Unless you lived in a convent or a monastery during the late 1990's, it was practically impossible to ignore Dru Hill's dominance of the charts and airwaves on the urban scene. Qualms about the platinum do' and Jodeci-esque vocals aside, Sisqo, Woody, Jazz, and Nokio came on strong with sinewy, harmony-laden singles that sustained enough edge for the dance floor while serving as background music for the night-time bump-n-grind ("In My Bed," "Never Make a Promise," "These Are the Times," "Beauty," etc.). Even with a member change (adding Skola in 2002) and the momentary diversion of Sisqo's solo success ("Thong Song," "Incomplete"), the Baltimore, MD natives held their own amongst their ‘boy band' peers and accumulated millions in sales and followers.
But then, beyond 2002's Dru World Order, the new decade left them without a label, personally and professionally fractured and thisclose to being just an R&B trivia question until their re-emergence with former producer Keith Sweat, a new member (exit Skola, enter Tao), a new label (Kedar Entertainment) and their first CD of new songs in nearly ten years, InDRUpendence Day, which sets out to prove to their back-in-the-day fans that they still have ‘it' while demonstrating to newer listeners why they were ever ‘it' in the first place.
Does Dru Hill succeed? More often than not. The group retains its trademark style by keeping all hands on the production deck alongside Bryan-Michael Cox, Keith Sweat and a few others (J-Hott, Darryl Pearson, Jerry Flowers and Wirlie Morris ). Because there are fifteen full-length songs here, the fact that their vocals and romantic tendencies remain intact is obviously a plus, starting with the instantly-familiar style of "Love MD" and the heartsick "Back to the Future," where a man yearns for the starry-eyed, crazy-in-love beginnings of a relationship: "Can we take it back to the way we were/back to every single time you saw him you saw her?/ Even though we try to stay away/ my heart is still in yesterday/ let's go back to the you and me we s'posed to be/back to the future."
Other enjoyable tracks display that Dru Hill 'can make you dance, and can make you move,' such as the bravado-filled "She Wants Me" and "Below Zero," an uptempo assessment of an unwelcome climate change in a once-steamy union: "You're as cold as ice, and after all the sacrifice/I shower you with love and you're frozen over, now that's one fault that I can't get over." Depending on your tastes, "Remain Silent" is a track brimming with tantalizing word play or, well, TMI: "Put your hands up, assume the position/ this is a strip search and you're under my submission." Well alrighty then!
Even if some of the tracks range from frivolous to feather-weight and employ waaaay too much auto-tune ("Can't Stop" is mind-numbingly dull and "Rule the World" is a remake of the Tears For Fears 1980's smash that's a dubious inclusion at best and just plain lazy at worst), InDRUpendence Day puts this quartet back in the spotlight and, for their ride-or-die fans, rewards their patience with a solid release as they capitalize on a glorious past while rebuilding their musical futures (don't forget to tune into their reality show Platinum House on the Centric network June 28). Recommended.
By Melody Charles