and gospel music. Founded in Baltimore, Maryland, and active since 1992, Dru Hill recorded seven Top 40 hits, and is best known for the R&B #1 hits "In My Bed", "Never Make a Promise", and "How Deep Is Your Love". Tamir "Nokio" Ruffin was the group's founder; his bandmates included lead singer Mark "Sisqó" Andrews, Larry "Jazz" Anthony, and James "Woody Rock" Green. Signing to Island Records through Haqq Islam's University Records imprint, the group released two successful albums, Dru Hill and Enter the Dru, before separating for a period from late 1999 to 2002, during which time Sisqó and Woody released solo albums. While Woody's Soul Music LP was a moderate success in the gospel music industry, Sisqó's debut album, Unleash the Dragon, and its hit single, "Thong Song", were major pop successes, and established Sisqó as a household name outside of Dru Hill. His second album, Return of Dragon, wasn't much of a success. He is currently working on his third album, Last Dragon. In 2002, by then part of the Def Soul record label, the group reunited and added fifth member Rufus "Scola" Waller to the lineup for their third album, Dru World Order. The album was a huge disappointment which forced the group to be released from Def Jam and go on a second hiatus. In 2010, the group signed to Kedar Entertainment Group and released their fourth album, InDRUpendence Day, with new member Tao, after Woody left for the second time.
The members of Dru Hill were natives of Baltimore, Maryland. Mark Andrews and James Green met each other in middle school, and both later became acquaintances of Tamir Ruffin when all three began pursuing careers in the music industry. Ruffin, nicknamed "Nokio" (an acronym for "Nasty on Key in Octave") enlisted Andrews and Green (whose respective nicknames of "Sisqó" and "Big Woody Rock" came from their childhood) to form a singing group. Sisqo, Nokio, & two original members Bravette Fleet & Chris Thomas also natives of Baltimore & attended Baltimore City College with Nokio & Woody formed an early incarnation of the group called 14K Harmony and began performing around the Baltimore area. At one talent show at Morgan State University were discovered by local talent manager Kevin Peck & also appeared on Amateur Night at Showtime At The Apollo. The quartet made a name for itself by getting jobs at a local fudge factory, "The Fudgery," at the Inner Harbor, where they sang and performed to entertain guests while making fudge (this tradition is still a part of "The Fudgery"). Most of their early repertoire was made up of gospel music as well as an early song by the group, "Please Remove Yo' Shoes". Woody then joined 14K Harmony. The group started as a gospel group but eventually switched to the more commercially viable genre of R&B which prompted Woody's mother to pull him out of the group but the group begged her to let him return & she reluctantly agreed to if he promised he would return to his gospel roots. By 1994 Larry "Jazz" Anthony who studied as an opera student at Frederick Douglass High School joined the group. Nokio saw him sing in a school assembly. Member changes had taken place by this time as Bravette Fleet & Chris Thomas pursued other interests and split from the group. Sisqo, Nokio, Jazz, & Woody continued to hone their skills working at the Fudgery. They also performed briefly under the name Storm then became Legacy. In 1995 Hiram Hicks president of Island Black Music saw the boys perform in a talent show and immediately wanted to fly them to New York to record a song called Tell Me for a movie Eddie starring Whoopi Goldberg. Blackstreet member Dave Hollister who was now pursuing a solo career originally sang on the song but after Legacy sang it for Hiram his vocals were scrapped as they recorded the song & were signed that night.
After the group signed to Island Records the label suggested they change their name from Legacy to Dru Hill after Druid Hill Park, a popular park on the West side of Baltimore, the name of which is pronounced "Dru Hill" in the local accent. A dragon is used as a logo for the group.
Big break and Dru Hill
Dru Hill's big break came in 1996, when manager Haqq Islam arranged for them to perform at the Impact Convention in May. The group was signed to Island Records's "Island Black" division shortly afterward through a production deal with Islam's University Music, and immediately began recording their debut album. The self-titled Dru Hill was released on November 19, 1996, and eventually was certified gold. The group's first single, "Tell Me", was featured on the soundtrack to the Whoopi Goldberg film Eddie, and was a Top 5 R&B hit in the United States.
Stylistically, Dru Hill was the middle-ground between the smooth, gentlemen-like Boyz II Men Solo (group) and the self-proclaimed "bad boys of R&B", Jodeci. Dru Hill received a lot of criticism, especially from the members of Jodeci, for what was perceived was a direct appropriation of Jodeci's style, particularly in frontman Sisqó's K-Ci Hailey-esque lead vocals. Other major influences for the group included Stevie Wonder and 1980s boy band New Edition.
Both the group themselves and songwriters/producers such as Daryl Simmons, Eric "Nealante" Phillips and Keith Sweat wrote the songs for the Dru Hill album, Nokio also did some co-production, and would become the group's main producer by 1998.
All four members took turns singing lead, with Sisqó making the biggest impression on audiences with his dancing style, David Ruffin-styled emoting, and bleached-blond hair. The Sisqó-led and the album's second single, "In My Bed", was the group's first Top 5 pop hit and first #1 R&B hit. Jazz took the lead on the third single, "Never Make a Promise", which became a second #1 R&B hit. "Never Make a Promise"'s music video starred Michelle Thomas as Jazz's girlfriend, and was noted for its message against child molestation.
The album's fourth and final single, "5 Steps", which the group wrote themselves, was released on December 9, 1997.
Soundtracks, protégés, and controversy
Between their first and second albums, Dru Hill contributed "We're Not Making Love No More", a #2 R&B and #13 Pop hit, to the Soul Food soundtrack. "We're Not Making Love No More" was written and produced by star producer Babyface. Dru Hill and rapper Foxy Brown recorded "Big Bad Mama", a remake of Carl Carlton's 1981 hit "She's a Bad Mama Jama (She's Built, She's Stacked)", which was the main single for the soundtrack to the 1998 Bill Bellamy film Def Jam's How to Be a Player. The group was also instrumental in writing and producing for new University artist Mýa, whose first two singles "It's All About Me" and "Movin' On", were co-written by Sisqó, who also performs guest vocals on "It's All About Me".
In 1997, Dru Hill filed a lawsuit against Island Records, seeking a release from its contract, after an Island employee hit the group's manager, Keith Ingram, over the head with a pool cue. It was discovered that the employee in question had a criminal record. At an October 1997 deposition hearing, Eric Kronfeld, president and chief operating officer of Island's parent company PolyGram, was asked why he had hired such an individual. His response was that if he were not to hire African-Americans with criminal records, then "there would be virtually no African-Americans employees in our society or in our industry."
Kronfield's remarks set off a wave of controversy when word of them reached the media in November. The Reverend Jesse Jackson became personally involved, publicly stating that PolyGram, based in the Netherlands, had "a pattern of race and sex exclusion." Jackson met with PolyGram chairman Alain Levy and several other executives, who issued a public apology for Kronfield's statement, and replaced Kronfield as president with Motown Records' chairman Clarence Avant. By the end of the month, Dru Hill had settled with Island Records, with the agreement that they would remain on the label.
Enter the Dru
Dru Hill's third Top 20 pop hit came in the form of 1998's "How Deep Is Your Love" (Pop #3), a hip hop styled track which was included on the soundtrack to the Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker film Rush Hour. The single "This Is What We Do", featuring a guest rap from Method Man, set the tone for the group's second album, Enter the Dru. The album featured several other mid-tempo tracks in the vein of "How Deep Is Your Love", as well as the R&B Top 5 single "These are the Times" (Pop #21), co-written and co-produced by Babyface, and featuring guitar work from Atlanta-based session guitarist and former Earth Wind & Fire member Dick Smith
Enter the Dru eventually sold two million copies by 1999. That year, Dru Hill recorded a version of "Enchantment Passing Through" for the soundtrack to the Broadway musical Aida, which was also featured on Sisqo's album Unleash the Dragon.
The Dru World Order project
Among the press and the public, Sisqó was singled out as a de facto solo act, and the other three members were regarded as sidemen. The singer was even erroneously referred to (presumably by mistake) as Dru Hill by confused fans, most notably on MTV's Spring Break 1999. When Dru Hill made a high-profile guest appearance on Will Smith's #1 pop hit "Wild Wild West", the lead single from the soundtrack to Smith's 1999 film of the same name, it made a star out of Sisqó alone. Both the song and its video prominently featured Sisqó alongside Smith, with the other three members relegated to the background.
During the "Wild Wild West" video shoot in April 1999, Woody quit the group, feeling a need to return to his gospel music roots. At first, Island decided to keep Dru Hill a trio, and shot a video for a hip-hop-styled remix of Enter the Dru's "You are Everything" with only Sisqó, Jazz, and Nokio, who performs a rap with Def Jam artist Ja Rule. Def Jam artist Case was subsequently enlisted to sing backgrounds on a remix of "Beauty" from Enter the Dru, whose video was shot but not released.
After Island merged with Def Jam to become The Island Def Jam Music Group in mid-1999, all four members, Woody included, signed new contracts with Def Jam's R&B imprint Def Soul, creating what was termed the "Dru World Order" project. Between November 1999 and November 2000, each member would release a solo album: Sisqó a pop album, Jazz a traditional R&B/soul album, Nokio a hip hop album, and Woody a gospel album. All four members reunited with a fifth member named Scola and recorded their third album Dru World Order, which was released in November 2002.
Sisqó released his debut Unleash the Dragon LP, and had a minor hit with his first single, "Got to Get It" featuring Make It Hot. His second single, a playful novelty record entitled "Thong Song", became a major hit during the spring of 2000, and his third, "Incomplete", became a number-one hit during the summer. As a result, the Dru World Order project schedule was continually pushed back, and, by November 2000, none of the other solo albums had been released.
In the early fall of 2000, Def Soul had Dru Hill re-enter the studio to record the Dru World Order album, and the song "Without Me" was chosen as the lead single. However, the time the group had spent apart created tension and conflict: Sisqó walked out of a November 2000 Dru Hill photo shoot for Vibe magazine, and the group broke apart completely shortly afterward.
Dru World Order was placed on indefinite hold, and Sisqó began work on a second solo LP, Return of Dragon. "Without You" was issued as an album track on Return of Dragon, which performed below expectations after its June 2001 release. By the end of the year, Sisqó and Nokio had begun plans to reassemble Dru Hill, enlisting Baltimore associate Rufus Waller, who performed under the name "Scola", as a fifth member.
Woody eventually arranged a solo deal with Kirk Franklin's Gospocentric Records, which released his gospel album, titled Soul Music, on April 9, 2002. Scola wrote the songs "My Homie" and "No Matter What" for Woody's album, and sings backgrounds on several tracks.
Dru World Order
Dru World Order was released on November 26, 2002, two years after its original planned release date. Nearly all of the album's tracks were produced by Nokio, who sung lead on the tracks "She Said" and "Men Always Regret". Producers such as Bryan Michael Cox, Eric "Nealante" Phillips and Kwamé also made contributions. Most of the album's tracks featured Sisqó, Jazz, Woody, and Scola sharing the leads, including the lead single "I Should Be...". "I Should Be..." was a Top 30 pop hit and a Top 10 R&B hit, while its follow-up "I Love You" failed to make a strong impression.
Beyond Dru World Order
By 2005, Dru Hill had been released from their Def Soul contract and had disappeared from public view.
Def Soul released a greatest hits compilation, Dru Hill: Hits, on October 11, along with a corresponding DVD collection of the group's music videos. Both collections included Sisqó's biggest solo hits, "Thong Song" and "Incomplete" alongside the Dru Hill songs.
During the summer of 2007, Scola released a slow jam compilation CD entitled Scola's Lost Treasures. He has also worked on a solo project called From EA 2 Cali, which was released in 2010.
Woody and Scola's departure
In early 2008, the original quartet version of Dru Hill began touring alongside fellow 1990s R&B acts Tony! Toni! Toné!, Bell Biv Devoe, and their former producer Keith Sweat. On March 6, the group appeared on WERQ, a Baltimore radio station, to promote their reunion. In the midst of their interview, however, Woody announced he was quitting the group again to dedicate himself to his gospel ministry. A YouTube video shows Sisqó walking out on the interview as a result, and Woody and Nokio fighting while Jazz and the manager Kevin Peck tries to break it up. The group held a contest in their native Baltimore for a replacement for Woody, settling upon a new singer, Antwuan "Tao" Simpson. The group never said why they did not keep Scola in the group, although it was later stated by Nokio that "five people [mess] up the money."
InDRUpendence Day is Dru Hill's fourth album, released on July 27, 2010. It features the group's new member, Tao, who was Woody's replacement. The album has released three singles, "Love MD", "Remain Silent" and "Back to the Future". It was released under the label Kedar Entertainment.
The group is currently touring the United States and working on their fifth album entitled: The Second Coming.
Dru Hill had their own television show titled Keith Sweat's Platinum House. It debuted June 28, 2010 on Centric. It focused on their fourth album, InDRUpendence Day, and how they progressed as a group back on the grind.
The show was scheduled to premiere on July 14, 2009 on BET but had been postponed.