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Sisqo, who in addition to being part of Dru Hill, is also a solo artist.
Sisqo, who in addition to being part of Dru Hill, is also a solo artist. (Josh Sisk/special to the Baltimore Sun)

Unless you’ve been following his career for the last quarter-century, chances are you know only three things about Sisqó: that he sang with popular R&B quartet Dru Hill, that he had silver hair, and his biggest hit: the infectious, key-changing, undergarment-worshiping “Thong Song."

But there’s so much more to the prolific singer, whose real name is Mark Andrews, than meets the dragon’s eye. For instance, “Unleash the Dragon,” the multiplatinum debut solo album from which “Thong Song” came, turned 20 years old just a few weeks ago on Nov. 30—close to Sisqó’s age at the time of its release.

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A lot’s happened in the Baltimore-bred singer’s life since then, including the release of a new EP, “Genesis,” in tandem with the anniversary. Through it all, as an early December holiday show with Dru Hill at the Horseshoe Casino showcased, he still loves Baltimore to the core.

1) He doesn’t have much advice for your hair.

From Caesars in blonde, red and platinum to gold cornrows and so many other looks in the middle, Sisqó’s hair is as iconic as his music. As taxing as these treatments must be on the hair, the artist, unfortunately, has no tips for how to maintain such outlandish, other than: “Be careful.”

He does, however, praise Baltimore for being a constant hub for great hairstyles.

2) He actually cuts his own hair.

Yup, he maintains those left-field styles himself. Take note before you splurge at the salon.

3) He loves Baltimore, he just doesn’t live here anymore.

Although he comes back frequently for gigs, and still has some family in the area, Sisqó now calls Minnesota home. He said he left “reluctantly” so that his two younger children could be closer to family their age that already lived out there. “I have to put them first, it’s all about them,” he explained.

4) He grew up here.

“I had one foot in the hood, one foot in the middle class,” he said. “My mom lived up by Morgan [State University]…but I the other place I grew up was 1505 E. Lafayette St.”

5) He was working three jobs in Baltimore when Dru Hill got signed.

One of those jobs was at “Hector’s Sub Shop at the Harbor Park movie theatre” just so his now-adult daughter could get “the premium Pampers, and not the ones that just fall apart.”

6) He didn’t go solo to leave Dru Hill.

In fact, Dru Hill continues releasing and performing into the present. Sisqó instead said that his “squad-first” commitments (“I never wanted to be a solo artist”) hit a roadblock when bandmate James “Woody Rock” Green left the group around the time they filmed the wildly popular “Wild Wild West” movie title track’s music video. Woody’s absence “had a negative affect on the attendance” of their U.S. tour leg, and made prospects of another successful Dru Hill album more difficult. Sisqó said he secretly recorded “Unleash the Dragon,” sold it back to Def Jam and promoted it partly to ensure Dru Hill made money and got songwriting credits during an otherwise difficult time.

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“That’s why we’re celebrating [the album], because it wasn’t on the books or part of the plan,” he said. “Against all odds, believing in what I felt as though I could do and knowing that I wasn’t going to leave nobody behind as I pursued whatever my dream was…I took a chance on myself and got everybody paid.”

7) He likes his chicken boxes “with salt and pepper, no ketchup.”

He won’t reveal where he goes when he comes back home to feed the local food fix, though he did say, “I haven’t really struck out.”

8) He recognizes his influence, even if not by name.

So much contemporary popular R&B calls back to the late-‘90s, when acts as varied as Brandy, D’Angelo and–yes–Dru Hill crafted a new model for R&B out of the innovations of hip-hop and pop. Most artists don’t publicly credit Sisqó’s influence, but he recognizes that he has one, as some reach out about sampling his work. “That’s the gift that keeps on giving,” he said, laughing.

9) He’s met Donald Trump, and thought he shouldn’t have said what he said about Baltimore.

“When I won the hip hop award for “Thong Song” on MTV, we stayed at the Trump Hotel and I met him,” Sisqó recalled. “He seemed like a nice guy, but he wasn’t president at the time, and I’m rich.”

As for Trump’s infamous comments on Baltimore’s rats, Sisqó said: “Look man, we’re still working on some of the things that we have issues with in our city, I just thought it was messed up that he called it out like that.”

10) Before he got into music, he almost became an animator.

He said that Disney staffers, interested in his anime-influenced drawing, offered him a spot at a sort of animators’ trade school. “I didn’t go [to the school] because my friend couldn’t go,” he said. “That’s when ‘keeping it real’ goes wrong.”

11) He crossed over into country before Beyoncé or Lil Nas X.

In 2008, Sisqó appeared on the CMT competition show, “Gone Country.” Competing against the likes of Bobby Brown and Carnie Wilson, Sisqó said that the show was CMT’s most popular show at the time.

“They gave me a plaque for that joint, so that was cool.”

12) He doesn’t want to talk about R. Kelly anymore.

Sisqó was the target of and aimed diss records at both Nas and R. Kelly in the early ‘00s. He appeared to squash the beef with the latter singer in 2010, when he told Vibe magazine that he wanted to work with him. Asked if that situation changed after Kelly’s many charges of sexually abusing black women and girls over the past two-and-a-half decades (charges Kelly denies), Sisqó said he didn’t condone anything and wished to not “chime in on that.”

13) He wrote a children’s book.

Co-written with Tilesha Brown, who handles press inquiries for Dru Hill and Sisqó, 2018’s “SisQo’s Perfect Christmas” follows the singer’s daughter QoQo and family as they take a hijinks-filled cross country trip to see her father in time for the holiday. The authors released another version this year, with an additional chapter that ties into the “Unleash the Dragon” anniversary,” according to Brown. It might be too late for Christmas, but just like Dru Hill’s “Christmas in Baltimore” EP, it’s never too late for a crazy holiday story.

14) He doesn’t believe in luck.

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“For anybody that’s reading, especially younger kids, there’s no such thing as luck. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

15) He wants to make Baltimore better.

Sisqó believes in the talent that flourishes in Baltimore’s youth, and hopes to create more pathways for young people facing adversity in the city to better grow that talent.

“I do believe that children are the future, and we are doing the best that we can to figure out outlets for inner-city youth to express themselves, instead of having to survive.”

16) He cares about local musicians.

“Genesis” features several contributions from Baltimore area artists, both known and rising. For instance, the track “Baby Girl” features legendary Baltimore club DJ Rod Lee’s production and rapper Bossman’s bars.

17) He likes Jamaican food.

Sisqó gave a special shout-out to a Jamaican place on Liberty Rd. that, thanks to some context clues, we found out was Island Quizine in Windsor Mill. So there’s that.

18) He’s getting the biopic treatment soon, along with the rest of Dru Hill.

In addition to an episode of TV One’s “Unsung” that will come out in February, Dru Hill will be the subject of another biopic project on which Sisqó and the group are still in the early stages. He said that this to-be-titled project will clear the air about Woody’s departure and other key career moments.

19) He’s got an animated movie coming up.

While he wouldn’t reveal too many details about the biopic or other projects in the pipeline, Sisqó did say that he’s working on an animated movie through Save the Music, the non-profit foundation dedicated to saving and sustaining school music programs.

20) He made a very expensive music video for the “Unleash the Dragon” title track.

Described by Jet magazine as “the biggest mini-movie in the history of the Def Jam Music Group, the video clocked in at just over seven minutes, had a $2.5 million budget and depicted the singer going toe-to-toe with an animatronic dragon. It’s…well, let’s just say it’s worth your time to watch it.

Find more information about his 2020 tour dates, upcoming projects and his decades in the game at sisqo.com.

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