Photo: Courtesy of eOne Music
R&B Royalty 112 Talk Diddy, Biggie, Whitney & Brand-New Album
As a fixture in R&B music for over two decades, 112 — comprising Quinnes "Q" Parker, Daron Jones, Marvin "Slim" Scandrick, and Michael "Mike" Keith — have made a career of tuning into the frequencies of rhythmic love songs while generating smash hits that resonate on a universal level.
When the GRAMMY-winning vocal group headed back into the studio to record their sixth album — their first in more than a decade — they brought an impressive legacy with them. From winning over Sean "Diddy" Combs in a parking lot audition and joining the original Bad Boy Records family to earning the endorsement of the late Notorious B.I.G. and devoted fans worldwide, 112 have proven themselves to be pivotal players in the evolution of R&B. Their latest album, Q Mike Slim Daron, proves the group is still uncovering new wisdom to share on the topic of love, while sending a straightforward musical message of who they are today.
Just hours before their Hollywood, Calif., listening party for their new LP, 112 swung by Recording Academy headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., to dish on the album's details and tell the real story behind the Bad Boy family, working with Biggie and touring with Whitney Houston.
112 have continued to tour, but why was it important to get back in the studio after over a decade to record a new album?
Jones: Well, just being on the road and being around each other singing [and] being inspired by each other was one of the reasons. But another reason was just running into the fans, and taking pictures, and just kicking it. They would always say, "When's the next album coming?" And just hearing that so many times, you understand that there is a demand for the music, and we were honored [by] that. So we just went ahead and started making some.
"John Lennon said it best: 'You give me a tuba, I'll make some music out of that." And that's pretty much the mantra and the mindset 112 has. You give us two spoons, we'll make some music out of that thing." — Michael Keith
The title of the album, Q Mike Slim Daron, says a lot. How did you arrive at that title?
Scandrick: Well, it was very self-explanatory. On this particular album, we wanted everybody to understand exactly who Q, Mike, Slim, [and] Daron [are]. And you know, on the [other] albums you had one particular person, or maybe two people, who were dominating records. This album right here is probably [our] most well-versed album where you're definitely hearing all four members, and we think that's one of our stronger attributes. You've got four lead singers who can definitely hold their own, and that's pretty much what we [are] doing.
During a recent Breakfast Club interview you claimed you intentionally made this album "as R&B as possible." Tell us about the production process and how the sound of the album came together.
Keith: The production process was really easy for us, because the majority of the producers were fans of 112 growing up. So they already had their interpretation of what they felt like the new album should be. And with them being in the forefront of today's music … it was just a real easy transition. They had the new style, the new sound and 112 had the old-school traditional sound that we're accustomed to doing, and we just meshed it.
Like Q always says, "We're musicians." John Lennon said it best: "You give me a tuba, I'll make some music out of that." That's pretty much the mantra and the mindset 112 has. You give us two spoons, we'll make some music out of that thing. That's the gift that we [have]. To this day, I'm still dumbfounded on how easy it was to get with the producers. And it really was a testament to how these guys looked at 112's situation, listened to our sound, and really were fans and disciples of 112's music. It was just an easy transition.
The new single, "Dangerous Games," explores the complex challenges of relationships, jealousy and adultery in a refreshing, even philosophical way. Where do you guys feel the song stands next to the many hits you've had in the past?
Parker: It's a great addition to the catalog. You think about 21 years of just making great and quality music, and it definitely fits where 112 has been and where we're going. The song is just our take on love. The thing about 112 is we always want to sing about life, love and relationships — the good side, the bad side, the realness of it.
Your music has always tapped into love, human connection and romance. Is technology — texting and social media — making it harder or easier to be romantic now?
Jones: That's a good question. I'll just say it's different. I won't say that it would be easier or harder. But I'll just say it's different and sometimes, over the texts, things can be misunderstood. But at the same time, I think a text message is a great tool, so I respect the advantage of what it is. But I also respect the human connection and being able to just talk to somebody in person. So I think as long as you find that balance you'll be alright. Because technology is good, we love it. But you gotta find that balance between texting and actually talking, because things can get confusing very quickly.
"This album right here is probably [our] most well-versed album, where you're definitely hearing all four members, and we think that's one of our stronger attributes." — Marvin "Slim" Scandrick
After all these years and all the success, what do you think has been the biggest misconception of the Bad Boy family and of Diddy?
Parker: I think one of the biggest misconceptions would probably be the fact that we really are a family. A lot of times people think just because your label makes it, it's just all business. But the Bad Boy artists are really, really family. We can think of instances where we stayed at Faith [Evans'] house. She's come over to cook dinner for us. We've gone out with B.I.G. [Biggie] — he used to give us money to make sure we had food to eat. When Puff [Daddy] would come in and try to rag on us, he'd step in for us.
So on the outside looking in, people could think that we're just label-based, but it really is the Bad Boy family. And it was so evident when we just did that Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour [in 2016]. It was a great thing for the music industry, but also for us as family — just being able to hang out with each other again and sharing the stage together.
Biggie always showed you guys a ton of respect. How does it feel to be part of his larger-than-life hip-hop legacy? What do you miss most about him?
Jones: Man, it's incredible. It's an honor. You know, B.I.G. would always just honor us in his music, to the point where other musicians would say, "Man. You know Biggie [is] always talking about you." He had so many different ways of just shouting us out throughout his music. And he was really like a big brother to us. He was one of the first to rap on one of our songs and usher us into that hip-hop wave that was going on at the time. He was like family to us, and it's definitely a huge honor just to be a part of that legacy. Personally, I got a chance to produce for B.I.G. on his album Life After Death, the song ["F*** You Tonight"] with him and R. Kelly, and that was an honor as well.
112 toured with Whitney Houston in 1999. Are there any memories from the tour you'd like to share?
Keith: I got the story for you. … It was supposed to be a show in [Philadelphia], right? The show got canceled. 112 was the reason why. She planned, with her dancers, to ambush 112 in a park with water balloons and Super Soakers and all this other stuff. We had a day off before the show in Philly. And she was like, "Hey, guys. Can y'all meet us at the park? We're gonna eat, we're gonna have fun. We're gonna have fellowship. We're gonna sing." They were plotting our demise.
So it got back to us that "Whitney and the dancers are going to get you guys. They're gonna hit y'all with water balloons, Super Soakers, the whole nine, right?" So we was like, "OK, cool." We go to Toys "R" Us, we grab every last Super Soaker, the little 50-cent water guns and everything — just for ammunition. We came ready for war. So we found them, they came with the water balloons and stuff like, "Ah, we're gonna get y'all," and just started wetting everybody. Whitney, she got hit by a balloon and she got sick, so she couldn't sing the next day. That was the reason why she couldn't perform, and we blame nobody but ourselves. We was attacked, man. We had to protect ourselves! (laughs)
What can fans expect in terms a tour supporting of the new album?
Scandrick: Oh, man, [it will be] very explosive. Right now, if you listen to Q Mike Slim Daron, we have a couple of people on there and one of the big collaborations that we have is between us and Jagged Edge. That was a fan favorite. People wanted to see this. Matter of fact, we wanted to do it. We've been wanting to do it and this time this is our platform. So we put this together and said, "Imagine if Boyz II Men and Jodeci would have done something? Or Four Tops and Temptations?" Well, you know, why not 112? So we wanted to do something very different: the 112, Jagged Edge tour. We're [going to] put a little twist to it. Not [going to] give y'all any clues, but it's [going to] be something you've probably never seen. It's about to very amazing, so buckle your seat belts, dress up, put on your hard bottles, and get ready.