Born Mark Andrews c. 1976 in Baltimore, MD; son of Alonzo (an electrician) and Carolyn Andrews (a Social Security claims clerk); children: Shaione. Addresses: Record company--Def Soul, 825 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.defsoul.com. Website--Sisqó Official Website: http://www.sisqo.com.
As the dynamic frontman to the multiplatinum-selling R&B group Dru Hill and as a solo artist, Sisqó has sold more than seven million albums. Dru Hill's first two albums, Dru Hill and Enter the Dru, produced the hit singles "Tell Me," "In My Bed," "How Deep Is Your Love," "These Are The Times," "Five Steps," and "We're Not Making Love." But Sisqó is best known for the summer 2000 party jam "Thong Song," a naughty ode to the scant women's undergarment. With "Thong Song," from his multiplatinum solo debut Unleash the Dragon, Sisqó's career took off in many different directions. He appeared in television commercials for Pepsi and McDonald's and on the big screen in the comedy film Get Over It. He signed a book deal and began work on a television sitcom pilot. He planned to launch a clothing collection called Dragon and reportedly signed a five-film deal with Miramax. The decision to broaden his horizons may have been sound for the outlandishly dressed, platinum-coiffed singer.
Sisqó was born Mark Andrews to Alonzo, an electrician, and Carolyn Andrews, a Social Security claims clerk. The only son and youngest of three, Sisqó grew up in a middle class Baltimore, Maryland, neighborhood with his parents, but spent summers at his grandmother's house in a tough, drug-ridden Baltimore ghetto where "thugs were respected," he told TV Guide. During summers with his grandmother, Sisqó learned the ways of the street and was jailed three times. Sitting in a jail cell at age 16, Sisqó said to himself, "I'm not a thug. I'm just tryin' to be a thug," he said in an interview with TV Guide. After being in jail, Sisqó decided to change his image and his life.
To make himself look less threatening, Sisqó bleached his hair blond. Though he has admitted to having experimented with drugs while growing up, he went the straight route. "The key is making everybody feel like they can invite you into their house," Sisqó said in an interview with Rolling Stone. "I don't think you gonna ever catch me in no trouble." Sisqó also became a father at age 17 and remained an involved parent, although he and his daughter's mother never married. "I provided for my child since day one," he told People. The child made a cameo appearance in the "Thong Song" video.
Started with Dru Hill
Nicknamed as a child for his wavy hair, which caused others to feel that he "looked Puerto Rican," according to Jet, Sisqó got his act together. He formed the R&B group Dru Hill in 1995 with high school friends James "Woody" Green, Larry "Jazz" Anthony Jr., and Tamir "Nokio" Ruffin. The group was named for their Baltimore neighborhood, Druid Hill Park. Alonzo Andrews was less than supportive of his son's musical aspirations, though he later became his son's biggest fan. He encouraged the teen to get a "real job," which Sisqó did, working brief stints at a pizza parlor, a movie theater, and a candy store called the Fudgery, where employees perform for customers. Sisqó gladly gave up his pursuit of a "real job" when his mother told him to follow his heart. Dru Hill performed at school fashion shows and improved enough to attract the attention of a manager at a talent show when Sisqó was still a high school junior. Things moved quickly. Dru Hill signed with Island Records and released its first record, Dru Hill, in 1996. The group went from teen talent shows to multiplatinum selling records in no time. Between Dru Hill and the group's second release, Enter the Dru, the group scored six hit singles. Though Dru Hill sold millions of records, the group consistently went home empty handed from awards ceremonies, which frustrated Sisqó.
In 1999, Dru Hill collaborated on the title song of the Wild Wild West soundtrack with rapper and actor Will Smith, who would become a huge influence on Sisqó. During shooting of the "Wild Wild West" video, Woody left Dru Hill to sing gospel music. Angry at first, Sisqó quickly realized that after four years together, each of the members needed to follow his own path in music. As a result, the members of Dru Hill decided to split, each to record his own solo record, though the foursome had plans to reconvene later to record another Dru Hill album.
Decided Direction of Solo Work
Sisqó, with Smith's advice, made a decision about the direction of his solo work. The two agreed that anything Sisqó released would have to be classy. "No hardcore anything," they agreed, Sisqó told TV Guide. That agreement was okay, Sisqó said, until Smith heard "Thong Song," the first single from Sisqó's 1999 debut album, Unleash the Dragon, released on Sisqó's own Def Jam/Def Soul imprint, Dragon Records. The single, about barely there bikini bottoms and lingerie, and the video, which features women in thongs, hardly bore the touch of class the two had agreed Sisqó should have. What the risqué hit did have, though, was a sense of humor which both Smith and millions of male and female fans of all ages caught. "Thong Song" became a party anthem during the spring and summer of 2000 and Unleash the Dragon went on to sell more than five million copies.
Fans also caught on to Sisqó's dynamic personality, which he claimed to have gotten from his mother. Sisqó also said that his personality made up for other characteristics he may have been lacking. "My personality is so bright, it'll make up for anything I don't have, like height," the five-foot-five-inch singer said in an interview with Jet. Critics likened Sisqó to Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, the artist's childhood idol. Entertainment Weekly called Unleash the Dragon "over-sung," "over-produced," and too dependent on "bump-and-grind" tempos, but Los Angeles Times critic Connie Johnson wrote that Sisqó's "youthful fervor" and "imagination" made the album interesting.
For his debut effort, Sisqó took home the awards he missed out on with Dru Hill. He earned two Radio Music Awards, six Billboard Awards, a Source Award, an MTV Video Music Award, and a World Music Award, and was nominated for four Grammy Awards and two American Music Awards. Unleash the Dragon also produced "Incomplete," a ballad that reached number one on both the pop and R&B sales charts. It is unknown whether Sisqó sought advice from Smith about his style; the "Thong Song" singer became known for his tattoos, body piercings, shiny silver, cropped hairstyle, and colorful fashions covered in rhinestones, as well as his signature dragon emblem.
Moved from Music to Television
The unexpected popularity of "Thong Song" led to Sisqó's emergence as "one of pop music's hottest new voices," according to TV Guide. The "Thong Song" video became a top-requested video on Total Request Live, a viewer-voted video countdown on MTV. Sisqó's appeal to MTV fans was so overwhelming, the cable network gave the singer his own dance competition show, Sisqó's Shakedown, which was the highest-rated show on MTV during the summer and fall of 2000.
Despite Sisqó's success being linked to overt sexuality in his music, he hoped to move away from that connection on his second album, Return of Dragon. He realized that he was unlikely to outdo the success of "Thong Song," he told Teen People, and he did not want to try. Instead, he wanted to attract attention with "songs of substance and mass appeal." He did a lot to attract attention at first, he admitted, with the outlandish hair and clothes, but he wanted people to look at Return of Dragon and "focus solely on my talent." Some critics found that difficult. Rolling Stone critic Barry Walters wrote Return of Dragon offered "more of the crass sex and playa games" found on Unleash, and called it a "messy album ... melodically underdeveloped, vocally undercooked, and lyrically just plain lazy." People critic Ericka Souter was kinder: "Sisqó is still kicking, as he artfully fuses and R&B style with up-tempo rap rhythms," though she admitted the album's first single, "Off the Corner," could not "quite muster that 'Thong Song' magic." Los Angeles Times critic Marc Weingarten went a step further: "there's nothing even remotely as good as 'Thong Song' here," he wrote.
Return of Dragon was not all Sisqó was working on in 2001. Major record labels had signed his two protegee groups, Lovher and the Associates. His clothing line, Dragon, was set to launch soon after. "I want my name to go down in history as one of the talents," he told People. "I want to be a big hero."
by Brenna Sanchez
Formed Dru Hill with high school friends James "Woody" Green, Larry "Jazz" Anthony Jr., and Tamir "Nokio" Ruffin, 1995; signed with Island Records, released debut album, Dru Hill, 1996; released Enter the Dru, 1998; made solo debut with single "Thong Song" and album Unleash the Dragon, 2000; appeared on MTV show, Sisqó's Shakedown, and toured with 'N Sync, 2000; appeared in film Get Over It, 2001; released Return of Dragonon his own Dragon Records (a Def Soul imprint), 2001.
Two Radio Music Awards, six Billboard Awards, Source Award, World Music Award, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Unleash the Dragon , Def Jam, 1999.
- (Contributor) Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (soundtrack), Polygram, 2000.
- Return of Dragon , Dragon, 2001.
- With Dru Hill
- Dru Hill , Island, 1996.
- Enter the Dru , Island Black Music, 1998.
- (Contributor) Rush Hour (soundtrack), Def Jam, 1998.
- (Contributor) Wild Wild West (soundtrack), Interscope, 1999.
- Billboard, October 9, 1999, p. 34; November 27, 1999, p. 26.
- Entertainment Weekly, January 14, 2000, p. 78; March 2, 2001, p. 69.
- Jet, August 7, 2000, p. 60.
- Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2000, p. 1; June 17, 2001, p. 1.
- Newsweek, May 1, 2000, p. 64.
- People, April 27, 1998, p. 41; June 12, 2000, p. 147; December 25, 2000/January 1, 2001, p. 136; June 25, 2001, p. 44.
- Teen People, May 2001, p. 89.
- TV Guide, August 26-September 1, 2000, p. 40.
- Rolling Stone, March 30, 2000, p. 28; July 5, 2001, p. 145.
- USA Today, August 10, 2000; June 15, 2001, p. E11.
- All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (May 31, 2001).
- Additional information was provided by Island/Def Jam publicity materials, 2001.