Where Does Dru Hill Fit In The Pantheon of Great Male R&B Groups?
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Sometimes, I feel like Dru Hill gets lost in the sauce. When having discussions about great R&B male groups from the 90s (and 2000s), Jodeci is typically the gold-standard, and while Boyz II Men is pretty much a snoozefest in retrospect, their accomplishments cannot be ignored. New Edition is, well, New Edition despite being of questionable vocal abilities. Of course, the world’s greatest R&B group, Jagged Edge, released several albums back then and continue to regale us with wonderful harmonies and love, but for the sake of argument, I’ll acknowledge my bias and not put them at the top of the list.
Back to Dru Hill. I wasn’t really a fan of them…at first. This was for a few reasons: 1) Sisqo REALLY sounds like K-Ci from Jodeci and 2) I didn’t like “Tell Me” when it dropped. Because of those two reasons I didn’t give two shits about no Dru Hill. But folks were buying that album left and right in high school and then I heard the “In My Bed” So So Def Remix with Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat and it was fire. So I said, “Hey, that was fire.”
Then I remember seeing the video for “5 Steps” and being all sad and shit because dude died in the building fire and wondering if the video truly matched the song but realizing how awesome the song was despite this and some questionable songwriting and acknowledging just how strong a singer Sisqo was. Plus, when I took a step back, “Tell Me” wasn’t really a bad song and it had the little jumping dance that I could do pretty much anywhere, which in retrospect was really thoughtful of them. Like, you absolutely cannot just Milly Rock on any block. It’s just not feasible.
Anyway, objectively speaking, Dru Hill had quite the run, even if their chart success doesn’t quite tell their whole story. For instance, they have no pop chart number one singles, though they hit number one on the R&B charts three times. Oddly enough, their highest pop chart single was 1998’s “How Deep Is Your Love” reaching number four on the charts. Forget the charts though, here is the murderer’s row list of Dru Hill singles:
“Tell Me”, “In My Bed”, “In My Bed” (Remix), “5 Steps”, “Never Make A Promise”, “We’re Not Making Love No More”, “How Deep Is Your Love”, “These Are The Times”, “Beauty”, “I Should Be…”, “You Are Everything”, etc.
All charted even if they never reached the top slot, however, just look at that damn list. There’s not a single slum song on there. You could literally karaoke that ENTIRE list of songs and feel like you had the best night ever.
This next statement is going to be debateable, but I’d wager that Sisqo is one of the best singers ever in R&B. I’m not saying he’s the best – a distinction I’d happily place upon Luther – but he’s up there. The ONLY caveat to that is that I do think he sounds too much like K-Ci Hailey. In fact, Dru Hill’s songs “You Are Everything” and “The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)” sound like they were ripped right out of the K-Ci and JoJo handbook, especially the latter. Sisqo was out here doing K-Ci vocal runs like nobody would notice and the group harmonies sound like them Hailey boys. If you told me K-Ci and JoJo passed on it first, I’d believe you. Sisqo’s voice isn’t quite as heavy as K-Ci’s (Urban Mystic is the only other singer who I feel comes close to pulling off K-Ci). But Sisqo can sang, not just sing.
You know what else always was curious about Dru Hill to me? This is totally random, but, why did the group let Sisqo say his name so much in songs? Like, did they not get to hear the final versions before they went to mastering or something? If I was in a group and one person kept saying his own name in our GROUP songs, I’d have been pissed.
Here’s another thing: every (mostly every) member of Dru Hill was immensely talented. Woody and Jazz could definitely sing, Nokio produced and seemed to be really cool, Scola showed up and could sing, I don’t really know what the new, new dude, Tao, does, and Sisqo is Sisqo, even if his greatest musical legacy on planet Earth is “The Thong Song,” which, I imagine could be worse. For instance, MC Brains greatest contribution is “Oochie Coochie.” I’m guessing he didn’t quite make the Cleveland Artists Hall of Fame for that one.
The larger poing here is this: Dru Hill was a very talented R&B group whose discography includes some classic records, REALLY dope albums in Dru Hill and Enter the Dru, some awesome videos, a line that says “swallow you like Reese’s pieces”, and a period piece video starring Lark Voorhees that I’m pretty sure was supposed to be based on The Three Musketeers but firmly cemented each member of Dru Hill’s inability to act, especially Sisqo, which, I mean, is awesome in its own right. But more importantly, they just sounded damn good. Their acapella singing and the runs they did at the end of songs rivals anybody save for Boyz II Men. Ain’t nobody thinking about Shai in 2017 and they owe their entire career to the acapella version of “If I Ever Fall in Love”.
They had more albums than Jodeci but clearly aren’t anywhere near as influential, were way less corny than Boyz II Men but didn’t have the hits though I’d wager that their songs are better, save for “End of the Road” which deserves all of the accolades it received, plus, when I feel like singing for money on the streets, that’s my go to. I get paid to stop but a payday is a payday, amirite? They’re clearly not better than New Edition who pretty much fathered all of these groups.
I’m not creating this three horse race for best 90s R&B male group, but I rarely hear people mention them when we talk about 90s groups and I’d wager that they’re better than almost every other group but Jodeci. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaybe, not as good as Mint Condition who has arguably one of the most signature 90s R&B songs in “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)”. Their greatest hits album was cool and shit but it sure as shit had better be because “greatest hits”. They’re better than Silk, 112, (arguably) Jagged Edge (I know, I know), H-Town, etc.
Perhaps I’m being biased because I really like singing along and Sisqo was such a grand talent. Shit, maybe more people think they’re one of the greats than I hear in the circles I run in, so maybe I need new circles. Perhaps even ovals. But I don’t know. Where does Dru Hill belong? Should they be mentioned along with the 90s greats?
Inquiring minds would like to know.