Sisqo's 'Return' Aims To Best 'Thong'

From platinum curls to corn rows, Sisqo is never one to stay the same for long. The Baltimore native aims to prove that he's more than merely a singer with a love of thong lingerie on his sophomore so

From platinum curls to corn rows, Sisqo is never one to stay the same for long. The Baltimore native aims to prove that he's more than merely a singer with a love of thong lingerie on his sophomore solo effort, "Return of Dragon" (due out June 19 from Dragon/Def Soul).

"With the last album, I was trying to hold on to the Dru Hill sound -- that's why the album was so ballad-heavy," he says. "With this album, I wanted people to understand who Sisqo is."

As a result, "Return of Dragon" is a more mature effort for the 25-year-old singer, who tackles subjects of sex, adulterous and otherwise, on the 12-track set. "I try to [continually] reinvent myself, so people can't pigeonhole me," says the artist.

While the tempo of "Return of Dragon" is a bit faster than its predecessor, it does have its softer moments with ballads like "Dream." "It's the solidification of my actual vocal talent," Sisqo says. "Often, with my uptempo songs, people get the misconception that I'm a rapper or something of that nature. But a song like 'Dream' shows my vocal skills."

On 1999's "Unleash the Dragon," Sisqo wrote the majority of the tracks. This time, though, the artist turned over some of the writing and production duties to outside sources, opting to write only about half the set. "When artists try to do a whole album by themselves, the songs start to sound similar," Sisqo says. "I want each song to be a different experience. I went as far as I felt I wanted to go [writing-wise] with this particular album, and then I went to look for outside producers."

A sign of the "new" Sisqo is the first single, "Can I Live," which features two recording acts signed to his Dragon imprint, LovHer and the Associates. The Teddy Riley-produced track hit radio June 5, while its accompanying clip, directed by Dave Myers, premiered May 21 on MTV's "Making the Video."

"We chose 'Can I Live' because it was totally different from anything else I had ever recorded," Sisqo says. "It was showing the fans, as well as the critics, that I'm not a one-dimensional character.

"It shows everyone listening where my roots are. My roots stem really deep in the urban community. 'Can I Live' shows that even though I'm climbing the proverbial pop ladder, I haven't lost my heart."

In addition to working on his own music, Sisqo is also getting behind the Def Soul-distributed Dragon imprint. He says, "People won't realize that I am the driving force behind my music until I prove that I can do it outside of myself -- even though I was quite instrumental in the beginning of Mya's career with her first two singles. Nobody knew I wrote them. I felt like, to come on my own, with my own groups, with my own vision of where music should go for the future."

Def Jam/Def Soul president Kevin Liles is aware of the anticipation and expectations surrounding Return of Dragon. "Many want to see if he could do it again," Liles says. "The key to solidifying his position in mainstream America is to produce great records.

"When you have a big record like 'Thong Song,' the sword cuts you both ways," Liles adds. "It may bring you success, but it also pigeonholes you. We intend on building his credibility as a culturally defining artist."

In conjunction with the album's release, Def Jam has recently launched Sisqo's Web site . The site features Sisqo's Word Search, a contest in which fans are challenged to find missing words on the album's packaging. Winners will win two tickets to see Sisqo perform live.

Although Sisqo hasn't signed on to do any tours as of yet, he will keep busy this summer with a performance at the inaugural BET Awards (airing June 19), as well as at a number of radio festivals across the country. Def Jam is contemplating a headlining tour that would kick off later this year.

"I'm not going to do a tour until I feel people get the album," Sisqo insists. "It's going to take them a minute to figure out where I'm coming from because it's so different. I want to give them time to digest the album before I tour."