Justin Kantor: Hi, this is Justin Kantor of Soulmusic.com. Today I have the great pleasure of speaking with four very talented young men who have brought us a number of R&B classics during the last decade and a half; songs like ‘Never Make A Promise’, ‘We’re Not Making Love No More’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, ‘These Are The Times’ and the list goes on. They’re finally back together, and not only are they coming back with their first album together in 8 years, InDRUpendence Day, but they’re also on the brink of starting their own reality show, Platinum House. Please welcome Dru Hill.
JK: Hey, how’s it going guys?
JK: So, who am I speaking with now?
Tao: This is Tao, Sisqo and Nokio.
JK: So you guys are doing very well with ‘Love MD’. Can you tell me who wrote the song, and what made you choose it as your first single to come back with?
Nokio: Love MD was produced by a friend of ours named Wyrlie Morris and it was written by me and Jazz, and we just felt like it was a good start, a way to let people know that we were back giving that sound that they look for from us and just tease them for the things to come. It was the beginning, and now we’re gonna start hitting everybody with the stuff that they want from us.
JK: You guys are known for delving into the ins and outs of relationships in your songs, so is that more of what we can expect from you with the upcoming InDRUpendence Day album or is it something a little bit different as far as that goes?
Nokio: Of course, relationships is what we talk about, so you’ll definitely be getting that, if anything. In a few of the songs, we took maybe a different approach, looked at a different side of the relationship theme, where people are just doing “I love you baby. I love you, I love you, I love you” but you know that’s not reality all the time.
JK: The video for ‘Love MD’, in addition to showing you guys’ choreography skills, which is always good to see, it depicts a mutually-physically abusive relationship between a couple, so what brought on that idea, and what do you hope to get across with it?
Nokio: The thing is, a lot of times, when you hear about that kind of thing, it’s usually one-sided, and it’s usually the guy is beating his girlfriend up or beating his wife up or what have you, and to not make it seem like we were just going for that same theme and keeping it the way that we do things and just showing people whenever we can, a different side of what really goes on in life. We thought it would be important to show that in some relationships, abuse comes from both sides and not just the physical abuse, but the mental and emotional. The beauty of love is when it’s real and all parties involved can see that there’s a problem, you go in and you get some help for it.
JK: I was actually talking recently with Raheem DeVaughn and he has a song that deals with that on his new album, The Love & War MasterPeace and he was saying how aside from the abuse factor, it’s often an illness or an addiction that kind of starts the whole thing going, and it can be from either side and sometimes it’s just a matter of finding a way to reaching out for help in those situations.
Nokio: Right. That’s what you do, for real.
JK: I think the next single you guys are coming out with is ‘Back To The Future’, so this song to me has the signs of being a timeless ballad, because the melody and lyrics have that really classic feel to it. How did that song come about?
Nokio: Once again, that was produced by Wyrlie Morris, and he was just sending us songs to consider for the album and when I heard that song, I was just like, “Yeah, that’s one of them right there. We need that.”
JK: Is the album itself finished, or are you still in the process of putting the finishing touches on it?
Nokio: We pretty much finish up until the last minute most of the time, so you may get a few surprises, but the bulk of the work is done.
JK: I’ve heard some different songs floating around the Internet, and I don’t know for sure which ones are on there or not, so I’ll just mention a few and maybe you can tell me if they are on there and if so, if there’s anything in particular that you guys would like to say about them. One of them I listened to recently was ‘Ain’t No Call’.
Nokio: That was a song that I did on my own and somebody decided that anything they hear from us, or a lot of stuff that they hear from us, they just tag it as a Dru Hill record, but it wasn’t a Dru Hill record.
JK: One of them for sure is ‘Below Zero’, right?
Sisqo: Mmm Hmm. Could be… Maybe… (laughs)
JK: What’s the maybe about it?
Sisqo: Maybe it’ll be on there, maybe it won’t. You gotta buy it to find out (laughs).
JK: How do you guys narrow it down when you’re picking the final number of songs? I’m sure you go through a ton of songs, so how do you narrow it down?
Nokio: In all honesty, we’ve never been the kind of artists that just go in and record a bunch of songs and then sit back and go, “Okay, now out of this pool of however many records, we’re going to choose these.” We’ve recorded enough, but it’s kind of like we know once we go into the studio the melody or the lyrics to the record, or the track or whatever, we pretty much know when we go in there, whether we’re gonna record it for real.
JK: If you’re feeling it or not, or if you have the right feeling about it?
Sisqo: It’s all about how the album flows. We record a bunch of songs and then basically sit in a room and just go through them one by one and see how one song may rate with the next, and then build from there and see what it feels like. We always get asked what songs are going to be on there. Like Nokio said, we’re 95% of the way, but it’s all about the feel of the record and making sure that it fits like a puzzle piece in the rest of our trilogy. It’s not about each song as it is about how it fits with the whole brain of Dru Hill.
JK: When you talk about putting the whole pieces of the puzzle together, I think that’s something that’s been with you guys from the beginning because you were never just single artists; the albums as a whole have always spoken for themselves, not to mention with your own solo work. Since you're speaking now, what I wanted to ask you about, Sisqo, is: It goes without saying, the success that you’ve had with ‘Thong Song’ and ‘Incomplete’ and both of your solo albums, as a result of that success, I read that you had a chance to meet the late, great King of Pop. How did that happen for you, and what was the experience like for you?
Sisqo: Oh, man! I was coming back form a show in London or something like that and I was down in baggage claim getting my bag, and then I got a call on my cell phone and they were like, “Go back upstairs. There’s a ticket waiting for you” and I’m like, “What do you mean? I’m just getting off the plane; I’m heading home.” They were like, “Just go upstairs, man. We need you to go somewhere” and I was like, “I’m not going nowhere! I’m going home; I just got off the plane” and they were like, “Michael wants to see you” and I was like, “Michael who? You need to give me more than Michael” and they were like Michael Michael” and I was like, “For real?” and they were like, “Yeah!” So I grabbed my bag and went upstairs, basically like a revolving door, got back on the plane and I flew to Virginia Beach. When I got there, Michael was working with Teddy Riley.
JK: This would have been around the time of the Invincible album, I guess?
Sisqo: I believe so. It was around 2001. Because Teddy and I were working together, apparently Michael saw that he and I were working together and was like, “Oh wow! I want to meet that guy.” He got me a ticket and flew me out, and then I met him and he introduced me to his kids and everything, and I was like, “What made you want to meet me? The whole reason why I’m doing this is because of you!” He says, “I just wanted to meet you. I feel like you’re a character artist and you’re gonna go far in the industry.” I was like, “Wow!” I was thinking about what to say on the plane the whole time, and the first thing I could say when I met him was, “What’s up, Mike?” (laughs). That was it.
JK: It’s almost like an unreal situation, so it’s good that you managed to keep it real. I’m sure that let you know that you’d reached a really good point in your artistic journey when you’ve got Michael Jackson giving you accolades; that’s pretty remarkable.
Sisqo: Yeah, considering the fact that I was saving up my money to go Neverland. After I met him I was like, “This ain’t happening. I’m shaking hands with, giving him a pound!” The Michael I met is a lot different than the Michael that’s on TV. I met Mike! I didn’t meet Michael Jackson, I met Mike! I met his kids, and his whole swag was way different than his stage persona. He wears a lot of different hats. Seeing him on TV, I thought he was this one guy, and when I met him in person, I met a whole different person. It’s neat to be added to the lore of who the King of Pop is. He’s got his roots swag, he’s got his corporate swag, he’s got it all.
JK: Was there anything musically that you took from that meeting? Did you guys talk about music at all or anything in that vein?
Sisqo: No, aside from the comment that I told you that he gave me, after that I was pretty much cool. I was headed back home and of course the local press was outside and the local news, but I wasn’t really speaking for Michael. They were like, “How is he? What is he doing?” and I was like, “I can’t remember.” I just kind of bullshitted. He didn’t say a whole lot, but when I was headed home, I got a call on my phone and it was like, “Michael wants to hang out with you” and I was like, “To do what?” and they were like, “I don’t know! Just come back!” So I came back, he put the kids to sleep, he stepped out of the trailer and his feet never touched the ground. He stepped out of his little trailer into a limo, then he shut the highway down just so our motorcade could pull out, then he shut down Jillian’s in the middle of the summer, just so me, him and our bodyguards and two other people could go and play video games. That’s what we did for a couple of hours and then I gave him another pound and rolled out. I still got the pictures!
JK: That’s awesome! I’m sure a lot of people were mad that it was closed down, but you got the last laugh.
Sisqo: Once they knew why, they weren’t as mad. They were mad because they couldn’t get in there to get pictures or whatever. Security was crazy! We had, like, the police station just close the whole thing off.
JK: I’m surprised they even told anybody, but I guess the word just got out with that kind of a thing.
Sisqo: It was crazy, because it was the Jillian’s right there by the docks, so the troops had just came home and they wanted to go to Jillian’s, but it was a wrap. I still have the photos that we took, and people ask me why I didn’t put it online and all this stuff, and you know what? It was a very personal experience and I’m not going to exploit that experience for anything or any money.
JK: I was going to say, there was a certain parallel maybe between his career and yours in that you’ve had success in both the group setting and as a solo artist, so I was curious, do you find it easy to transition between the two, or is it something where you have to approach each one in a different manner, artistically speaking?
Sisqo: Well, my group members make it really easy to do both, because when I’m working on my solo stuff, I’m pretty much just focused on what I have to do, and then when I come back to the group, the guys are so talented that it makes it really easy to just be a group member. When I’m doing my own thing, I’m really focused on what it is that I’m doing, but when I’m with the group, I just have to make sure that I’m a piece of armor on that soldier that is Dru Hill.
JK: That’s true, and it shows. I was going to ask you, Tao, you’re the newest member of the group, can you tell me the story of how you came to be in the group?
Tao: In my head, I was always in Dru Hill. I’ve always been there! For real, everybody asks me that, and there’s no other answer but to say it’s what you build, and one day you're working. I never stopped working, and I ran into these guys and did the concerts and everything, and then everything just happened overnight. I can’t really explain that one. It’s a dream, man. Not to mention, as soon as I entered the group, it was like I’ve been there from day one. They never told me, like if we were in a studio session or something, they never stopped me from being creative. It’s just been a great time!
JK: So it’s a mutually creative situation going on.
Tao: Oh yeah! Like I said, they never shut me down. I mean, everybody gets shut down sometime. It’s like, “I got this line” and then people look at you like, “I don’t know about that” but other than that, they never stopped me from being creative. I think that like I said, everything’s cool about that, and they’re letting me be myself. That’s what made a difference.
JK: Are there any ways that the experience might have been different from what you expected?
Tao: Yeah, I would say it was different because like I said before, it’s not like I had to enter a group where it was really strict when it comes to being creative. Once all of that happened, it was like I don’t even look at it as working, or like I’m performing with Dru Hill anymore. I look at it as if we are brothers, and we have fun just like a family, so it’s really like going on the road with your family.
JK: Were you in any other groups before you joined Dru Hill, or were you pursuing a solo career? What was your background before you came to the group?
Tao: The first group I was in was probably the church choir (laughs). I started off in church and from there, my brother was in a group called SMUV, which means Seductive Music Unique Vocals. I always tell people what it means and they say, “That don’t spell SMUV!”
JK: What area was this in that you were doing all this stuff?
Tao: Annapolis, Maryland. I joined the group at the age of 15 maybe, and then that lasted for a couple of years and to speed the story up for real, I was in groups and I did solo, and I was in groups and I did solo, but I always wanted to be in a group and that’s probably why I changed it up so much, because I always wanted to be in groups.
JK: Nokio, in between time since you guys were last on the scene, you’ve had experience on the business side of things, as an A&R director at your former label I believe, Def Soul and more recently with Atlantic, so how did you get involved in that aspect of the business and what were your primary duties in that position?
Nokio: Initially, I always wanted to be on the business side. I felt like, I love music and being an artist would just be a stepping stone for that. What ended up happening was, I went to Lyor Cohen one day and I was just in the office, and I think we had started working on an album but we didn’t complete it, so he was just basically asking me what I wanted to do. Sisqo was working on his solo stuff, Jazz was working on his solo stuff, and Woody was working on his solo stuff, so I was like, “Man, I want to be in A&R” and they looked at me like I was crazy at first like, “You’re crazy! You want to be in A&R? You could have been doing that even while the group was going” and I was like, “No, that’s what I want to do.” So, they brought me in, and it’s funny. My first day working there in Kevin Liles’ office and everyone was looking at me like, “Whose job is he coming to take, for real?” Then I moved to LA and I was going in-between LA and New York working with a group called 3rd Storee and then I was helping out with Jazz’s project and Wyrlie’s project for the time that they were there, and then when everybody left from Def Jam and went over to Warner, Kevin called me up again and said, “We got this kid Trey Songz and I don’t want to be doing R&B without having my people around, so I want you to come work for him.” So that’s how that job came about.
I guess the cool thing for me, aside from the regular A&R duties like finding the songs, working on the budget and things like that, with me being an artist, it helped out a lot because a lot of times artists look at the record company person as the “enemy." So, by me having experience in going through the stuff I had gone through in my career, it was really easy for me to get stuff done and get the artist to listen, and on top of that, being a writer and producer, it gave me a chance to be more a part of the album than just going out and finding songs. Even when it came down to finding songs, having a mutual respect for other writers and producers just made the whole process real smooth, as opposed to sometimes it can be a bit much, coming in and doing that for a job. JK: I guess maybe some people thought the fact that you had been an artist, they might have been wary or something, thinking, “Who is this guy?” thinking he was going to be an A&R guy, but I know you said it was more than picking songs, so does that mean that you were involved in helping develop an artist’s image? Nokio: Oh yeah. Image-wise, whatever had to be done, for real, because a lot of it was just the different artists, drawing from my experiences and answering the questions. I’d become a mentor in their opinion somewhere, because, “Hey, you were in Dru Hill. I want to get your record,” so I do what I gotta do.
JK: You guys together recently gave a concert at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem where you got one of your first big breaks in the 90’s, so I was just curious, doing that, what memories did it bring back if any, about doing amateur night back then, and how did it feel to be back on the stage again?
Nokio: Well I know for me, the first thing I remember was me having walked out onstage and tripped over the mic chord and we got boo’d for that and we hadn’t even started singing yet.
JK: It doesn’t take much.
Nokio: That was the first and last time that we got boo’d.
Sisqo: It started off as boo’s and then we ended up winnin’, so Bam!
JK: I guess the people have fun doing it, but I just remember when I watched that growing up, I was wondering how these people could be so cruel, because some of the people were really talented, they’d have some little mess-up with the mic or something and the boo-ing would start up. The thing that actually scared me was, I don’t remember his name, Sam or something, that clown-type guy that would come out on stage.
Nokio: That was actually my biggest fear of going onstage at the Apollo, because we were only like 13 when we went on there and needles to say we were terrified, and people would start boo-ing and we were like, “Oh no!” I remember I just started singing my heart out and the fellows followed suit and the next thing you know, the boo’s turned into cheers and we actually won that night.
JK: What were you singing that made you win?
Nokio: We were singing Shai’s ‘If I Ever Fall In Love’.
JK: Oh, the a cappella one. Was that the one that was broadcast at the time?
Sisqo: We thought we were going to be on TV, but we weren’t.
Nokio: Yeah, but we were in a local music paper for winning, and after that we had gotten signed the first time. After Destiny’s Child, we were the first ones that ended up getting signed.
JK: Were they on, as well?
Sisqo: No, they weren’t on at the Apollo, we got signed after the Apollo, and we both got sat on the shelf. I’m not going to say what label it was, but 2 years later, we got signed to that contract and that’s when they first came out.
JK: Well at least you got to meet KiKi Shepard She was one of the really good parts of the amateur night for me.
Sisqo: Oh yeah, we got to meet her. It was funny, because when we performed at the Apollo this time, all the same people that were there way back then were there when we came back last week, and they all remembered us and by that time, it was like our 6th or 7th time being at the Apollo. At least 4 of those times were televised. It’s still the Legendary Apollo, whether you’re on TV performing or just for the good people of Harlem, it’s a magical appearance. It’s one of the best sounding rooms that we’ve ever performed at. I don’t know if it’s as much the sound system or if it’s just the magic about the place.
JK: The layout of it is really nice. It’s just a really nice room, right?
Sisqo: Yeah, it’s almost like it was built for sound.
JK: I just wanted to ask you guys about the upcoming reality series that you have, Platinum House which is starting in May, I believe, on BET. What can you tell me about the premise of that, what fans can expect from that?
Sisqo: A lot of people hear that we got a reality show and they probably think that the premise of the show is like most groups where you just come and see the group recording an album, coming back together; and the album portion of the show is just a backdrop for what’s really going on. You really get an opportunity to see the ins and outs of each member’s lives and how we actually come together, which is crazy, because I was watching some of the dailies -- and camera crews at certain points were following each memberl of the group outside of what we were doing together. So, at times we were in different places, and I actually saw what the group was doing when we weren’t together and I was intrigued. I was like, “Oh, that’s what they do!” It’s crazy, especially with me and Nokio because we’ve known each other for nearly 14 years and just to see what your group members do when you’re not around is just entertaining in itself, because it’s totally 4 separate entities.
JK: Plus I was going to say, probably being in the industry that you’re in, you've got so much going on on a daily basis, that a lot of times you don’t really have time to stop and think much about what’s going on; you’re just going from one thing to another. It’s kind of a unique opportunity to maybe evaluate things.
Sisqo: It was really interesting to see how diverse each member of the group’s lives are and how we’re able to come together and form such a cohesive unit and the fact that each one of our lives is so different from each member. It’s really interesting.
JK: How did you feel about the idea of the cameras following you around all the time, maybe not when the idea came up, but when it started happening, were there any second thoughts about it or feeling uncomfortable about it?
Sisqo: I can’t speak for anybody else, but the first day I woke up and that camera was in my face, I was like, “Mutha...” (laughs) “Dang dude, I didn’t even brush my teeth yet and you got this camera up in my face?” It took a little getting used to.
JK: And that’s probably what they’re looking for, right?
Sisqo: With all artists, your image and how you are personified in the public eye is usually handled with kid gloves so that the people see the image of what the corporation wants you to think of them as. But the one thing about Dru Hill is that even though we had a lot of help from the labels that we worked with or what have you, to preserve our image, on another side of it, we had done so much, we had moved around so much, and really what you see is what you get. You get a lot of different artists who have a lot of bells and whistles to create a certain image. With Dru Hill, and even with my solo career, it’s almost as if they tossed us a microphone and said, “Make it happen.”
JK: They weren’t giving you the full grooming or whatever, you had to do a lot of it on your own.
Sisqo: We did a lot of that ourselves when it comes to our image. Like Nokio was saying, your public image and what have you, we were self-contained in that respect. 90% of what you saw from Dru Hill, with the exception of maybe the first record was pretty much us and how we wanted to be portrayed.
JK: That makes me think of, with you guys, choreography, because that was to me a unique part and still is. Even when you first came out, and you had the ‘Tell Me’ video, I remember the jumping-type dance moves was a distinguishing thing that set you apart. Was that something that you designed to set you apart or how does that all play into the whole entity of what Dru Hill is, with the dance moves and that? Sisqo: I did most of our choreography. They would oftentimes want to bring in choreographers, and a lot of times, we ended up just going with the stuff that we created ourselves, because we felt like a lot of times, and I think that’s attributed to them just tossing us a mic like, “You got this, then fine, you do it.” It ended up working for us, because a lot of times when you get choreography, sometimes you see the choreographer and the artist gets lost in the choreographer’s choreography. It don’t even look natural like, “One and two and turn and twist.”
JK: Especially if they’re not that familiar with your music to begin with, they might have an approach that doesn't mesh well with what you’re doing.
Sisqo: Oh no, they would be familiar with the music but sometimes people have a vision of what they feel you should look like, and sometimes it clashes with the vision and the artistic integrity of the artist. We’ve worked with choreographers before, we worked with Travis, who was Michael’s choreographer on one awards show and that actually worked out because we worked together on the choreography, but for the most part, like 90% of the choreography that was done was done by us.
JK: Is it the same with the fashion aspect, as far as you guys’ look and style, did you have to have any battles about that?
Sisqo: Oh yeah, they didn’t want my hair blonde! My hair was actually my natural color, jet black when we went on the set of ‘Tell Me’ and right before we shot the video, I went in the bathroom and dyed my hair and came back out and they were like, “What did you do? You’re gonna ruin the image of the group” and I was like, “Hey man, y’all can send me home if you like. At this point, I’ve done more than I expected we’d do anyway, with that song. We got a song on the radio, and if y’all don’t want me in the video, I’ll go home, but take it or leave it.” They said, “We’re gonna shoot it anyway, but y’all gonna ruin your image” and it’s ironic that it was just a part of what set us apart image-wise, and then eventually it worked. If you look at the first album artwork, you’ll see that I have a hat on the whole time because they didn’t like the whole blonde hair look.
JK: That’s interesting. So it wasn’t the director of the video, it was just people behind the scenes like management or record company people.
Sisqo: It wasn’t management, let’s put it that way.
JK: I gotcha. One guy that you guys are working in conjunction with on the show and maybe the album is Keith Sweat.
Sisqo: Uh Huh.
JK: Is that an important part of the musical equation now? Is this the first time that he’s been involved?
Sisqo: Oh no, he wrote a couple of songs on our first album, so it was basically just like the group; we started over from one. That’s why I dyed my hair back to blonde; my hair has been several different colors.
JK: Well, now, Nokio has the different color.
Sisqo: Yeah (laughs) for the most part we just took it back to one, and Keith Sweat was one of those elements of the equation that worked in the beginning. We just looked at what worked then and what works now, and made a hybrid of it and came together with the intricate parts of it.
JK: He’s been a real lasting force in the business and it’s cool to see him enterprising and getting involved in a lot of different aspects.
Sisqo: He’s like the Godfather of R&B.
JK: It’s pretty cool, because I remember even before he came out big with ‘I Want Her’, he was doing kind of, lik,e club records on his own label called Stadium out of New York, and just to see him go from that to the long career as a vocalist that he had and now doing the production, it’s cool to have him as part of your team so that’s pretty awesome.
Sisqo: It’s part of the Back to the Future movement.
JK: Oh yeah, to quote the song. I’m looking forward to hearing the new album. It comes out June 29th, right?
JK: I’m anxious to see what songs make the final cut, but as you said, I have to wait to find out.
Sisqo: Oh yes, there are a couple of surprises that you probably haven’t seen on the Internet.
JK: One thing that I wanted to ask, and I know that Jazz couldn’t make it on the interview, but one thing I was going to ask him was about his background in studying opera.
Sisqo: Oh yeah, he went to the School for the Arts, the same school as 2Pac and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Jazz: I’m here y’all! I came in late.
JK: I was curious about that when I read about you getting your start studying the more classical side of things. I was curious, was that the direction that you originally wanted to go in as a career?
Jazz: What happened was, my real start started in church in quartet Gospel. My Dad sang in the quartet and my Mom sang in the choir; I think she sang the majority of the songs in the choir. By that point when it came time to go to high school, my Dad was telling me about School for the Arts, and I went down there and auditioned and they were loving me, because I guess with some of the training and stuff, I was already there, so to speak.
JK: What school was it exactly?
Jazz: It’s the Baltimore School of the Arts. Once I got in there, I was introduced to a whole new world. I got introduced to what was popular music then, rock & roll, a lot of different types of music that were popular back in the day, the Baroque period and all that kind of stuff and I studied theory, so it was a big melting pot of music and my horizons broadened tremendously. Actually, I remember my first 3 months there, because we always had to do recitals all the time and perform in front of the school, so my teacher would always be on my back because I was singing Gospel and studying Classical. They wanted me to stop singing Gospel and just study Classical and I was like, “You’re crazy!” I couldn’t do it. I gotta do it all!
JK: Was that challenging on your voice, doing both of those things at one time?
Jazz: Yeah it was, because it’s a few different approaches and all.
JK: I went to Berklee College of Music, and I didn’t do it myself, but I know a lot of my friends that were in the Gospel choir there, when they would come into the other vocal labs, sometimes it was a challenge for them because of the way they worked in that Gospel choir setting; it’s really hard work and maximizing the voice a lot. To go and do Classical, it’s a whole different part of the voice you’re using and how you’re making it work.
Jazz: It’s also your pronunciation and diction. Once I got in the group, Sisqo and Nokio were teasing me about certain vowel sounds. I would sing it my way and they would be like, “No, yo! Not like that!” and that just came from practice for school. It was definitely a transition from Gospel to Classical, and then a transition coming into Dru Hill, just trying to find a happy medium with the vowel sounds that we use, and the diction and all.
JK: I’m sure it benefited you a lot, having all those different styles that you studied. One project that you did, I guess it was between Dru Hill albums, maybe a while ago now, but you did a song or two with the jazz saxophonist Kim Waters, I think on a remake of ‘Love Don’t Love Nobody’.
Jazz: Yeah, exactly.
JK: How did you fall into that, and what was it like?
Jazz: Kim Waters is a friend of mine via another friend who is kind of like a mentor to me, Rashid Carter. Rashid Carter was the drummer for Teddy Pendergrass for the majority of Teddy’s career, and I got a tight relationship with Rashid and I’m pretty tight with the Gamble family as well, so a lot of those Gamble and Huff Classical outfits, I kind of grew up with in my household. To meet them was a great step in my career, and to meet Rashid was really great. Actually, it was one day me, Rashid and Kim were together and said, “Why don’t we just remake this record” and we just did it!
JK: You mentioned Gamble and Huff. I’m sure you heard -- that was devastating, what happened recently with the studios. You know, with the fire and a lot of their music being destroyed. Like you said, their stuff has had an impact on so many artists and listeners, it’s timeless, man. There was another song that you did on your own that I had heard and I wasn’t sure if it just got leaked or what, but it I think it was called ‘I Don’t Want to Live Without You’.
Jazz: Oh yeah, that’s a song that actually, I’ve got a wedding campaign going and I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now. What happened was, it got into the marketplace by way of leaking out, and I never really pushed it heavy but actually I’m using it as a marketing thing right now as far as weddings are concerned, because people want celebrities so to speak, to sing at their weddings and I’ve been able to put those smiles on a lot of people’s faces, actually a lot of basketball players as well, but that’s just being a part of the fans and being a part of their lives; I’m just going down in history with them, doing those solos. That record is huge! It’s a big record and I’ll probably put it out later on, but it really blew up in Chicago and Toledo, and a lot of different spots down South.
JK: It’s a universal kind of record and a real nice melody, so you did a great job on that. Now that Dru Hill is back together, do you think that the industry has changed in any major way since the first 6 or 7 years that you guys were together and having hits, and does it change your approach on how you fit into the music scene or how you do things?
Jazz: My answer to that is: No, I think there are a few adjustments, only because the world goes round, and the evolution is constant and change is constant, but it’s kind of like the same story, just a few tweaks here and there.
Sisqo: A couple different characters.
Jazz: Yeah, a couple different characters. Same story with different characters. We’re coming back, Dru Hill, kind of the same way as the first time, when music was doing its thing and Hip Hop was doing its thing and stuff like that, but the whole notion is that once people start to realize that Dru Hill is in the marketplace, and they start hearing the sound and really paying attention to what’s going on, I’m looking forward to a great success; even better than what we had before. We’ve all grown individually and collectively, so now we’re bringing a whole lot more to the table collectively than we had when we first began.
Sisqo: When we first came out, we were coming off a really musical renaissance if you will, with singing groups like Boyz II Men and Jodeci, and it inspired some young men like us to want to do that, but there’s not a whole lot of that in the music industry right now, so what I believe is gonna happen is that when we come out, hopefully some new young kids, a group of guys or a group of girls will hear what we’re doing and say, “Wow! This is something new. This is something I’m not hearing on the radio a whole lot” with exception, if you go to Urban AC, you’ll hear some of the older stuff, but basically we come from that school of really harmonizing, really singing, not as much Auto Tune if you will, and hopefully we can inspire some young kids and get a little bit more of the musical aspect injected into mainstream radio in cohesion with some of the stuff that younger kids have come up with today. JK: Yeah, because I’m not knocking it, I know that the Internet is a great tool for independent artists to get their music out there, but a lot of times, the flipside is, what’s missing that’s probably was still there when you guys first started is that it doesn’t seem like there are as many opportunities as when you guys first started, to get that first-hand feeling for what people’s response to a new artist is. Sisqo: There’s no artist development. It’s just kids coming straight out of their basement or what have you, which is cool, but the only thing that I hope happens in the near future is that some of the musical elements that we learned from our peers and some of the musical elements of what happened back in the day, hopefully what we’re doing, we can find some of those kids on YouTube harmonizing and a cappella and stuff, maybe they’ll get a boost of confidence and keep going instead of feeling like they gotta go get Auto Tune and what have you.
JK: When you’re just doing it straight online like that, I guess a lot of what people might be impressed by is the production, but it’s another thing to go and do a good live show as good as what you put out on the record. Sisqo: We had to start that way, and it helped us in the long run because it’s one thing to get on a stage and sing a song that’s playing 30-40 times a day, but it’s another thing to get onstage when nobody knows you from a can of paint and you can get that crowd to feel where you’re coming from.
JK: Definitely. Do you think, and there’s no way to say for sure, but is the plan right now for you guys to continue as a group, is it just for this one album, or do you foresee it as being more of a long-term thing?
Sisqo: Oh no, we’re not gonna be gone like we were before. There were a couple of things that had to be worked out on the business side that really didn’t have as much to do with the group itself as it did with just making sure that all of the lessons we learned over the years were implemented in the new deals that we have on the table. We’re just making sure that moving forward and like I said, everything that we learned is being implemented.
JK: Learning from your mentors and your past experiences.
Sisqo: Get that money right!
JK: That’s cool. Well, I wish you continued success and I hope I’ll get to see you guys perform. Are you planning on touring for the record? I know you’re doing promo tours, but is there a plan for a concert tour anytime soon, or do you have to wait and see?
Sisqo: Once we get to that point, you’ll definitely know. We’re not just gonna get to that point and creep out like, “Oh, snap! Dru Hill was here!” It’s gonna be laid out. We’re basically gonna do everything we can to lay it out 1-2-3 and by the time we get to 3, everybody’s gonna know we’re there.
JK: It’s gonna be big.
JK: Thank you guys for the interview, it was great. Much success to you.
All: Thank you, man.
About the Writer
Justin Kantor is a freelance music journalist with published works in Wax Poetics and the All-Music Guide. A graduate of Berklee College of Music's Business and Management program, he regularly writes liner notes for reissue labels.