Dru Hill member Nokio said he penned a song dedicated to Baltimore in 15 minutes. (Photos via Facebook)
Nokio has been all around the world in the two decades the 36-year-old has performed, written and recorded music as one-fourth of the R&B powerhouse group Dru Hill.
But while he’s seen it all, his hometown has stayed in his heart. That’s why he said he was devastated as he watched the Baltimore uprisings unfold following the death of Freddie Gray.
“I was out of town and to see parts of my old neighborhood on fire and to see the rioting and the protesting and everything that was going on, I couldn’t take it anymore,” he told the AFRO during a recent interview.
Nokio, born Tamir Ruffin, knew that he had to do his part to aid in his city’s recovery. So he and the group turned to their first instinct.
“At first we were like, we should do a concert, but then we decided to do a song,” he said. “From that conversation, I basically wrote a song in 15 minutes. The ball’s been rolling on that and it will be coming out soon.”
The singer explained that he’s also used this time to try to connect to the youth and speak at local schools.
“I want to be a voice to the kids who are here and I want to try to help them understand that you can get out of here,” he said. “That’s not me telling them to forget Baltimore, but I want to tell them that you can get out and learn something and bring it back.”
That method is something that Nokio and the other members of Dru Hill know all too well. The group’s humble beginnings started right on the streets of Charm City, where they performed at local talent shows as teens. They finally got their big break in 1995 when they were signed to Universal Music Group’s Island Records. Subsequently, the group went on to have a string of successful hits such as “In My Bed,” Never Make a Promise,” and “How Deep is Your Love.”
R&B powerhouse group Dru Hill
While he’s resided in different places over the span of his career, Nokio said that homesickness drew him back. And now, with all of the recent drama that has unfolded in his city, he believes that this is perfect time to bring about change—especially in African Americans’ relationship with law enforcement.
“The whole issue of police brutality isn’t something new,” he said. “Within the laws of the land and the lessons that we are taught of right and wrong, what happened shouldn’t have happened.
Your first thought of seeing a police officer should be ‘you are here to protect me,’ not ‘you are here to throw me away.’ As Black men, we will sit there and think about if we did something just at the sight of the cops pulling up.”
The singer explained that he believes having “neighborhood cops” who are familiar with their assigned area and its citizens could be a move in the right direction.
But ultimately, he said he believes it all goes back to the kids. He said he hopes to build new schools in Baltimore at which students will learn about finances and managing money just as much as they learn about other subjects.
“One of the biggest things that happens with us as artists and Black people in general is that we don’t ever learn about money as a concept,” he said. “If you learn it and adopt certain practices, once you achieve your goal, you’re not going to be running out the gate to buy everything that you ever wanted in life.”
Continuing the conversation about the negative issues that affect the Black community is also important, he said.
“If we don’t continue to have the conversation about the problem, it’s not going to be a balance,” he said. “Everybody needs to know that this issue is not going away this time.”