Like a comet, the talented vocal group Dru Hill flashed before our eyes in the late 90s and early 2000s, leaving behind a trail of huge hits and a legacy that was simply too short.
Beginning as classmates in the Baltimore school system, Mark “Sisqo” Andrews, Tamir "Nokio" Ruffin, Larry "Jazz" Anthony and James "Woody" Green made a name for themselves singing in local clubs and at a Baltimore open air fudge shop before being signed by University Records and taking on the now famous group name – a shortcut of Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. University in turn connected the group with the powerhouse Island Records label’s black music division.
Dru Hill came out of the box hot, hitting the top 5 with the debut single “Never Make a Promise,” with Jazz showing off his powerfully soulful voice. The follow up, “In My Bed,” featuring the gritty lead of Sisqo, was even bigger, becoming the first of three Dru Hill #1 songs, and the driver of the group’s platinum selling debut album.
Unfortunately, the initial success also brought consternation, as battles between the group, University Records and Island led to legal battles and a loss of momentum for what appeared to be one of the rising acts in R&B. Fortunately, Dru Hill’s sophomore album, 1998’s Enter The Dru, was the remedy, landing two more top hits.
While a group of four very talented singers, by 1999 it was clear that Sisqo was becoming the first among equals with the record company. It led Woody to depart the group and members to start working on solo projects (Sisqo’s “The Thong Song” became an international hit).
A 2002 reunion album, Dru World Order, brought in a fifth member, Scola, and a return to the top 10. However, a merger of Island with rap label Def Jam led to the dropping of Dru Hill by the label, and over the next several years, personal issues with Jazz and Sisqo, and a final departure by Woody, left Dru Hill on the sidelines.
Dru Hill members have come together several times over the years, and currently a version of the group, featuring Sisqo, Nokio and new members Smoke and Black, tours in multi-act shows and records from time to time. A Dru Hill 25th anniversary tour, with Jazz and Scola back in the group, is scheduled for 2023.
By Chris Rizik
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