DAR Music: Sisqo's Unleash The Dragon vs Ginuwine's 100% Ginuwine

By @TrueGodImmortal

1999 was an interesting year. For hip hop, it was a changing of the guard in many ways, and for R&B, it seemed like the year that we realized that the singing groups weren't as relevant or prevalent. There were new stars made, artists from groups coming out with their own solo albums, talented artists trying to fight the sophomore jinx, and more. Today, we discuss two artists that actually fall in line with that previous sentence as we revisit two albums that can be considered classics in the genre. In March 1999, Ginuwine would release his 2nd album titled "100% Ginuwine", mostly produced by Timbaland, to the world. After the success of his first project, The Bachelor, Ginuwine seemed ready to come back and attack the charts yet again. The album released to much fanfare and finished with double platinum sales, making it the most successful album of his career and if you ask any fan of his, they'll likely reference this album as his best or their favorite. The early part of 1999 seemed to be firmly about Ginuwine and his music on the radio and in the genre.

As the second half of 1999 got underway, rumors became reality. Dru Hill, one of the best R&B groups of the decade, was full of talent, but perhaps no talent in the group shined brighter than their lead singer, Sisqo. He was outlandish, eccentric to an extent, and his voice was certainly the most marketable of the group, so when rumors came that he was working on a solo album, there was a lot of interest. That interest would lead us to November 1999 when the solo album from Sisqo, titled Unleash The Dragon finally arrived. It was met with instant appreciation from fans and due to some heavy singles (we'll get into those details in a bit), the album would become a regular on the charts all throughout the year 2000 and reach huge sales. As of now, the album sits at 6X platinum, with well over six million copies sold, making it the biggest selling album that was released under the Dru Hill brand (solo or group).
While Unleash The Dragon and 100% Ginuwine would go on to become huge projects for the genre in 1999, one thing that I heard debated way back then was which album was better. Sisqo was a singer and dancer with hit songs, and Ginuwine was a singer and dancer with hit songs. Both debuted in 1996, though on different paths, and sure enough, they even had a very small "R&B beef" (I'll get into that a little later), which was mostly harmless and all in just competitive fun. Still, the competition was clearly there and both seemed to be focused on garnering the no. 1 spot in 1999. So, the question is, who had the better album and who took the no. 1 spot? Sure, Sisqo crossed over more on his album and sold more, but when talking quality, was his album actually better? That's what we're here to discuss. Today, we take a look at Unleash The Dragon vs 100% Ginuwine and try to decide who made the better album. Care to see what the conclusion is? Keep reading. Let's get into it.

*Unleash The Dragon

1. Unleash The Dragon
2. Got To Get It
3. Is Love Enough
4. 2nite (Interlude)
5. How Can I Love You 2nite
6. Your Love Is Incredible
7. So Sexual
8. Thong Song
9. Incomplete
10. Addicted
11. Dru World Order (Interlude)
12. Enchantment Passing Through
13. You Are Everything (Remix)

Producers & Writers : Babyface, Shep Montell Jordan, Nokio, Tim and Bob, Warryn Campbell, The Co-Stars, N8, Al West, and Dutch

Guest Appearances: Dru Hill, Ja Rule, Beanie Sigel, LovHer, and Make It Hot

The debut solo album from Sisqo clearly came at a time when his ego was probably higher than ever. After experiencing a huge success the year prior with the near triple platinum Dru Hill album Enter The Dru, Sisqo was a star and on his way to a new level of stardom. I remember at the time, many of us wondered how a Sisqo solo album would even sound. Who would produce on it? What would the features be? Those are questions that we would get the answer to soon enough, and I'll be the first to say, I was pleasantly surprised. With features from Ja Rule and Beanie Sigel, along with production and writing assistance from Montell Jordan and Babyface, Sisqo seemed to have the right formula for creating a R&B classic. From the opening of the album, you could hear this album was crafted perfectly, as the first song is the title track, backed by a smooth production and a guest verse from Beanie Sigel. While I'm not sure exactly what "Unleash The Dragon" fully means nor why Sisqo is pissed like Lil Kim (18 years later I'm still not sure), the opening song is a solid listen and a good way to open up the project.

The second song is the first official single featuring relatively unknown rappers Make It Hot (where are they now?), titled "Got To Get It". I loved this song from the first time I heard it, and despite being slightly confused on some of the lyrics (still confused by "Do I have to grab the back of your neck... to make you listen to me..."), I couldn't deny how catchy the hook was and how Sisqo seamlessly flowed over the production during the verses of the first two songs. They were both R&B and hip hop hybrid tracks and they were executed very well. After those hip hop and R&B hybrid track, Sisqo takes the album on a more traditional route with the LovHer featured "Is Love Enough", which is still one of my favorite songs on the album. After an interlude, Sisqo follows up with yet another great R&B ballad, this one centered around the concept of sneaking around on "How Can I Love You 2nite". The smooth production and vocals on the song make it undeniable and this is a top 3 song on the album IMO, and clearly another favorite.

Once we reach the halfway mark of the album, Sisqo hits with the knocking track "Your Love Is Incredible", which is a classic as well. It's a bit upbeat yet smooth, and it just flows absolutely perfect with the way Sisqo flows over the production (it's a slight hip hop vibe to this song), and the lyrics are entertaining. The Babyface assisted and penned track "So Sexual" is next, and while this wasn't my favorite when the album dropped, I have grown to appreciate it even more. It's a really good song and the Babyface adlibs give it a classic feel. Of course, the next song on the album is the mega hit "Thong Song", and I really don't have much to say about the song. It would end up taking on a life of its own as a single and changing the game at the time, and it's the most simple song on the album and my least favorite track on the project (besides one), but it's obvious why it became popular. It was a fun track, one for the summer time for sure, and it was just the right song at the right time. Still, in terms of the album, it serves more as an interlude on its own rather than a song in the cohesion of the project.

After we get beyond the "Thong Song", Sisqo gives us two back to back classic ballads, and one of which is supremely underrated. Many of us love and know "Incomplete" (which was written by Montell Jordan), and it's a great song without a doubt, but my new favorite track on the entire album is "Addicted". It was a song I overlooked some at first when this first dropped years ago, but now, it's the song I played the most when I revisited the album. It's R&B slow jam ballad perfection, with the right production and the harmony on the hook is the best on the entire album. Honestly, Sisqo could have ended the album there and this would be as close to a flawless album as you can get, but the final two tracks are Dru Hill songs, which makes perfect sense. I'm not the biggest fan of "Enchantment Passing Through", but I definitely love the "You Are Everything" remix, and though I've never been a fan of Ja Rule, his back and forth verse with Nokio here was hilarious and entertaining. It was a cool way to close out the album and prepare the world for the next Dru Hill project.

So, for this album, on a scale of 1-10, I would rank it a 9. It's almost perfect, with only a minor misstep or two here and there, and for that, any album that goes up against Unleash The Dragon has a lot to live up to. Speaking of which....

*100% Ginuwine

1. Little Kidz
2. Little Man's Bangin Lude
3. What's So Different
4. So Anxious
5. None Of Ur Friends Business/Interlude
6. Wait A Minute
7. I Know
8. Do You Remember/Interlude
9. No. 1 Fan
10. Final Warning/Interlude
11. I'm Crying Out
12. Two Sides To A Story
13. Same Ol' G
14. All Nite All Day/Interlude
15. Toe 2 Toe
16. She's Out Of My Life

Producers & Writers: Timbaland, Stephen Garrett, Jimmy Douglass, Johnta Austin, and Tom Bahler

Guest Appearances: Aaliyah and Timbaland

After his arrival in 1996, the Washington D.C. native Ginuwine seemed ready to make his name again with his sophomore project. Working alongside the great producer Timbaland, Ginuwine went back into the studio and feverishly worked on music until a satisfactory finished product was created. His sophomore project, titled "100% Ginuwine" showcased the best of Ginuwine as an artist and some of the best of Timbaland as well. The album starts off with an intro and interlude before getting right into gear with the smooth track "What's So Different". The marriage between the vocals and the production on that track serves as a great reintroduction for Ginuwine, and starts the album off on the right foot.

After "What's So Different", the biggest song from the album is next. Everyone I knew loved "So Anxious" and it's still a heavy favorite amongst listeners. It's a slow, smooth late night ballad that showcases Ginuwine letting his woman know that he can't wait to get to see her... and other things of course. This track leads to one of my favorites on the album, "None Of Ur Friends Business", where Ginuwine makes it clear that what goes on between him and his lady should be between the two. Sometimes friends can get jealous or too nosey and cause unnecessary problems. It's a really smooth song and Timbaland kills the production as well. After a small interlude, we go right into "Wait A Minute", which is a song I find slightly comedic in the approach. It's centered around an argument that begins to get out of control before Ginuwine stops to literally say "wait a minute" and explains his position to his lady. It's a good song, it is just a bit comedic in approach, but the hook is infectious without question. Another smooth production follows on "I Know", and while this isn't one of my favorite tracks, it's a solid song. The production has a nice mix of sounds and isn't handled entirely by Timbaland which makes a slight variation in sound for the halfway marker of the album.

As the album enters the 2nd half, it hits us with "Do You Remember", a slightly seductive ballad where Ginuwine reminisces about a liaison the night before. The hook is actually pretty funny and crass, but it all works. The pace picks up a bit with the hit single "No. 1 Fan", which features some Timbaland adlibs and vocals, and of course, a knocking Timbaland production. A song dedicated to his biggest groupie essentially, Ginuwine treats the song as if he's meeting or has met his biggest "fan" backstage after a concert. It's a really good song and the hook once again is infectious, something Ginuwine excelled at during this album. The only official collaboration on the album follows with the Aaliyah assisted "Final Warning" and this is a favorite of mine as well. Aside from the background vocals provided by Static Major (who wrote the song), Aaliyah and Ginuwine have a fun back and forth track about... well, I don't know. From the lyrics, one would assume that Ginuwine cheated on Aaliyah and that's why he's got a final warning, or one could assume that he is being bothered and is accused of cheating due to phone calls in the morning. It's not 100% clear, but the fact remains that all of their voices together on the hook makes for a great listen and Ginuwine's verses are slightly hilarious as well, which is a regular thing for Ginuwine albums honestly.

The next track is the slightly booming ballad about losing his love, "I'm Crying Out". While not my favorite, it's a solid song and fits well in the sequencing after "Final Warning". The next track is one of my least favorites on the album, as Ginuwine deals with the possibility of a woman with a checkered past so to speak on "Two Sides To A Story". Honestly, that two track sequence doesn't do too much for, as I think both songs are good, they just pale in comparison to the rest of the album. Picking the pace back up, Ginuwine hits hard with the single "Same Ol' G", which is one of his best songs ever. The song is essentially his "I've never changed despite the fame, just grew" song, and it works perfectly. Timbaland actually provides some guest adlibs and lyrics here, and I think it was the perfect complement to Ginuwine and his vocals. Everything about the song, from the melody, the drums, the vocals, and the hook are perfect. An underrated song on the album is "All Nite All Day", which is one of the better ballads here. It's smooth, with the perfect production, and the vocals here work very well. The hook is the best part, as usual, and the entire song flows perfectly. This is a top 5 song on the album IMO. The last two songs aren't anything special, but the booming "Toe 2 Toe" is hilarious. Ginuwine takes a stance of aggression and shit talking, and this is where the Sisqo "beef" stems from. He takes shots at every R&B singer honestly, but Sisqo took some offense to the song, as did Usher, and it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. This song stirred up a small bit of controversy, but it never really went much further than that. The final song is Ginuwine's rendition of "She's Out Of My Life", and I'll just say he doesn't have the voice to make it carry like Michael Jackson does, which renders this cover pointless to me. It's a weird way to end his album, but he was paying homage to Michael, so I respect it at least.

Overall, 100% Ginuwine is a great album, it just has a slight downward moment during the 2nd half of the album. The first half is so strong however that you can't deny the impact or the classics. This album isn't perfect, but there are no bad songs here, and it's an album you really won't skip songs on, even if they're not your favorite.

If we are talking personal preference, I might be inclined to pick the sophomore album from Ginuwine, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that Sisqo created something special. While many look at Sisqo and think about the mega hit "Thong Song", it's the worst song on the entire album and shouldn't be a measure of the quality of the album as I said. It's mindless entertainment at its finest, much like some of the songs on 100% Ginuwine, but one thing that both excel at is showcasing their strengths as artists on these albums. If I have to make a pick, I'll say I'm slightly biased to 100% Ginuwine, but upon reflection, I can honestly Unleash The Dragon aged better. It's a toss up, but I think due to less filler, Unleash The Dragon edges out 100% Ginuwine in terms of cohesion, but 100% Ginuwine has slightly higher points song wise throughout the album. You could flip a coin and there is no wrong answer, but my final choice would be 100% Ginuwine, just barely. Barely. If I listened to these albums again a month down the line, Unleash The Dragon might be my choice. It's just that tough to pick between two monumental R&B albums.



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