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20 Years Later: A Definitive Ranking Of Dru Hill's Soulful Debut Album

 In celebration of the album’s 20th anniversary, we’ve ranked the tracks, keeping in love, soul and flow in mind.

The Soul Train stage shined brightly in November 1996 as new acts like Aaliyah, Soul For Real and Ginuwine performed their pre-recorded jams for zealots of rhythm and blues. Their singles helped curate the silky smooth blueprint of R&B that would later be fawned over for years to come. There’s plenty of other mainstays that helped defined the genre at the time (thank you kindly Teddy Riley, Babyface, Jodeci and Mary J. Blige), but four young men from Baltimore, MD., demanded our attention. Lead by a teen in an orange shirtless get-up and blonde tresses, their performance of "Tell Me" raised curiosities on what they were all about.

The quartet known as Dru Hill might have had a similar come up as New Edition (gospel singers tempted by the chords of secular sounds) founder Tamir "Nokio" Ruffin with Mark "Sisqó" Andrews, Larry "Jazz" Anthony, and James "Woody Rock" Green knew they had voices, but unlike their peers, they were true creatives. Before leaping into the spotlight, the teens used their gigs as fudge sales boys to flip lyrics about the delicious treats into serenading ballads. “Dude, selling fudge is not the coolest thing in the world,” Sisqo told Rolling Stone in 2014. “If you could make that cool, and we did, it was the first lesson in show business. If you could actually sing to a girl while selling fudge in an all-white uniform, that was a challenge.” Nokio’s urge for the group to take control of their sound would be heard on their self-titled album, Dru Hill. Unlike the rest of the millions of black teens growing up in America, the guys were forming their stance on love, sex and relationships on wax. Unbeknownst to them, their ideas would frame fantasies of love we’ve never knew existed.

“Even though we didn’t understand totally when we first started, people made sure we became marquee artists and they gave us lifetime records,” Nokio told The Source in April. “Nowadays, you kind of just go in the studio, make a record and it’s whatever, spend a bunch of money to make people think it’s good when don’t nobody know what the f**k you talking about. But, we’re the last part of the generation where it’s about the artist that made careers for everybody else; artist development, the right records, putting us with the right producers who would teach us a lesson, we’re the last of it.” Whether it was hindsight or only ungratified creative goals, the group went on to produce the highly successful sophomore LP Enter The Dru, but internal conflicts and label switches crashed the innocent waves created on Dru Hill.

“Do You Believe in Love?” questions the rules of the feels with a reminder that “there ain't no guarantees in love,” making the quest that much rewarding. There were also the top-selling singles like “Tell Me,” “Five Steps” and “In My Bed,” that flooded Quiet Storm segments and your high school dances. “Whatever You Want” taught us about the importance of consent, while “Never Make A Promise” gave us hope that prince charming was real.

In celebration of the album’s 20th anniversary, we’ve ranked the tracks, keeping in love, soul and flow in mind. Check it out below.

14. “Nothing to Prove”

The group keeps it real on the second track of the album, defining their outlook on love. Jazz and Woody trade lines about their devotion to their ladies, giving them anything and everything they desire. "Girl I ain't got nothing to prove I ain't got nothing to lose I'm just a man that's sooo in love with you," the boys sing. It's later presented that their love is for an older woman they believe is ashamed of her feelings towards a younger cat. "I say they must be crazy, Can't you make up your mind, and if I'm too young lady, Then I won't waste your time." Jazz sings. The pledge is admirable and the resistance mirrors Millie Jackson's "Young Man, Older Woman" and would go on fuel future R&B/hip-hop jams like Chris Brown's debut single "Run It."

13. “Anthem”

R&B intros varied in the 90's, but still kept hip-hop's influence prevalent. It did a solid to the genre as the two would go hand and hand to create "the remix," an art form that deserves more praise. Dru Hill's "Anthem" doesn't bring much to the album, but it's clear they didn't want to take the clichè acapella route.

12. "Do You Believe?" 

"Do you believe... like I believe in love?" is a question that arises many different answers the fellas answer on the lighthearted track. Noting that there are no guarantees in love, the guys make the best of the moment by realizing their mistakes could lead to a love they'll regret losing. Produced by Tim Dawg and Terence Dudley, the track gives feels like filler, as the singers dive deeper into love, loss and happiness on the rest of the project.

11. "In My Bed" 

Sisqo hoped his instincts were wrong on "In My Bed," but on the follow-up single to "Tell Me," the singer discovers his lady has made plans with another man. His expressive vocals and gentle climatic approach to the track almost makes you think the same thing is happening to you--even if you didn't have a significant other. "Now if you truly love me (alright), Then this would not be happening," he belts at the song's end. It's an overlooked gem on the platinum selling single, but posed truth in the inner workings of heartbreak.

10. "So Special"

"So Special" is one of the most romantic songs on the album, with lyrics emulating the sights and sounds that equate to a powerful love. It also holds elements of Jodeci, an apparent source of influence. It's a thought that's difficult to ignore between crooning adlibs and trade off of lyrics between Woody and Sisqo.

9. "Love's Train" 

The boys may have had a strong gospel background, but the group's remake of Con Fun Shun/Project Soul's "Love's Train" places their ability to bring back the funk in a high regard. Produced by Keith Sweat and Allen Smith, the track focuses on the burning coal of love that keeps the love train going. "Sometimes heart strings can be broken, But you've just got to keep on going, That's the way it goes on love's train." Noted fellas.

8. "Whatever U Want" 

Another upbeat track among the ballads, "Whatever U Need" focuses on lust, rather than the group's deep fixation for love. The playful track showcases their harmonies and provides a look into their future sounds as Saeida Hall provides a quick 16 on her demands for a man who doesn't play games. The group would go on to work with other hip-hop acts like Da Brat, DMX and Method Man.

7. "Share My World"

Professing his undying love for a certain someone, "Share My World" is a testimony to the lovers out there who are ready to jump the broom. Co-produced by Nokio, it's clear the group wanted to cater to those who appreciate the ups and downs of love and what many hope for in the end--marriage. Ironically, the song was sampled over a decade later by PartyNextDoor for his track "SLS," a track about Party's spiritual bond with a stripper.

6. "Satisfied"

Turning up the heat, "Satisfied" brings forth the slow grind, candles and the group's underlying sex appeal. Leaving a sensual voicemail for "Indi," pleas for gentle touches and kisses are heard loud and clear. With high notes and a clear calling to please each other, the track leaves it all--including your clothes--on the floor.

5. "Tell Me" 

Serving as an introduction to the world, "Tell Me" was the anthem for those who are just as skilled in linguistics as they are in the bedroom. Like "Satisfied," it's also one of the few tracks that were a clear testament to the act of sex. Between the lines, it also reminds us all that communication is essential in every part of a relationship. Visuals for the single also gave us the group's signature choreography. From the high jumps to the lip biting, Jazz, Sisqo, Woody and Nokio were NOT playing around with your heart.

4. "All Alone"

The fellas sing of hope and refuse to rely on faith for the somber "All Alone." After a relationship goes awry, it's hard for the men to ignore their feelings. Belting out a promise to cry it out lets the listener know that men shouldn't be afraid of the tears or feel a heartbreak just as much as their partner.

3. "April Showers"

Penned by Woody for a girlfriend as a gift, "April Showers" helps embody the group's outlook on love. Promising to give his all, the singer dedicates his time and love to someone other than himself. It's an act of bravery that was barely analyzed in popular hip-hop back then, but that didn't stop the group from pushing it to the frontlines.

2. "Never Make A Promise"

A love letter of loyalty and support, "Never Make A Promise" is an ode to those who have moved on from puppy love. "You told me what you wanted, I gave you what you need, I told you that I love you, Make it good for you and me," the guys testify on the chorus. These aren't empty promises and dreams as powerful vocals by the group shine through both verses. The visuals for the video takes things to a different level, making them heroes of love and devotion.

1. "5 Steps"

"Five Steps" serves as the best track on the album due to its ability to bridge Dru Hill's gospel, soul and R&B influences. With effortless harmonizing from all members, the track is something special as its interpretations resonate as heartbreak, loss and grief to listeners. It's lyrics, tearful and promising, provide the guys with a perfect ballad R&B dreams are made of. The group would go on to create tracks like "Beauty," and "I Love You," but nothing could compare to "5 Steps" in their entire discography. If Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "Tha Crossroads" is the gospel for rap lovers, "5 Steps" not only brings us closer to the core of R&B but closer to love.

Editor's Note: The So So Def remix of  "In My Bed" featuring Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat was purposely left off this ranking.

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20 Hip-Hop And R&B Albums That Went Platinum With No Features

Once upon a time, successful artists considered receiving a gold or platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as a rite of passage to legendary status, especially if they did it on their own. Up until 2016, elite hip-hop and R&B artists were awarded plaques after one million units in album sales were sold. Now, any artist with music that goes viral overnight can join the platinum club.

After the RIAA modernized its rules for obtaining gold & platinum status in 2016, the music industry has been flooded with gold and platinum recipients, and it will only become more saturated over time. However, any rapper or R&B singer who sells over a million units without the help of outside artists should be heralded like the icons who came before them.

Since the 1980s, plenty of hip-hop and R&B artists have gone platinum with memorable music that will live on forever, but only a select few have made history by reaching platinum status without featured artists. Here are 19 albums (and mixtapes) that went platinum without other musical guests on the compilation.

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Genres Aside, Here Are Our 25 Favorite Songs Of 2018

Keeping up with all of the music from 2018 was a full-time job, with loads of songs releasing every week and not enough ears to keep track. But the volume of music comes with an advantage: there’s something for everybody. Fittingly, our list of the 25 Best Songs of 2018 represents the multi-genre mayhem that is in everyone’s playlists this year.

Some of the entries on our list, like cuts by Drake, Travis Scott and Childish Gambino, were at the forefront of the conversation in 2018, dominating streaming services and radio around the country. Indie darling Saba made waves, and he’s included here as well. Jazz wizard Kamasi Washington dropped some of the best protest music of the year. But there are also some songs on this year’s list that spoke to the VIBE Tribe in a different way. Cardi B had hits all year, but an album cut impressed us most; Usher and Zaytoven’s new album didn’t make a huge splash commercially, but one of its songs appears here. And Beyonce appears on one of the best songs of the year that never even saw an official release–but that didn’t stop us from including it here.

Music broke the rules this year, and so did we. Read below, and tell us what surprise choices are making your songs of the year list.

READ MORE: Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

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A look back at the collaborator's up and down relationship.
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Remember The Time: 10 Times Drake And Kanye West Were Stronger Together

Kanye West and Drake aren’t exactly in the best place at the moment. West’s Dec. 13 Twitter rant detailed their issues, in which he accuses Drake of “sneak dissing” and threatening him.

“You sneak dissing on [Travis Scott] records and texting Kris [Jenner] talking about how’s the family.” he wrote among many other tweets and allegations against the Scorpion MC.

While this is a bump in the road, the two haven’t always been enemies. Despite the shenanigans surrounding them, Kanye West and Drake have had a very fruitful relationship. All drama aside, the duo have created many memorable moments in hip-hop and pop culture. They’ve written and recorded some incredible songs and shared countless stages during concerts and tours.

To abstain from dwelling on the negativity, VIBE has collected a list of moments taking you through the high points in the rappers’ relationship. Check it out below.

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Drake's Freestyles Over Many Beats By 'Ye

Before he was one of the most sought-after rappers in the world, Drizzy has looked up to Kanye West and sampled his work. For “Say What’s Real,” a single off his mixtape So Far Gone, the “In My Feelings” MC sampled Yeezy’s “Say You Will” off of his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak. The admiration continued throughout the years, resulting in more freestyles over songs like “Swagga Like Us” and “Barry Bonds.” Both tracks feature beats created by the Chi-town native. 

‘Thank Me Later’ Proves Their Shared Power 

After meeting in 2009, the duo came together to bring Drake's Thank Me Later album to the next level. They collaborated on two tracks- the futuristic love songs “Show Me A Good Time,” and “Find Your Love.” With West holding down production, deep-pocketed 808’s and table-top scratch sounds were highlighted. The accolades for the latter song resulted in the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts as they created their own lane.

Drake Calls Kanye “The Most Influential Person”

In a 2009 interview, the then-industry rookie had some nice words for West. Speaking specifically about the 41-year-old’s 808’s and Heartbreak album, the Toronto rapper described ‘Ye as "the most influential person” who was important to young emcees in the game.

"Before I ever got the chance to meet him, Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes," Drake said. He knows how to utilize great sounds and great music. So before I met him, I had the utmost respect for Kanye West. I'd even go as far as to say he's the most influential person as far as a musician that I'd ever had in my life."

Their Collaborations On Wax 

The pair has been making music together for nearly 10 years, with some standout tracks including “Forever,” the remix to “All Of The Lights,” and “Pop Style.” On their 2017 song “Glow” off of Drake’s playlist More Life, both rappers discuss their growing, limitless success. West was rumored to initially appear on Drizzy’s smash-hit “Nice For What.” He reportedly had a verse on the critically-acclaimed track until the beef between Drake and his G.O.O.D. Music cohort Pusha T became lethal.

The Joint Mixtape That Never Happened

Drake and Kanye are no strangers when it comes to making joint albums with other artists. Drake worked with Future on the platinum-selling album What A Time To Be Alive, while Kanye released Watch The Throne with JAY-Z to critical acclaim. However, it has been hinted for the longest time that the two were working on a full-length album of their own.

Kanye confirmed the plan to release an album with Drake to Vogue in 2016, shortly after hinting at a joint project during OVO Fest. The Take Care rapper co-signed the announcement, saying "What my brother was asking before was, are you ready if we make an album?"

Drake Writing For Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’

Drake wrote a song for Kanye’s 2016 effort, The Life of Pablo. The Canadian hip-hop star helped pen the Isaac Hayes and Nelly-sampled “30 Hours.” Drizzy was also reportedly on the original, unreleased version of Pablo’s “Wolves,” which featured Icelandic artist Bjork (the album version features Vic Mensa and Sia).

The Duo Become Friendly, Competitive Neighbors

By the time of their initial meeting in 2009, Kanye already clocked in nearly a decade of music industry knowledge, and Drake was making the transition from teen TV star to full-time rapper. But who would have thought the duo would have eventually become actual neighbors?

Drake eventually moved to Calabasas, Calif.- a neighborhood in Los Angeles many celebrities call home- around the same time West began publicly dating his now-wife, Kim Kardashian. In the 2016 bop “Summer Sixteen,” Drizzy jokes, “Now I got a house in LA, now I got a bigger pool than Ye / And look man, Ye’s pool is nice, mine's just bigger's what I’m saying.”

 

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There goes the neighborhood

A post shared by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Nov 7, 2016 at 3:05am PST

Kanye Supports OVO Fest

Drake created a hip-hop festival called OVO Fest in 2010. Not only does it feature notable acts in urban music, but it also gave a platform to upcoming artists from Canada who might not have gotten a platform back home. Kanye West was one of the first supports of the music event, performing at three of the festivals.

He also admitted that Drake inspired him and JAY-Z to record Watch The Throne during 2013’s OVO Fest, stating, "Me and Hov would've never made Watch the Throne if this ni**a wasn't putting pressure on us like that, so I just wanna pay my respects.”

Kanye Apologizes To Drake Over G.O.O.D. Music Album Rollouts

Earlier this fall, Kanye West apologized to Drake in a series of tweets for planning the rollout of albums by artists under his G.O.O.D music roster around the proposed release of Scorpion.

In one of the tweets, Kanye wrote “Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place. We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.” In another tweet, ‘Ye revealed that he never listened to the diss tracks between him and Pusha, and didn’t have conversations regarding Drake’s child with him.

Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place … We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.

— ye (@kanyewest) September 5, 2018

They Shared Laughs Over Meek Mill Memes

Drake and Meek Mill were in an infamous feud back in 2015. After performing his diss track aimed at Meek- "Back to Back”- at the 2015 OVO Fest, Drizzy, Kanye, and Will Smith enjoyed a laugh over the countless memes mocking the Philly MC.

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