Effortless Talent: Dru Holds It Down For Canadian R&B [Interview]
Vancouver, B.C. – Canadian R&B gentleman Dru is on top of his game. From his label Effortless Records to his international stardom, this dude is definitely on the come-up in a big way. While Canadian R&B artists have lacked recognition in the past, Toronto native Dru seems to be holding it down in the North for his genre. KassKills sat down with the charming singer to talk about his record label, breaking out of his comfort zone and of course, what he likes in his ladies. Check it out after the jump.
HipHopCanada: So I read a tweet from you that said, “Just touched down in Vancity. I love the West Coast.” Obviously you have been here before, so what do you like about us?
Dru: I love the mountains. It’s the opposite of Toronto, the whole Vancity vibe. It’s a real laid back, outdoorsy vibe. I like that vibe, it chills me out.
HipHopCanada: You’re previously from the group In Essence so I’d like to know how you have individualized yourself from the group. What steps have you taken to be recognized as an independent solo artist?
Dru: You know, In Essence broke up in ’07 then I started my solo career the same year and since then it’s been a constant thing. I’m very proud of what In Essence did as an R&B group in this country and to have the success that we had. People don’t really think about how many R&B groups in Canada that have even been recognized. If you really think about it, it’s hard to think of one R&B group that has actually done it and that’s something I have to remind people of it. At the same time, I am trying to build my own brand as a solo artist. A lot of the In Essence stuff I wrote and arranged and did a lot of the behind the scenes work.
HipHopCanada: Essentially you were the heart of the group.
Dru: You could say that. I won’t say that but I’ll let you say that. But it feels good to be able to put that into just my own vision. I’ll never shy away from In Essence and what we’ve done. If something happened in the future and we re-unite, I would love that. We aren’t as close as we used to be but they are very happy with my success and they’re very supportive.
HipHopCanada: On your latest album On The Brink you’ve changed up your sound quite a bit. How has your fan based changed since you have added an element of pop to your music? And have you gained more popularity because of that?
Dru: Like they say, artists have to take chances sometimes to expand their fan base. My core is R&B and soul, that’s what I still listen to. I don’t even really listen to the music of today unless its hip-hop and rap. So, that was kind of a struggle to make that decision and trying to make that transition. I did the song with James Doman call “Runnin’” and that song actually wasn’t written for myself. I wrote it thinking it was going to be for someone else. When I demoed the vocals, James was like, “Dru, sorry but I’m not taking you off this.” It a real dance kinda vibe and I was like, “Dude, that’s not really me.” I was thinking maybe we could use an alias, a different name cause that’s not really me. He said, “Do what you want but I’m not taking you off of this.” This was before the whole pop/R&B/dance thing was merging; this was back in ’08.
HipHopCanada: You were a bit ahead of your time back then.
Dru: Yeah, it was taking a chance. When it went to No. 1 in the UK and killed radio in Canada, I was like, shit maybe I should think about exploring that a little more. That’s kind of what inspired the change. I became more open to dabbling a little deeper with that.
HipHopCanada: As far as your label, Effortless Records, who do you have you eye on in the Canadian scene?
Dru: There is an artist I’m working with now call Corey Niles who is a rapper, singer and songwriter. Talented, talented kid. He’s tentatively signing with Effortless. I love artists like Andreena Mill; I’m not even sure if she’s signed yet but I would want to jump on Andreena Mill. I’ve been watching her for years. Kim Davis I think is really dope, from Toronto. There are a lot of Canadian artists on the come-up especially with the whole push of Bieber and Drake. I think Canadian artists in the urban industry are feeling confident now, like they can actually do it.
HipHopCanada: Also, Raekwon and the IceH20 movement.
Dru: Yes! I met with Raekwon real quick actually. We’re gonna do some business. Definitely wanna do something with Era too. He’s dope.
HipHopCanada: I read that you also would like to work with Frank Ocean. Do you think that might happen in the future?
Dru: You know what’s funny, I do songwriting camps, I’m signed to Ole and they do songwriting camps in LA, Toronto, Barbados, Trinidad and all over the islands. My very first songwriting camp in ’08 I was in LA …so I was a little intimidated, you know what I mean, and this dude walked in Lonny Breaux and he was just sorta shadowing one of the sessions. He wasn’t actually in the session so I didn’t pay him any mind at all. Years later I hear about this guy Frank Ocean, and I was like, this guy is so sick! Nostalgia Ultra?! Oh my God! I had that on repeat for months, its just stupid! Then my management hit me up and said, “You know that guy Frank Ocean you love so much? Lonny Breaux…he was in your sessions.” Dude, I brushed off one of my new favorite artist. Damn. You never know.
HipHopCanada: Wrapping things up, you’re quite a handsome guy so I gotta know: What’s your lady style?
Dru: I look for an ambitious, down to earth girl who can kinda laugh at herself. I don’t like to take things too seriously. Athletic, takes care of herself, believes in God.
HipHopCanada: Thick or thin?
Dru: I’m into a little more thicker. Not really into skinny girls. I like girls with a little bit of shape. Curves are always good.
HipHopCanada: What’s next?
Dru: We just signed on for On The Brink to be released in Japan; it’s doing really well. First single “Gettin’ It In” is poppin’ off nice so I should be going out there towards the end of summer. Before then, I’m just touring Canada like crazy. “She Can Ride” is now my most successful single to date. Looks like its gonna go to gold in Canada, so I’m giddy about that. We are also looking to release “She Can Ride” into the US as a first single. A lot going on and I’m just trying to get my head around being an independent label. Its good and I think its gonna open a lot of doors in Canada.
HipHopCanada: Well, we got your back and good luck! Thanks for hangin’.
Interview and photography by KassKills for HipHopCanada