DAR Music: Dru Hill vs Jagged Edge

By @TrueGodImmortal

When we talk about R&B as a genre, one of the greatest things about the genre in general is groups. Now, there have been some classic R&B groups, some solid groups, and some lackluster ones also, but through the 80s and the 90s, R&B groups were the wave. I'd go as far as saying that solo artists were almost outnumbered by groups during this period. That's how many R&B groups were out through the 80s and 90s. Today, I wanted to talk two of the most popular groups of the 90s and beyond, Dru Hill and Jagged Edge. Dru Hill, a group of four based out of my hometown of Baltimore struck on the scene in 1996 with a self titled debut that brought instant platinum success. Jagged Edge, also a group of four, were based out of Atlanta and signed to So So Def Records, making their official debut a year after Dru Hill in 1997. How about we take a look at these groups, their histories, and try to figure out which is better, in their primes and overall of course. Who made the better albums? Who made the better hits? Who has the better catalog overall? Let's take a look at Dru Hill and Jagged Edge, respectively. Let the R&B wars begin.

*Dru Hill
The truth be told, Dru Hill might be a top 5 R&B group of all time. It's entirely possible. The group from my hometown managed to get signed to the subsidiary of Def Jam, effectively titled Def Soul and from there, their career would take off. The first single hit instantly behind a smooth yet bouncy rhythm. That coupled with a hilarious yet perfect video (combined with iconic dance steps) made them the new stars on the block and the biggest musical act to come from Baltimore thus far. That first single? It was the infectious "Tell Me". After the success of that single, Dru Hill geared up to release their first album, their self titled debut in 1996. Featured on that album would be other hits and all time classics like "In My Bed", "5 Steps" and "Never Make A Promise". The album would end up seeing huge success, garnering a platinum plaque and positioning Dru Hill as a top tier group instantly.

After appearances on soundtracks that proved to be successful for them as well, the next Dru Hill album arrived in 1998. Enter The Dru is on par with their debut, if not better and a true R&B classic. Enter The Dru has a lot of great songs, even beyond the singles and my favorites are the album tracks that didn't get that mainstream look they probably deserved. Still, no one could deny the huge singles on this album like "You Are Everything", "How Deep Is Your Love", "These Are The Times", and the classic "Beauty", which is the greatest Dru Hill song ever IMO. However, this album had so much depth, with songs ranging from the slightly upbeat "Real Freak" to the perfect ballad "One Good Reason" to the smooth "I'm  Wondering" and of course "The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)". It's tough to top a classic debut, but Dru Hill did it musically and commercially, going double platinum, their biggest success in their career as a group.

Two albums in, and Dru Hill were already looking like R&B legends.
Of course, the standard issues that plague R&B groups reared their ugly head as one of the central members of the group, Woody Rock (a good friend of DAR) decided to leave. He would return to the group for their third album Dru World Order in 2002, which would not be as successful as their first two, but still solid enough to earn some success and a gold plaque. They would have a successful single in "I Should Be" and a moderate single in "I Love You", before taking a long hiatus where failed reunions and comebacks didn't work. In this respect, this does hamper the legacy of the group some, but not enough to take away their legendary status. The group would release their fourth and most recent album, InDRUpendence Day, in 2010, with a slight hit single in "Love MD", and moderate success on the charts, but the album seems out of touch and a bit forced. Regardless, despite the drop off over their last two albums, Dru Hill remain legends and their first two albums are truly undefeated.

*Jagged Edge
The Atlanta group came onto the scene in 1997 and surprised many with their harmony and their style. Backed by the powerhouse of So So Def, Jagged Edge debuted with their first album and never really looked back. Their first album, A Jagged Era, didn't take off commercially initially, and their first single "The Way That You Talk" didn't really seem to grab audiences as well as So So Def would have liked (despite appearances from Da Brat and Jermaine Dupri). However, the second single, and probably my favorite song from them, "I Gotta Be" helped push the album to gold status and put their talent on the forefront for a while. The music video for "I Gotta Be" was also a hit due to the appearance of Destiny's Child in the video. There were other some solid songs on the album like "Wednesday Lover" and "Addicted To Your Love", but A Jagged Era was more like the introduction for the group instead of a smash hit.

However, the group would end up reaching a new level of success on their second album, the New Edition inspired J.E. Heartbreak in early 2000. They actually ran the risk of experiencing the disappointment they felt with A Jagged Era initially when the first single "Keys To The Range"  didn't take off like they wanted it to. They would bounce back with the second single "He Can't Love U", which took off a bit more than the previous single, but it would be the third and fourth singles that changed their fortunes. With the release of the two ballads "Promise" and "Let's Get Married", Jagged Edge would soon be staring at platinum plaques and big success. Naturally, due to this album being their biggest and most successful, selling double platinum, it's looked at as their best project. I would be inclined to agree for the most part, as the album is the high peak of their success and their career. For me, A Jagged Era and J.E. Heartbreak are the two albums to reference when speaking about Jagged Edge, as they are the only two albums that really hit the mark musically.

Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Jagged Little Thrill, their third album, but it felt short of the mark they hit with the first two. Even with only 14 songs, it felt like there was a lot of filler on the album, but tracks like "Girl It's Over", "Goodbye", and their biggest crossover hit "Where The Party At" with megastar Nelly really helped the album hit near double platinum status. Though this album was more successful than A Jagged Era and on par with the success of J.E. Heartbreak, musically it wasn't on the same level as the first two and had too much filler. Their later albums would also suffer from too much filler, but one thing that Jagged Edge could do was create ballads, but they would drift away from that and lose focus it seems. Their 2003 album Hard spawned another hit in "Walked Outta Heaven", which was a classic ballad, and their 2006 self titled album gave us another solid ballad in "Good Luck Charm" and a classic collabo with John Legend on "Season's Change". Still, it felt as if Jagged Edge just couldn't create great albums, but were still good for a ballad or two every album.

Their next album, the 2007 release Baby Makin Project seemed to be headed in the right direction based on the title, but surprisingly the album still lacked something. It was however, a bit improvement in essence over their last three releases. It wasn't a bad album by any stretch, but the subject matter and production got a little repetitive from time to time, but JE still managed to shine more on this project. The truth of the matter is, Jagged Edge would realize their strength rested in ballads, and they would employ them more and more, but it's just that their music missed the mark half the time. It's hard to explain, but aside from a few of their true classics, Jagged Edge never really stuck out over the groups like Jodeci, Silk, Boyz II Men, or even Silk and H-Town. They've maintained a mostly low profile over the years, and their last two projects, the 2011 release The Remedy and the 2014 sequel J.E. Heartbreak 2 did little to bring them back to the glory days prominence, but in their prime, Jagged Edge was still a premier R&B group who experienced a high level success. They definitely deserve recognition and credit for what they've accomplished.

If you ask me, it comes down to two things: albums and the songs. In terms of longevity, Jagged Edge would like win the debate. They have more albums, and they've maintained a certain level of quality through the years, although I don't think they possess many classics in their slightly extensive catalog. However, if we look at the Dru Hill legacy and their sound, it's stronger by far. Their first two albums are R&B classics, and successful as well, plus Dru Hill contributed to many soundtracks, helping balance out the difference in the catalogs of course. Now, aside from this, Dru Hill also spawned a fairly successful career for their lead singer, Sisqo, which can't be slept on. If we decided to include Sisqo and his solo career in the argument, this wouldn't even be a close debate. Dru Hill would win every single time. Even without including Sisqo and his successful solo career, I still think Dru Hill takes this clearly. That takes nothing away from Jagged Edge, but when you compare the albums, the singles, and the vocal strength, it's Dru Hill all the way.



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