Once upon a time, R&B ruled the world. From the likes of Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass, to Luther Vandross and Freddie Jackson, all the way up to R. Kelly, R&B was what you primarily heard on your radio, whether in the car or at work. Then came the ascension of a genre called Hip Hop, and over time R. Kelly and Donell Jones were replaced by Jay Z, Nas, and now Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, and even Lil Pump.
Even the prominent crooner of today have released rap records, whether it be Trey Songz or Chris Brown. Well duo Ruff Endz, who burst on the scene with their hit single No More back in 2000, look to represent R&B’s last Golden Era in 2018 with their new album Soul Brothers, out now. Via the phone, the David and Dante spoke with Nelson Garcia Jr. about their new album, reuniting, the state of R&B music in 2018, and more.
You guys just released your new album Soul Brothers, which is your first album in about eight years or so. What made now the right time to reintroduce yourselves to the music world?
David: I think it’s just the right time in our life, and where we are as men, situation-wise? People have passed in my family, and other things have happened that have led to some friendships being restored, like me and my brother, because Ruff Endz was a friendship as well.
So when it became time for us to really restore all the things we were as friends, we came together to do something positive for our city of Baltimore. You know with everything that happened in the city with Freddie Gray and the aftermath, we really wanted to do something and give back. So we did a song called “Time for Change”. When the song was released, that was the beginning of the restoration of our friendship. Just music we always loved. Doing it together again, doing it correctly.
What was that like to reconnect after so many years?
Dante: Well, it was a great thing and a big healing process for me. It was like finally finding your other shoe. Dave is my left foot so it’s like the feeling of I’m getting back to something. To a feeling that basically brought you to love music how you love it today. Like in a group, the harmonies, writing songs, creating stuff, having someone to vibe off who understands in a certain way that’s unspoken.
So to have that back, that oneness. The more I listen to the new project now, I think about it more and it makes me think, well we are friends. We just did a new album and that’s a beautiful feel.
So you guys have been walking around with one bare foot for all this time until you reconnected?
David: More or less and there’s my other shoe man.
Getting back to the album. What can the listener expect to hear when they pop in Soul Brothers?
David: We wrote this project without the radio in mind. Back when we first got into the industry, every A&R was like, “we need what’s hot on the radio.” So at the time, Donell Jones had U Know What’s Up and Next had Butta Love so our single “No More” was kind of in that same vein and DJ’s would play certain songs together that sounded similar. But this album is totally different and we were able to really focus on and do something that really expresses our artistry with no influence, which makes this album really stand out.
You guys re-enter the music landscape, which is now a lot different than what it was when you guys kind of stepped away from it. Seems like artists are more focused on singles as opposed to actual albums. Even albums released now sound more like compilations as opposed to cohesive projects. How is this album a departure from what’s going on right now, where it’s so single driven?
Dante: I can definitely say if you want to call us OG’s or whatever it is (laughs), but we come from a time when we were in love with the concept of the project. When we got our record deal, it was always the project. When we were looking for a single on the project it was still about the project the album in its entirety and what fits the album. Now it’s more about getting some time and doing a bunch of songs and when they get to a certain number of songs that’s the album. Some songs don’t really fit the landscape of what we’re trying to create so it might not make this project, but we might use it for something else, or with another artist or whatever the case may be.
Not to say there’s anything wrong with that process because those people also put a lot of effort in their projects as well yeah, but we wanted to make an album that you can listen all the way through.
Alright, you know this album has kind of a throwback feel to the late 90s. Was that your intention when creating it?
David: Well it’s crazy to say that because we’ve heard so many people that we know or seen the conversations online talking about, “what’s going on with R&B?” Missing the good old days of the 90’s, and we just made it because we came out in 2000. We got so much feedback like that from the public, so we thought why don’t we make something that was really from that era with a little something fresh on it and a little twist of something that’s new for us.
So on the album, I’m playing the guitar on a song called Why You Came which is an authentic Ruff Endz record. Working with authentic Baltimore acts like the Mo’horns and Rufus Roundtree and countless other horn players who are well known in the city as well.
Dante: They call them Baltimore Brass. This album is rated “P” for positive. We want this album to be played in front of your mother, your daughter, everybody. You know the old adage, “with great power comes great responsibility,” so it’s like we’re at that point of our lives now that we have kids, that we have to be held responsible for the music.
You guys brought up the essence of R&B and to me, one of the most important parts of the genre since the beginning has been romance. When it came to Teddy Pendergrass or Marvin Gaye, there was a certain way they spoke to a woman that you just don’t hear anymore. What happened to the romance in R&B?
Dante: I don’t know if I really want to tell you but there’s been a big merger between Hip Hop and R&B. So there are a few artists in R&B who you know their image is not so loving or uplifting towards women. There weren’t too many songs back in the past like that. You may have had Oran Juice Jones with Walking In The Rain, but even a song like that wasn’t too disrespectful. As opposed to now, back then it was about how much you love the woman or for all the additives you would put on it. All of the names for a woman like “good sound like a tree honey”, “baby sugar” and that was it you know.
What’s it like being on the road especially outside of the United States?
Dante: It’s great. you really get a chance to connect with the people and back in touch with how the world is functioning. You can stay in one place and get a certain point of view of the world. But when you move around and you see how people are living, how their cities and their states are actually moving and breathing in real time, it puts things into perspective. So for us just to perform for people and reconnect in that way definitely does something for your creativity, humility, and self-esteem.
You both have years of music under your belts. One could say you two have checked off a lot of the boxes in terms of accomplishments that you set out for when you guys first started. But with that being said, everyone has that wish list. Whether it be artist or producer, everyone has someone that they wanted to work with, but never got the chance for whatever reason. What’s your wish list?
David: I would love to work with Timbaland. He came out of that Devante Swing camp and he was one of my favorite producers. But as far as Timbaland, I love his mind when it comes to production and how he just thinks very differently on things. So definitely him.
Dante: Well for me, there are so many artists that I can keep going. But artists like Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson. Too many to choose so I’ll leave it like that.
What can we expect from Ruff Endz in the future?
David: You’ll see us live with a band, and that’s something we’re really going to bring to new markets. We’re hitting the east coast with a lot of promises and surprises. So follow us on Instagram @officialruffendz and on Facebook. We’re going to be giving a lot of backstage VIP access that you will get accessed by social media.
But to get more access, go to our website www.officialruffendz.com and enter your email address and get connected that way. You’ll have access to free music from us and all kinds of other goodies. We also have a song on the album “Virtuous Woman” that we’re really pushing, with the campaign #virtouswoman.