SAYREVILLE, N.J. Baltimore R&B duo Ruff Endz, whose "No More" is at #1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, dazzled a crowd of 900 at Club Bene with a three-song set Saturday night.
The duo, Davinch (born David Chance) and Chi (born Dante Jordan), both 23, whose debut album, Love Crimes, was released last week, wore denim outfits and gray bandannas as they performed to a backing track after sets by regional and national R&B and hip-hop groups.
Davinch sang lead on the sultry bedroom romp "Phone Sex'' (RealAudio excerpt), while Chi removed his jacket and performed a robotic dance. The singer's fullback-like build appeared to delight many of the ladies in the house.
The pair then launched into the soulful "Where Does Love Go'' (RealAudio excerpt), which demonstrated their vocal prowess. Davinch's velvety pipes took the lead, but both artists sang with sustained emotion.
Finally, Chi performed a human-beat-box intro to "No More'' (RealAudio excerpt), as Davinch once again handled lead vocals.
They may call themselves "Ruff," but these singers also have a sensitive side. Ruff Endz take chances with their lyrical content, which often assumes a vulnerable, passionate stance.
The funky, poppy R&B jaunt "No More" portrays a man's feelings amid a breakup. Instead of reacting with hollow braggadocio, anticipating a new conquest, the song's protagonist lists the things he'll miss about his former girlfriend.
"They talk about everyday things,'' Daja Georgiana, 22, of Somerset, N.J., said. "Things like life, family and relationships. Plus they're nice looking, dress nice and I like the way they sing.''
Preceding Ruff Endz was Armareda, an 18-year-old rapper from Brooklyn, N.Y., one of a handful of trailblazing hip-hop performers from the Dominican Republic.
Armareda (born Evelin Hernandez) performed a three-song set that included her Epic Records single "Come Better (Than That).'' Wearing a red leather top and skirt, Armareda flirted with the guys and gave props to the ladies in the audience.
The performer uses bubbly, Latin-flavored beats, a lilting, playful delivery, and raw and ribald rhymes. She's hard, but not as hardcore as, say, Lil' Kim, and she delivers a self-affirming message.
Old-school hip-hop giants Force M.D.s presented a funky and forceful set; Brooklyn, N.Y., R&B male quartet Forever Chozen delivered beef, beats and ballads; and New York R&B female trio I'Deed sang and sassed their way through an enjoyable short set.
But the surprise of the night just might have been Lost and Found, the unsigned trio from New Brunswick, N.J., who opened the show. Senjh Luckey, Keia Luckey and Arthur "Meatball" Howard vocalized to a backing track of organic beats, hip-hop flows and gripping grooves. The group gave musical nods to classic '60s R&B, reggae and doo-wop, and delivered its set with a funky flair.