A Long Convo With…Sisqo
Several male R&B groups came and went in the 90s but Dru Hill stood out because of their soulful four-part harmony and their energetic lead singer, Sisqo, with his signature golden (sometimes platinum) hair. The Baltimore quartet released their self-titled debut album in 1996 and with the help of production by Keith Sweat and more, saw their first single, “Tell Me,” go gold. Their sophomore follow up, Enter the Dru dropped two years later and peaked at number two on the billboard album charts. However, when group member Woody decided to split and embark on a solo career, the group’s future seemed uncertain, especially with Sisqo now enjoying a successful solo career thanks to the pervasive “Thong Song.”
By 2002, Woody had returned and an additional member, Scola, had joined the fray for their third effort, Dru World Order and then the group parted ways again. Fast forward a few years to when the idea of a Dru Hill reunion seemed like it would never happen, they appeared fighting in a viral video when Nokio attacked Woody after he announced that he would not be rejoining the group during what was supposed to an official reconciliation announcement, on a widely syndicated radio show.
Now hoping that third time’s a charm, the group is back to a quartet with Tao replacing Woody. Their trials and tribulations on the road to reconnecting plays out every week on Centric’s Platinum House but game time officially began on Tuesday with the release of their fourth effort, Indrupendence Day.
Skeptics might still be raising eyebrows but front man Sisqo says the group’s still got it. He breaks down how they really feel about Woody, Nokio’s new choice of style and why he feels Indrupendence Day is the group’s best album thus far.⎯Starrene Rhett
VIBE: There seems to be a lot of tension in Dru Hill. How did you guys fall apart?
There was a couple of factors that played into what we had to do. When we left our old distribution, everybody went their separate ways and in doing that, that separated us and after a while of working solo everybody just⎯actually with Keith Sweat, when we decided to come back together, the first show we did was with him and that’s when he gave us the idea for Platinum House.
Did you have resentment toward Woody for leaving twice?
It really wasn’t resentment it was kind of like, originally we were talking about getting back together as a group and I guess he had a change of heart but he didn’t really voice that until we got on the radio and that’s really what the biggest issue was because it was like the second time that we were doing something really big and Woody had a change of heart in the middle of something. The first time he had a change of heart, we were on the set of the “Wild Wild West” video. That’s why if you look at the “Wild Wild West” video, in the beginning you see all four of us and then at the end you see three of us. So I think that’s where the frustration came from, like, “Wow, you didn’t have to say this on the radio. First time it was on the video, now it’s on the radio. You could have told us this before we got to this point.” And the reason Woody left, I felt like maybe he did have something to say and we weren’t listening. But it’s not necessarily that we weren’t listening, it’s four different guys with four different opinions and sometimes your opinion isn’t best for the whole group but that doesn’t mean that weren’t listening. I’ve had several ideas that haven’t gone through but you gotta pick and choose your battles.
Looking back what would you have done better as far as group communication?
It wasn’t a whole lot we could do. We came out of high school into the music industry. And doing the best you can to break as an artist is a full time night and day kind of job so you gotta grow up really fast. So it’s not really an option to hold one another’s hand. You just gotta make it happen. So I wouldn’t say that we didn’t do anything I think it was more so just growing up and knowing when to voice your opinion, that way things are smoother. I really felt like I did all I could. Woody and I are still cool. I just spoke to him a couple of days ago and he’s definitely working on music on my next solo project.
Tao replaced Woody, which takes you guys back to the original quartet format but what happened to Scola?
Scola came along with Woody because [they] were working on a gospel project and when Woody left, Scola went with him.
How’s Tao working out so far?
It’s all-good. We had already known Tao. We could have just kept going like Destiny’s Child did when they had turmoil in their group but that wasn’t really an option for us considering how intricate our harmony is. We definitely needed that fourth note so we held a contest in the Baltimore area because we wanted to keep it true to Dru Hill. You can’t have Dru Hill when everybody is from Maryland and Somebody is from Roanoke, Va [laughs]. So basically with everybody that was in the competition expect for one or two people, we knew them because they were from the area. When Tao competed, we didn’t choose who would be in the group. We asked the audience to choose.
So what can fans expect from Indrupendence Day?
Indrupendence Day is the most balanced album out of all the music we recorded. I say that because in the beginning of our career, it was typical of the label to push who they want into the forefront and in our case it was me. But if you listen to the album, you actually really do hear a lot of diversity. The music that was released was mostly me but on this album here, you get the opportunity to hear everybody singing. That’s really what a group is supposed to be but because of how groups have been portrayed throughout the past since the early 90s and the late 80s, it has always been that one person pushed to the front. So with this album we’re really trying to define what a group is.
Even Nokio? He really seemed low key in the past when it came to vocals.
Yeah. We passed the ball to him just like a basketball team. As a matter of fact, our song that’s on iTunes right now off the album called “Remain Silent”–Nokio’s singing the first verse on that as well as some bonus material that we have on the album from Nokio’s solo project with his rock band, Black Angel Down and he’s singing all the leads on both of those as well.
Nokio’s in a rock band? So that explains the sudden style change, huh?
Yeah. Anybody that followed our group used to know him with the clean cut Caesar haircut and then with this album you see whim come out with the big mohak and everyone is like what’s with the big image change. But he’s the lead singer in his rock band.
OK, that was concerning some people.
That’s the thing with Dru Hill. We’ve always tried to be good musicians and not be pigeonholed into one type of music. When we first started everyone thought we were just an R&B group and then I broke out into the pop realm and now with Nokio’s project we have our hands in rock as well. So it’s just music in general. Even for “Thong Song,” I hired some people who played on Star Wars to play the orchestrated music on there. A lot of people thought it was a sample but that’s orchestrated music that I composed.
Was there ever a point in your career where you couldn’t stand hearing the “Thong Song?”
For the rest of my life I’m gonna be known as “thong guy” [and] beautiful women are gonna be coming up to me showing me they thong until my hair is really that [platinum] color [laughs], so you can’t be but so mad. I’m not mad at all. It’s just one of those songs that’s gonna be around for ever and it’s only a handful of artists that can say that. So I would be shooting myself in the foot if I said that.
But still, the song got run into the ground. If you could do things over would you be known for a different song?
Nah. I’m a hetorosexual male that beautiful women are always trying to show me their underwear so who would be mad at that? [Laughs] It’s a lot of things you could be known for so if I’m known for that I’m cool with that.
You hate being called a one-hit-wonder but what were you up to while you were away?
I’ve had international success so whenever you may not have seen me in America, I may have been in Dubai doing something. Technically I never really stopped doing music. I just did it in different places. For instance, I shipped a million copies of my second album. I pretty much sold a million before I even sold a record. I was in America for my whole first album [but] when I got to Europe for my second album, it was an even bigger response for my second album than for my first one because they were so into what I was doing. My second album wasn’t really played a lot over here so people had the misconception that it flopped. But I sold three million records.
Still got beef with Usher and R Kelly?
I don’t have any beef with anybody. I remember that. And it was weird because R Kelly had took a shot at me on a record that he had done, I think with Jay-Z, and that was weird because I had just saw him a couple of months before that and I was wondering what did I do for him to start taking shots at me. It was ironic because the album that he was taking shots at me on stopped selling because of the scandal that went down. Whatever he said, I just retaliated on a [Kay Slay] mixtape. It was crazy because I wasn’t gonna say anything but I just wanted them to know⎯as a matter of fact⎯MTV reported on it and they quoted something that said something like, “If you mess with a rattle snake, you’re bound to get bitten” [laughs]. And it was crazy because I learned how to write songs studying R Kelly in middle school. So when he took a shot at me I was hurt. Like, here’s somebody I look up to who took a shot at me over nothing. I didn’t do nothing to him. But then we squashed it. This was around the time that the scandal happened. I went on the radio and said I ain’t have no beef with R Kelly and I respect him. I felt like he was like a Marvin Gaye of our time with his song writing ability. He’s incredible. And then he turned around and put the same song on the last album and ironically, here’s the crazy part, his album got shut down in the exact same time period that he got shut down before. So karma is a motherfucker. Don’t mess with a child of God.
Nas took a shot at you too right? Didn’t you have words for him?
Yeah, it was all on the same song.
Are you cool now?
Yeah. We were at MTV at the same time I had retaliated and he came up to me like, “Look man, I ain’t got no beef.” It was straight like that. So I was like, “Ok, we straight.
Would you collab with him at this point?
Hell yeah! I hope I can get R Kelly to write something on my new album [too]. I don’t hold grudges. It’s a small thing especially if you know you aint do nothing to the person. But I guess they have to work out what they got going on in themselves. But I don’t mind it. Thanks for keeping my name out here while I’m over here in Germany and shit [laughs].
Hopefully you can also recreate something similar to “What These Bitches Want” with DMX.
I miss X too. I hope he does make a comeback. It would be awesome if on my new project I could let him do a rap where I sing. Like, do the reverse of how I sang the hook on his. That would be dope. As a matter of fact I started working with a song with Dame Grease for my next solo project and he was gonna do a rap on it but that was when he had to go do his bid and I hadn’t spoken to him since.
Word on the street is you’re also trying to get back into movies and have your sights set on playing Bruce Leroy in a remake of The Last Dragon.
Hell yeah! I’m the dragon! My first album was Unleash the Dragon, my second album was Return of the Dragon, and my new album is Last Dragon, no “The.” I’m the same complexion as Taimak and my hair is curly too. Most of my dance moves have kung fu in them. Give me a month of training and I can definitely pull it off. I think it would be dope where if I did the movie I’d use my regular hair color and then when I get the glow my shit could turn blond, bam! And then the movie soundtrack could be my album. And maybe Mya could play Vanity part [laughs].
You wrote songs for her back when she first came out, do you still talk?
Yeah, we actually did another duet for my new album so we’ll see when the time comes if the song is still relevant and if it makes the cut.
Do you plan on following in her footsteps with Dancing With The Stars?
It’s funny because they asked me to be a part of that before. I think it was the season that Mario had done it but I think I threw them off because they asked me if I had any dance training. They asked me what I had been doing for the passed year and I had gone into the underground dance community real heavy, especially with the America’s Best Dance Crew thing. It’s a whole world under everything that you know or see. These guys that dance for me or Usher or Chris Brown spend hours and hours in these dance workshops and I was just with them getting my chops up and that’s what I told them and I think it threw them off because when they bring somebody on there they want them to be off the scene and not have much dance background. I was like, “Well, I never did no ballroom dancing,” but I don’t know why they didn’t want me to do it because Mya had some dancing background as well. But to me it seems the whole premise of the show was to take someone from one level and put them on another level and I think maybe I didn’t fit the format of what they wanted but we’ll see maybe in the future. I need my own reality show anyway.
Everyone else seems to have one so where’s yours?
We shall see. It might be something going on in a mansion in Miami some time soon but I don’t know…
Ok, so we’ll just say a little birdie told us that Sisqo getting his own reality show is a strong possibility.
But back to Dru Hill, what are your overall goals for the group?
I really just want to get my music out there and let the people know that I still got it and that we can still do what we do. Hopefully the new generation of music fans accept it the same way that fans did before. It has always been an uphill battle. We always go against of what people say is the traditional and what people believe is supposed to work and so far it’s been working for us. If you look at acts like Frankie Beverly and Maze and even Keith Sweat or The O Jays⎯a lot of the old school groups are still performing and still touring because what they do is real. So hopefully because of the fact that our music is real, hopefully that will translate to a successful project.