15 R&B classics, standards and deep cuts
You can’t argue about the best 90s R&B songs without mentioning Dru Hill. In 1992, high school friends Mark “Sisqo” Andrews, Larry “Jazz” Anthony Jr., Tamir “Nokio” Ruffin and James “Woody” Green formed a band eventually called Dru Hill, after Druid Hill Park in their Baltimore. native. The quartet made their debut in local and regional talent shows. (Without speaking about their local fudge store.)
They created a huge buzz after a few years and landed a recording deal with Island. Their first album, Dru Hill, dropped in 1996 and went platinum thanks to singles like “Never Make a Promise”, “In My Bed”, “Tell Me” and “5 Steps”. The group often made comparisons with Jodeci and Boyz II Men – influences they were happy to claim – and like many greats before them, their rich and complex harmonies, rooted in soul music, met at the intersection of gospel, blues, hip-hop and R&B . They were in their late teens and early twenties when they entered the world stage, but they sang adult stories about love and sex. Dru Hill also provided unforgettable visuals to match their tunes. This is where many first saw their iconic dance moves, like the Dru Hill Bounce.
Listen to the 25th anniversary edition of Dru Hill’s self-titled album here.
Dru Hill’s road to stardom hasn’t always been easy, especially after their second album in 1998. There have been label and band member changes over the years. The quartet sometimes became a trio, or a quintet, and then eventually became a quartet again. Despite the line-up changes, they still make music. However, in this introduction the focus is on the best Dru Hill songs from 1996 to 2002.
Dru Hill’s quintessential R&B songs
(“Tell me”, “In my bed”, “Never make a promise”, “5 steps”, “I should be …”)
Dru Hill’s breakthrough was fueled by mouthwatering love songs and iconic dance moves. They got there hot with their first single “Tell Me”, a melodious promise to deliver steamy love all the time. “Tell Me”, which first appeared on the soundtrack of the 1996 film, Eddie, peaked at number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number five on the R&B chart. The video was also a treat, as they featured their most famous dance move, the Dru Hill bounce, an energetic jump on both feet, one at a time, to a mid-tempo beat.
Even idols are heartbroken, and “In My Bed,” the second single from their eponymous debut, was an outrageous story in the genre. He spent three weeks at # 1 on the US R&B chart and peaked at # 4 on the US pop chart. Sisqo’s voice leads this standard story on suspicion of infidelity, but the steamy video ended in an unexpected turn for the time – Sisqo stepping on his girlfriend cheating with another woman.
“Never Make A Promise” was the time to shine for Jazz. His melodious tenor carries the song and his falsetto riffs at the end are the icing on the cake. In the song, Jazz promises to always protect the love of his life. In the accompanying video for the song, which discusses incest, he saves his lover from his abusive father. The mellow, syrupy air went straight to number one and stayed at the top of the charts for weeks.
If it wasn’t previously clear that this group was rooted in gospel music, then “5 Steps” makes that point clear via the powerful choral arrangements in the hook. This melancholy song finds the group singing about the short time we have on Earth and cherishing the times with our loved ones while we still can. Meanwhile, “I Should Be…” is one of the best songs of 2002 World Order Dru, which peaked at # 25 in the Hot 100 and # 6 in the R&B chart. It saw the band sing what they knew best – how to be in love – with melodies that were still going strong.
Second year success
(“You are everything”, “Beauty”, “These are the times”)
There was a lot of pressure on Dru Hill’s second album, but “You Are Everything” quickly allayed any concerns. The song sees them trying to come to terms with the lover they rejected, and while the Jodeci influence can be heard throughout their music, it is particularly rich here. The single propelled the album, Enter the Drou with double platinum status.
“Beauty,” written in part by Nokio, is a sweet, sultry ode to a gorgeous but elusive crush. The ethereal song sounds like a dream streak and is a nod to the stellar quill and Nokio’s keen ear for melodies. (They didn’t call the then-booming producer “Nasty On Key In Octave” for nothing.)
Dru Hill can get scorching at times, but “This Are the Times” is the opposite. Written by Babyface and Damon Thomas, this song about taking it slowly finds them tempted by carnal flesh but ready to wait for true love. Here, they first cherish the times when they get to know a lover, but Sisqo makes it very clear when he chants his desire to swallow it like Reeses Pieces, that the wait is going to be hard. Once again, the group delivered visuals with a The man in the iron mask-video on the theme, with a sword fight.
The best remix of all time?
(“In my bed (So So Def Remix)”)
It’s rare that the remixes are as good (if not better) than the original hit song, but Jermaine Dupri has gone above and beyond as a producer on this one. He transformed the slow jam into a rhythmic groove that makes it very difficult to choose one version over the other. All of this is helped, of course, by Dupri and Da Brat crisscrossing the trail with boastful rhymes throughout.
(“Bad Bad Mama”, “This is what we do”)
Dru Hill lent their crocheted vocal chops from Foxy Brownis “Big Bad Mama”. The bachelor, from the How to be a player The film’s soundtrack, contained a tween of Carl Carlton’s “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” and peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100. jump. “This is what we do” of Enter the Dru, meanwhile, never got on the radio, but Male method blessed this steamy groove with a few bars, once again showing the band’s versatility in this unlikely pairing. The flirty song is all about the fun of the hunt.
Dru Hill Deep Sections
(“All Alone”, “April Showers”, “Angel”, “Love’s Train”)
Dru Hill sang about self-care before it got cool. “All Alone” is another song about grief, but they sing about overcoming that grief by taking the time to be alone and reflect on their feelings. It is a rare piece where each member sings a verse. It’s great to hear Nokio, who often preferred to play the background and focus on writing and arrangement. The song reveals that her voice is huffed and cold compared to some of her loudest band mates.
Woody didn’t sing as much as Sisqo or Jazz, but he was often given a verse or two on various group efforts. However, he really got to shine on “April Showers,” a love song he wrote for a high school girlfriend. It wasn’t a single, but his passion and beauty make it impossible to skip. His group mates helped his declaration of love by providing beautiful background harmonies.
“Angel” is another deep cut from Woody. At the start of the song, he mentions that people weren’t always aware when he sang solo and often told him that he should sing more. It was his way of recreating the magic he had created with now a cult classic “April Showers” and reminding people that he had a strong voice, that he was really good at love songs. and that he had a beloved place in the group. Mission accomplished.
Most of Dru Hill’s songs don’t have samples or contain tweens, but they didn’t hesitate to incorporate remakes into their repertoire, paying homage to the soul bands who paved the way for them. Their first recorded foray into the remake world was their rendition of Con Funk Shun’s 1982 smash “Love’s Train”. The song appeared on their debut album and is another alluring call for a lover to join them in bliss. . It looks a lot like the original (a good thing), but its updated production, Sisqo’s signature riffs, and Dru Hill’s robust harmonies give it a boost.
Listen to the 25th anniversary edition of Dru Hill’s self-titled album here.