On the road to superstardom Dru Hill's new album isn't in the stores yet, but the Baltimore-based R&B group is tirelessly promoting it.


November 01, 1998|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun pop music critic

NEW YORK - Sisqo, Woody and Jazz are in a van riding up Eighth Avenue to their hotel. They've been in the city for roughly 20 minutes, having just arrived by train from Baltimore, and so far, each has made or received at least five phone calls.

They spend most of the short ride uptown with their ears glueto their cell phones. No sooner is one call finished than the phone chirrups again.

Welcome to life on the road with Dru Hill.

When they arrive in New York, the group's new album, "Enter thDru," isn't even in stores yet. But the Baltimore-based quartet - Mark "Sisqo" Andrews, James "Woody" Green, Larry "Jazz"

Anthony, and Tamir "Nokio" Ruffin, who is waiting for the othethree at the hotel - has been working to promote it for weeks.

That's no surprise, considering industry expectations for thalbum. "Dru Hill," the R&B group's 1996 debut, spun off five Top-10 hits, including the million-sellers "Tell Me" and "In My Bed." "Dru Hill" itself went double-platinum.

"Enter the Dru" is expected to do even better. Things havgotten off to a great start, thanks to "How Deep Is Your Love" (also on the soundtrack of the current movie "Rush Hour"), which topped the Billboard R&B charts, and is currently the nation's No. 3 pop single.

The four are doing everything they can to let people know thnew album is coming. "We're so hungry for the superstardom that the Spice Girls or the Backstreet Boys have, that we're willing to do whatever it takes, work as hard as it takes, to get that," says Sisqo. "That's our goal, for everybody to know, love and respect Dru Hill."

Getting to that point involves a lot of travel. Two weeks earlierthe Dru were in Los Angeles, shooting a video for "These Are the Times." From there, they flew to London and began a five-city publicity tour, doing interviews, TV shows and public appearances.

Then it was back to the States, and that rarest of pleasures, night home. How did Sisqo spend his time in Baltimore? "I washed my drawers," he says. "That was it."

Dru Hill had arrived from Europe late the night before. SisqoWoody and Jazz went to Baltimore, while Nokio went to his recently purchased house in Fort Lee, N.J. They barely had 12 hours to unpack, sleep, and pack again. "And now we're going to be gone for another month," says Sisqo.

Spending so much time away from home is what led to thgroup's cell phone habit. "The telephone is the greatest thing ever invented in life," says Nokio, "because it helps me stay close to my family."

Adds Woody, "There are certain people who, if I don't talk tthem every day, I'm not going to be able to function."

Being so telephone-dependent has its price, as Woody learned

recently in London. When he went to check out of the group'hotel he was handed a phone bill for 2,500 pounds - $5,000 American.

"On top of that, they wouldn't take my credit card," he says. "So had to borrow $5,000 off of somebody. And that's not something where you can just walk up to somebody and say, 'Hey man, let me have $5,000.' It's bad."

If staying in touch with family and friends while out on the road ia strain, maintaining romantic ties has been a near impossibility for the group. "I think all of us have had that one person in our lives that we were with for a long time - that we pretty much grew up with - who we lost through coming into this business," says Nokio.

They're still young, of course. Nokio and Woody are 21, while Sisqo and Jazz just 20, so they know they have plenty of time to forge relationships and start families.

In the meantime, heartbreak often leads to love songs.

"I can't live my life without some type of drama in it," says Nokio"I don't particularly like being in a relationship and then losing the person, or being in love and falling out of love, but it makes for good [songs]; so I guess it being a depressing thing is kind of a good thing for us,because it gives us more to write about."

Trying to make sense of their emotions through song not onlhelps the musicians become better composers, but also gives them a chance to examine their own lives. Although, as Woody admits, sometimes a listener can see the truth behind a song more clearly than the man who wrote it.

He cites a song he wrote called "Angel." In some ways, he saysthe song is a sequel to "April Showers," a song he penned about a girlfriend for the "Dru Hill" album. "On the first album we're together; this album we broke up," he says. "I don't know what's going to happen on the next album."

Woody says the song came to him in a dream, during a lonplane trip. He woke up, sang it into a small tape recorder, and later played it for the others, who felt it belonged on "Enter the Dru." But it wasn't until after he'd recorded the track that he realized just how much was going on in the song.

"It's about a real person," he says. "Everybody who knows methey're like, 'Dang, you meant that.' "

Being able to express such feelings is Dru Hill's secret weaponIt isn't just that songs like "We're Not Making Love" or "How Deep Is Your Love" touch on the hurt that can follow love; the songs also express such feelings in terms that anybody, from tough guys on the street to average guys in the suburbs, can understand.

"The average guy ain't going to sit around his friends, like, 'Manshe left me,' and get to crying and stuff," says Nokio. "Because we're artists, and because we sing and we write and we do what we do, I think it's a lot easier for people to accept."

To hear excerpts from Dru Hill's new release, "Enter the Dru," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6122. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2B.

Pub date 11/1/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.