HomeInterviewsR&B duo Ruff Endz talk new album, past hits

R&B duo Ruff Endz talk new album, past hits

When I wrote the year 2000 installment of 360ºSound’s Greatest One-Hit Wonders series, I made sure to include “No More” by Baltimore-based R&B duo Ruff Endz. “No More” was among the most memorable R&B songs of the era with its bouncy beat and singalong chorus: “No more shopping spreeees/No more late night creeeeps.” Just a bit of foreshadowing for my interview with David Chance and Dante Jordan of Ruff Endz.

Although Ruff Endz fit our technical definition of a one-hit wonder (one entry in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100), to call them a one-hitter is selling them short. Their debut album, Love Crimes, was a massive success, landing at #19 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The 2002 follow-up LP, Someone to Love You, fared even better, peaking at #8. And that album’s title track was a huge R&B hit. Today, Ruff Endz are on tour promoting their fifth album, 2021’s Rebirth. In this exclusive interview, Chance and Jordan discuss the album’s singles, songwriting, screaming fans, and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

360ºSound: Ruff Endz reunited in 2017 after the social unrest in Baltimore. Talk about what it was that brought you back together.

Dante Jordan: Our city was on fire. We have more of a voice through our craft. People know us as Ruff Endz, as a group, and it was a way to express ourselves and to let a lot of other people get their anguish out at the same time. We created a song called “Time 4 Change,” which basically sparked us rekindling our brotherhood and our bond that comes through making music for the world. Since then, we signed to the label SRG-ILS Group. Our first release off SRG was our current project, Rebirth. It’s definitely a must-hear.

There aren’t many R&B artists who had hits two decades ago and are still making records. What has been the secret to the group’s longevity?

David Chance: I think being one of the last groups from the era where artists were developed. They really put time and effort into artists. We were one of the last artists on [Sony’s] Epic [Records] to get that kind of treatment. They took time with us to work on our show and even got us voice lessons. Yes, we had raw talent, but we recorded for a year with some of the best writers in the game.

The guy that signed us, [senior vice president of urban music at Epic] Dave McPherson, loved us as writers as well. He believed in us, but he knew that we needed some growing to do. He teamed us up with other people so that we could learn. It was so much we’ve learned on the journey from then to now.

What are some of the challenges of being an artist today?

Jordan: Definitely advantages and challenges. There’s definitely more ease of access to music. I think that started when Napster came in. When Napster came in we were like, ‘We’ve gotta find another way to do it, because they’re gonna get the music online anyway.’ At the same time, your direct connection to a lot of consumers is profound. We have people that’s giving us the will to want to go on and do music.

A lot of times it’s not as easy as a lot of the fans think. All of us are regular people, we’re fathers, brothers, and husbands. To link with the fans gives us drive. It gives us more of a purpose when we’re in the middle of the grinding part, the blood, sweat, and tears. When fans say, ‘I’m so glad y’all are back, we’re waiting for the next album,’ that really keeps us going.

You wrote and produced all the tracks on Rebirth. That’s notable because a lot of new R&B and hip-hop releases have literally dozens of songwriters and producers. What were the advantages of having full creative control?

Chance: This is the first album that we’ve had total creative control. To have total control is amazing. It was a new experience. It was a like a release. It’s like you have to go the bathroom real bad and you finally go. This album was like that.

As artists, sometimes you have things you want to say, but you want to say it the way you want to say it. This is the first chance we get to say things the way we want to. “No More” was a great song, but it wasn’t our words. We didn’t write it. Being able to give music to our fans that’s something that we created and wrote, and then have them embrace it, love it, be impacted by it, cry, and want us to sing it at their wedding – it’s just amazing.

Your new single “Congratulations” is a breakup song, but it’s unique in that it’s not bitter or sad. You’re wishing your ex well.

Jordan: We didn’t want to put another bitter breakup song out. We’re not young men. We’re not adolescents anymore. There has to be a mature way to do this other than calling the person a no-good. A lot of good people are not in a situation that’s working out for them. They might have grown apart. They might have lost love or whatever the case is.

It doesn’t mean either one of them did something wrong. It’s about accepting, letting go, and moving on without bitterness in your heart. You know in your heart that guy or that girl didn’t work out. Why do you want to keep making them feel like they’re a terrible person because y’all didn’t work out?

A lot of people have been going through it trying to make it work, but you can’t force squares into circles most of the time. It’s about looking at things in a mature way and giving a soundtrack to people that understand you can do things the right way.

“Party Over Here,” the album opener, is a fun song. What was the vibe you wanted with that one?

Chance: “Party Over Here” is one of those songs that we always wanted to do. We grew up in Baltimore, and we were known for dancing even when we were singing. People knew us in certain clubs.

We were like 18 years old, but we were in the 25-and-older clubs, and they used to play line dance music – music where the beat is kind of fast and the whole dancefloor is people doing the dance. I remember being on the dancefloor and having so much fun. That’s the inspiration for “Party Over Here.”

I had a chance to interview Baltimore club artist TT the Artist. What do you think of Baltimore club music?

Jordan: I love Baltimore club dancing. It’s a feel-good vibe that I feel like just keeps you young. The whole vibe is about partying and enjoying yourself and dancing your worries and troubles away. Baltimore club music is definitely something that’s dear to our hearts. Shout out to TT the Artist, I know her.

“No More” was such a huge international hit. What are your memories from the days when that song was blowing up?

Chance: People screaming [laughs]. We’re an ‘urban’ group so a lot of the shows we do is mostly for Black people. The first pop show we did was with Christian Aguilera, R. Kelly, and it was like NSYNC or somebody. It was like 98 Rock or one of those stations that was doing it. It’s just a totally different audience. I’ve never seen fans like that ever in my life. When they screamed, I couldn’t hear myself. That’s how loud they screamed. It was wild.

There’s been talk that R&B is dying. We’re seeing less singing groups, and more singers are making use of autotune and incorporating trap music. What do you think of the current state of R&B?

Jordan: I heard a saying once that the world is a stage. If the world is a stage, then that’s a pretty big stage. I feel like there’s room for everyone. I think it’s a healthy rivalry. Just like everything else, music was bound to evolve into something. We came into the game when we had A&Rs who made you focus on how you talk – stuff to say and stuff not to say, and how to protect your image.

How much time do you put into writing and recording? How much sense does it make? Is it caring? Is it intentional? All of these things. I love all of that because I love music. But at the same time, that makes us stick to our guns even more because we know that sets us apart from all the artists.

What can fans expect from Ruff Endz in the coming years?

Chance: We’ve got a whole catalog of music coming so buckle up because it’s going to be an R&B bumpy ride, and Ruff Endz is the captain of this ride. We got a deal with SRG, and Rebirth is album number one of five. We’ve got remixes of “No More” and “Someone to Love You.” We’ve got the Ruff Endz documentary and movie coming. We are very active you’ll see a lot of stuff from us in the very near future. Stay tuned.

Jordan: Shout out to all the promoters and DJs who supported us from the beginning of our career ‘til now. We’re just really getting back in touch with a lot of them. Thank you for your continued help and support, and letting you know that we have a couple spots open, we’re available. We’re trying to move around and get back in touch with as many of our fans and people as possible. Hit us up.

Watch out for what’s next for Ruff Endz on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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