Homecoming for hot Dru Hill Music: The Baltimore quartet passes through town with a growing success and an ugly dispute.

September 11, 1997|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

As homecomings go, Dru Hill's return to Baltimore this evening could be a bit more elaborate.

After eight months of nonstop touring and recording, the Baltimore-based quartet arrives in town early this evening, after an all-day drive from Atlanta. It will go straight to the Baltimore Arena, where Dru Hill opens the Budweiser Superfest, sharing the bill with Mary J. Blige, Aliyaah, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Ginuwine. Once the group has performed, its members will spend time with their families before hitting the road again tomorrow.

Short as the stop is, it will definitely seem sweet for Dru Hill's Sisqo, Woody, Nokio and Jazz. "It's a treat, man," says Sisqo. "When we get home that little one day, boy, we be happy, jack."

"We'll try and do so much in that one day," agrees Woody.

Although the group's name refers to the Druid Hill area, only Nokio is an actual Druid Hill native. Sisqo and Woody are from the East Side, and Jazz hails from Pasadena. But all of the group's members -- none of whom have yet turned 21 -- were born in the city, and that's where they like to have fun.

"We'll go downtown, and we'll go to the different malls, man, for that one little day," says Sisqo. "Then it's back on the road again, road again, jiggety jig."

Not that they're complaining. Since the group's self-titled debut was released last November, it has sold more than a million copies, spinning off a string of hits, including the current Top 10 single "Never Make a Promise."

Dru Hill's success story doesn't stop there. The group is also featured on Foxy Brown's current single, "Big Bad Mamma" from the "How to Be a Player" soundtrack, and has another song, the Babyface-produced "We're Not Makin' Love No More," on the soundtrack to "Soul Food," which comes out next week. Add in a collaboration with Mariah Carey for her coming album, and it definitely seems as if Dru Hill will loom large over the charts for the next few months.

Not bad for a group that started out singing songs while slinging fudge at the Fudgery at Harborplace.

"We have a defined sense of where we want to go," admits Woody. "But at the same time, we are being blessed right now. We'd just like to say thank you to all the people who are supporting Dru Hill, especially the fans. But then, we'd also like to thank the people in the industry who consider us when they think about good music and who they want on their tracks."

Attracting that kind of attention is especially nice now that Dru Hill and University Music -- the Washington-based label that originally signed the group -- is in the midst of a dispute with Island Records and its Black Music president, Hiriam Hicks.

In July, the group filed suit against Hicks and Island, claiming Hicks made "a violent, unprovoked and life-threatening physical attack" on Keith Ingram, one of the group's managers. Dru Hill is asking for immediate release from its contract with Island, as well as $9 million in damages and $46 million in punitive damages.

Things have been rough for the group, but as Sisqo says, the foursome have never lost faith. "We always believe that God would never put us in a situation that we can't handle," he says.

"Actually, there was a lot of tension, a lot of friction going on while we were together with Island," he adds. "It seems like God has graced us since, since we've been working through our situation, and, actually, a lot of things have been coming a lot easier."

Working with Babyface and Daryl Simmons on "We're Not Making Love No More" was particularly wonderful. "They're a real good team," says Nokio. "It was very interesting sitting there with them and just watching them make it happen. They got together, they wrote the song together, and they worked on it with us, just molding it around in a fashion where we could give our best delivery.

"It was like Christmas [getting that song]. I just had tears of joy."

"I think the collaboration with Daryl and Babyface was kind of easy," adds Jazz. "Since Daryl had worked in the studio with us on our album, on 'In My Bed' and 'Never Make a Promise,' they pretty much knew where we could go to make the song a success."

Cutting "Big Bad Mamma" with Foxy Brown was a totally different experience. "Def Jam called us up and said they had a track for the 'How To Be a Player' soundtrack, with Foxy Brown," says Woody. "Foxy had already done her part; they just needed us to come in and sing the hook. So they sent it to us, and we went into the studio and cut it."

Weirdly enough, the group didn't actually meet Foxy Brown until it came time to make the video. But, as Woody explains, "That's very common, when it comes to stuff like that. Especially when you've got acts like us that are on the road constantly. Usually, they just send the producer out with the [tape] reel, and you just get it done."

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