For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to visit the Buckeye State and pay homage to The Rude Boys. The Cleveland-based quartet consisted of Larry Marcus, Melvin Sephus, Edward Lee “Buddy” Banks, and Joe Little III. Initially breaking onto the scene in 1990 with the hits “Written All Over Your Face” and “Are You Lonely For Me” from their debut, they wasted no time returning to the studio.
Second Listen Sunday : Dru Hill, Christmas In Baltimore
After releasing their fourth album, 2010’s InDRUpendence Day, R&B quartet Dru Hill gifted fans with its first-holiday album with 2017’s Christmas in Baltimore. The lineup of Sisqo, Jazz, Nokio, and Tao, who made an appearance on InDRUpendence Day, returned for this project. Dru Hill worked primarily with legendary producer Troy Taylor for this particular project.
Christmas in Baltimore opens with a soulful instrumental intro before transitioning into the lead single “Favorite Time of Year.” A sultry slow jam, “Favorite Time of Year” features the Midas production touch of Troy Taylor mixed with the classic Dru vocals. Sisqo opens up the song with pure showmanship while the rest of the group backs him up.
“This Christmas” is up, and while I initially thought the group was going to do an update of their cover of Donny Hathaway’s classic, the group goes the up-tempo route for a stepper’s vibe. I like this one because the group appeals to a younger crowd with Taylor’s production while avoiding the auto-tune route. The grown man vibes continue with “Get Away,” which finds the group actually breaking away from the holiday vibes. Instead, they make a successful dabble in the Dancehall genre. Sisqo straight bodies the song, and I could’ve easily seen this song as a lead single on a non-Christmas album.
Dru Hill’s signature harmony shows up on “No Holiday,” a mid-tempo ballad about a man missing his lady love. Jazz gets a chance to shine on “Fireplace” with his signature vocals and solidifies the need for a Jazz solo record ASAP. Nokio leads the next song, “T’is the Season.” This track is clearly for the clubs. Now, while I’m not a massive fan of auto-tune, given Nokia’s talents as a producer and Rock musician, I do understand the vibe he was going for. Quite honestly, “T’is the Season” would feel right at home on the soundtrack for an urban comedy flick.
The midtempo “Underneath the Mistletoe” and a cover of a Christmas classic close the album out. Tao glides through “Underneath the Mistletoe” like a bird in the wind with a strong solo. In comparison, Sisqo offers assistance on the bridge of the song. Dru finally goes back to ballads for the swan song, a cover of The Temptations “Silent Night.”
Originally appearing on The Tempt’s, 1980 Christmas album, Give Love at Christmas, “Silent Night” is a holiday staple in the Black community. The popular meme says, “It Ain’t Christmas until you hear Dennis Edward croon In My Mind.” So how does Dru Hill do with their version? Pretty decent, in my opinion, as the group never tries to outshine The Tempts and instead makes the song their own by utilizing their vocal strengths.
I hadn’t heard Christmas in Baltimore since the initial 2017 release, but I am glad I decided to revisit the project as I found some new songs to add to my Christmas playlist.
Final Grade: B+
Christmas in Baltimore is available on all streaming platforms.
More reviews to explorer
Valentine’s Day 2024 may have come and gone, but I still plan to use highlight songs with the V-word for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. The artist I chose is a southern gentleman by the name of Lloyd. Initially breaking onto the scene as a member of the preteen-boy band N-Toon, Lloyd’s solo career kicked off in 2004 with the hit “Southside.”
One of the most talented men in indie music, Eric Roberson, kicked off his 30th-anniversary tour last night in Pittsburgh, so for this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to revisit Mr. Roberson’s third album, The Vault 1.5, which hit record stores in 2003. As Erro fans know, Roberson initially hit the scene with the lovely ballad “The Moon” while studying at Howard University. Roberson’s first record deal didn’t go as planned, but not one to just lay down, Roberson continued to build a name for himself by writing for the likes of 112 and Will Smith. Additionally, Roberson collaborated with Jill Scott, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Cam’ron.