Interview: Jazz from Dru Hill on Legacy of Group and Passion that has Kept it Together
YouKnowIGotSoul recently caught up with Jazz, one of the founding members of Dru Hill, at a recent appearance at RnB Spotlight in New York. In this interview, we talk about what he’s been up to since the group released “InDRUpendence Day” in 2010, the lack of r&b groups out right now, how Dru Hill has managed to stay together, his solo career, and Sisqo getting all of the credit by fans for the work on songs.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Since Dru Hill dropped “inDRUpendence Day” in 2010, what have you and the group been up to?
Jazz: Since we dropped “inDRUpendence Day” we’ve been on the road singing with groups that appeal to maybe from 18 all the way up to 40 and over. We’ve always have been blessed as a group to have that fan base. That was something that we talked about a lot. One day we might be on the bill with Chris Brown, the next day on the bill with Big Sean, the next day on the bill with Atlantic Starr, Faith Evans, Keith Sweat, New Edition. It’s like we are in front of everybody and like “Wow, we did our thing!” We all just started venturing into our own solo projects as well just to kinda reinforce our own individual avenues within the business. But at the same time, always use that Dru Hill counterpart and keep plugging that because that’s our brand. Like I was saying to someone earlier, we want to see the day where we have the Dru Hill set intermingled with the Jazz set, the Sisqo set, the Nokio set. Something different, something that speaks longevity is what we’re looking at right now. It’s going to happen.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You guys came out in the mid 90’s and a lot of the groups from the 80’s and 90’s broke up. You guys have had your issues along the way but have managed to keep it together. What’s the key to staying together and remaining relevant?
Jazz: I’m going to tell you the truth, check this out. The love for what you do is the key, that’s the magic. I guess it’s like any other type of job, you’ve got to love what you do to overcome the obstacles that are underlying and you don’t see until you are smack in the middle of it. Whatever hardships we had as a group, that attests for the main reason why you’ve got to love what you do. Whether it be singing or whatever else it is, as long as you’ve got the passion for it, you’re going to go to bed thinking about it, you’re going to wake up in the night thinking about it, you’re going to wake up in the morning thinking about it; it’s going to be on your mind throughout the day. That’s the type of passion that has to be there in order to whether the storm.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I remember hearing some solo material from you back in the early 00’s, I also remember hearing you were working on a solo album back then. Whatever happened with your solo project?
Jazz: I think some of the songs from my solo project from back in the early 2000’s I’m going to release on my current solo endeavor. It’s a lot of records that are smashes that nobody ever got a chance to hear! Of course some of the records like the one I did with Jill Scott “Lovin Again”, that joint was tight, but only a handful of people got a chance to hear it so I’ve got to let the people hear this! I also did a record that was on the “Nutty Professor” soundtrack, “Here with Me”, that joint was tight. So I’m grabbing a few of those pieces. Not only that, I look online and people are requesting those records and saying “Man you’ve got timeless records, what are you going to do? When are you going to drop them?” So I’m definitely throwing those songs in the mix. Some of my new records, I’m just starting my story, I’m ready to start Jazz’ story, let’s get it jumping.
YouKnowIGotSoul: One thing I’ve noticed about Dru Hill is that although you guys all shared lead vocals at times, Sisqo always got the credit. Did that ever make you guys feel a certain type of way?
Jazz: Actually I did endure a little self searching and have to pull myself out a stronger person with that. I come from a very musical background so you already know if I go home I’d hear “Why are you not doing this and that! Why do you have Sisqo doing the whole thing?” My family would say “Come on you can do this in your sleep!” But I’d have to tell them “That’s what they wanted or the video direction or whatever.” One thing I can say is as time progressed, a lot of our diehard fans were saying “Jazz I really know that was you in this part or that part”. Within this last run with Dru Hill, I think a lot of people got a chance to really see the parts I sang. Just like you said, in a lot of instances a lot of the things I contributed to the group and to the records were kinda mistaken for somebody else like Sisqo for example. To his defense, a lot of times in different interviews and all, he’ll pump it up and give me credit. It’s all about impression, so that’s part of the thing I’m carrying to try and get clear. I appreciate you making that observation though.
YouKnowIGotSoul: It seems today there is a lack of r&b groups. Do you have any opinion on why that’s the case or where they went?
Jazz: I think in the midst of people trying new sounds and new things and new inventions, that whole organic part of music has to always exist. I was talking to some people just about different avenues that we have as far as radio or back in the day we had a whole lot of different bands that was just spudding everywhere whether they were mainstream or a local top 40 band. You had so much music floating around you that you could go and those with real musicianship and real vocal ability had different places you could go. Now it’s so narrowed down so all of the new generation don’t have as many people or things to study like we used to back in the day. That just needs to be spread out a little bit more and we need to give the kids of the next generation some real stuff to study so they can come up with it. You’ve got to study something to make it yours.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What do you remember most about creating “These are the Times”?
Jazz: We were in Babyface’s studio with Babyface and the Underdogs. I know that we were waiting for Sisqo, once again waiting for Sisqo to do a part. So they said “Jazz, why don’t you lay these parts here and there?” So I went in and started doing parts here and there and then they had me doing more parts. Next thing you know, I’m stacking all of these different harmonies and everybody is coming in and adding their pieces with me. So then they asked me to sing the song all the way down, and I sang the song all the way down. So when Sisqo finally came in, he sings it all of the way down too and they mixed and mastered the vocals and that’s how they got both of us on the song.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Jazz: I just want to say music is my thing; it’s what I love to do. I’m coming on the scene with my company, it’s DigiGrind Unlimited. Keep your ears to the streets and stay in tune online. I’m kinda testing some new things here and there, trying to break into some different genres, because I know everybody is looking for me to come with something similar to Dru Hill sounds. I’ve got that, but I’m also breaking into some new genres so I need everybody to roll with me. I kinda added a new tag, I’m a junior anyway so it’s not a brand new tag, but I just kinda added it to the public, it’s like J.R. the artist. Just trying to figure out what type of music I’m going to put out under what tag, and just get it jumping foreal. Yall roll with me, I’m going to always make sure I always put out good music no matter what genre it is. So just roll with me, I got you!