Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.
This week, give a warm welcome to R&B fanatic and Dru Hill stan Nick Eden, who stops by to weigh in on one of R&B’s most talented and controversial groups.
Name Dru Hill’s three best albums
1. Dru Hill
2. Enter The Dru
3. Dru World Order
I struggled with not putting Christmas in Baltimore on this list because it was such a solid offering. Dru Hill’s first three albums were definitely their best. While Dru World Order wasn’t the commercial success of its predecessors, it still gave us great songs like “I Should Be,” “I Do (Millions),” and the Nokio-led “Men Always Regret.” The definitive songs from Dru Hill were a result of these three albums, and up until their recent single “What You Need,” their catalog peaked after DWO.
1. Dru Hill
2. Enter the Dru
3. Dru World Order
Yep, Nick nailed this one – the top three Dru albums really aren’t up for debate. I know some fans put their sophomore effort Enter the Dru above the debut – and it’s incredible, no doubt – but their debut is SUCH an air-tight release that it’s hard to beat. And to echo Nick’s point, their comeback album Dru World Order may have seen like a slight disappointment in 2002 but it’s a solid, if slightly uneven, release.
Name Dru Hill’s worst album
Nick: InDRUpendence Day
I hate to say this, but it’s definitely InDRUpendence Day. It’s tough for me to admit this, because I rather enjoyed that album. I’ll admit bias because you’ll find it hard for me to find fault in their music, but inDRUpendence Day was just not up to the level of the first three albums, in addition to the Christmas album. Tao brought in a new fresh element to the group, but with Sisqo’s vocal issues and the rampant overuse of autotune, it just didn’t connect like their other albums.
Edd: InDRUpendence Day
Another no-brainer. Everything just felt slightly off on this album – the vocals were almost there but the studio sweeting was more apparent. The songwriting was OK but a little hackneyed at times. The chemistry was slightly there but everyone still seemed off a step. There are a couple of decent album cuts (I will always love “Away”) but this is a drastic step down from Dru’s glory days.
What’s the first song that made you a fan of Dru Hill?
Nick: “All Alone“
As an avid supporter of R&B, I regularly buy albums regardless of how I feel about the single. For me “Tell Me” and “In My Bed” didn’t make me a fan. It was actually “All Alone” from their self-titled debut. I may be in the minority here, but I consider “All Alone” one of the greatest, if not the greatest, album cuts of the 90s. All four members were showcased vocally, and the vibe of the song kept it on steady repeat in my room.
Edd: “Tell Me”
Yep, I’ve been down from Day One. I’ll never forget the first time seeing the debut of the “Tell Me” video. I was sitting at the kitchen table and had so many questions: What is this “Eddie” movie this song is apparently featured in and is it named after me? Why are these guys hopscotching around? Why does the loud one have blonde hair? AND WHY IS THIS SONG SO CATCHY? I was hooked from … jump. See what I did there?
What’s Dru’s best single?
Nick: “5 Steps”
It definitely wasn’t their best charting single, but “5 Steps” is easily one of their signature singles. The gospel influence, heavy harmony, and emotional effects of the song take you through a journey for the full 5 minutes. You can still see young kids performing this song in talent shows across the country today.
Edd: “In My Bed”
Nick’s not wrong about “5 Steps” being a talent show staple, especially for any wannabe R&B quartets out there – it’s either that or “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” no other option. But my option for best single has to be “In My Bed.” I know Nick isn’t fan but trust a brother who was around in 1996 to witness DruMania unfold – “Tell Me” was fun but “In My Bed” is where they truly broke through. Between the group’s harmonies and the frankness of the lyrics this was a guaranteed smash.
And what’s Dru’s worst single?
Nick: “No Doubt”
This is easily one of the weakest songs in their catalog. There were SO many other songs that could have been released as singles from DWO. The album was already struggling after “I Love You” didn’t perform well on the charts. This was, in my opinion, an attempt to get it in on the hip hop momentum of the early 2000s, but it just fell flat. The song just wasn’t good, and as much as I hate to say it, the choreography was even worse.
Edd: “Remain Silent”
Man, Nick, I’m still mad “I Love You” didn’t blow up. Loved that song. I’ll be honest, I totally forgot about “No Doubt” until Nick mentioned it – he’s right, it’s the most generic 2000s club song imaginable. I won’t cheat and change my answer though, I’ll stick with “Remain Silent” from InDRUpendence Day. Dru doesn’t sound bad or anything here, but the lyrics are annoyingly corny and ham-fisted. It’s not nearly as bad as “No Doubt” but poorly written songs just rub me the wrong way.
Name the Baltimore boys’ most underrated album cut
Nick: “So Special”
There are a few songs that I would consider definitive R&B songs. If someone was able to hear for the first time, and asked what R&B was, I would play this song for them. The way the verses flowed, the lyrics, and especially the harmony at the end make this one of their most underrated songs.
Edd: “Share My World”
Talk about definitive R&B songs – “Share My World” is IT. Penned and produced by King Keef Sweat himself, this one is a masterclass in R&B writing and production. With all the current talk online about the need to return to R&B’s roots, fans and artists need to look no further than Dru Hill’s debut. There’s a reason why Nick and I both plucked songs from it.
What’s Dru Hill’s best video?
Nick: “Never Made a Promise”
This song and video was a monster for the group. Coming off the video for “In My Bed,” “Never Make A Promise” tackled an issue that hadn’t dared been discussed publicly in the black community. Living in the south, I can say that it brought the discussion to the forefront and I remember several young ladies finally speaking out on similar issues happening in their home. Rest in peace to the beautiful Michelle Thomas, who almost every guy in the 90’s was head over heels for.
Edd: “Never Made a Promise”
Nick pretty much said it all. Dru Hill’s early videos always had either a powerful message or Tyler Perry-esque twist, and “Never Made a Promise” thrives off the former. Great song, great visuals, great message.
Sisqo or Jazz – who is the better vocalist?
Even the Dragon himself has admitted that he couldn’t touch Jazz with a 10 foot pole. The best vocalists are often not celebrated, but I don’t think there’s a person on earth that would say that Sisqo is a better vocalist than Jazz.
Nick’s not wrong. There’s no question that Sisqo is the best ENTERTAINER of Dru Hill (and honestly, the best of his era). Don’t sleep on his vocals either – at his peak, he was almost unmatched. Except by Jazz. His voice was pure magic.
Does Dru Hill have any classic albums? If so, which ones?
Nick: Yes, Enter the Dru
Without question, Enter the Dru is their classic album. There were no low points, no lagging, and no throwaway songs. Even if you take away the singles, you still have cuts like “Holding You,” “One Good Reason,” “I’ll Be The One,” and “The Love We Had” amongst other giant cuts. If nothing else, Enter The Dru produced “Beauty,” which I feel is Dru Hill’s definitive song. I cannot find one flaw in the album and challenge anyone to do so.
Edd: Yes, Dru Hill
Oh I’ll be happy to challenge you, Nick! Look, as I alluded to earlier, I won’t bemoan anyone who says that Enter the Dru is incredible, because it really is. However, it’s not flawless – while the second half of the LP is very well done, even down to sequencing, the first half has slight stumbles. The uptempo tracks like “Real Freak” and “This is What We Do” are just OK. But again, I’m not here to bash Enter the Dru, I’m here to talk about the impact of Dru’s debut. I’m notoriously picky about which albums should be called “classics” and I think Dru Hill fits that mold – it’s a 5-star album that instantly made the group players in R&B, is filled with classic tracks and continues to influence and inspire singers today (remember that whole convo about aspiring singers using songs from that album for talent shows? There you go). Enter the Dru is great. Dru Hill is classic.
Where does Dru Hill rank among the best male R&B groups of the 90s?
Nick: I would place Dru Hill as second, right behind Boyz II Men. Sorry Jodeci fans, but the Dru was a better group. Other groups may have more albums and sales, but Dru Hill was distinctive, innovative, and exciting. I know I’ll get the “Jodeci was their inspiration” argument, but just because you came first doesn’t mean you’re the best. All props to male R&B groups because that format is the core of my R&B fandom, but BIIM, is the only 90’s group that stands above the Dru in my opinion.
Edd: This is a tricky one. I agree with Nick on one thing: Despite the somewhat lower profile they have today, Boyz II Men is the definitive 90s R&B male group. So they’re easily the best. And even though Dru technically has better albums than Jodeci, I hesitate to put them ahead of them – not just because Jodeci was their inspiration, Jodeci was almost EVERYONE’s inspiration. They were true trailblazers, reshaping the sound of 90s R&B in their image. I love Dru, they’re in my top five for sure, but their relatively short stint on top keeps them out of the upper echelon.
Who are you siding with, Edd or Nick? Let us know in the comments below.