In life, love is a truly universally unifying force. Clichéd? Yes. Truthful? Most certainly yes. Say what you will, there is a power that comes from love. and no matter the genre, it is one of the most commonly used themes associated with music. Of every generation of music, past or present, R&B has always excelled at crafting some of the most memorable, touching love ballads around, and who could ever forget the work of 112.
An R&B quartet which came together when all 4 members were still in high school, 112 would go on to become one of the most successful acts of the latter part of the ’90s, selling over 25 million records. Blessed with distinctive singing voices, through the years they have grown as performers as well as songwriters, and returned in 2017 with their long overdue 6th album, Q, Mike, Slim, Daron.
More recently coming off the near sold out 90’s Block Party Tour, 112 have plans for more shows in the future. That in mind, 112’s talented Singer-Songwriter Slim, sat down to talk the years gone by with the group, the work behind their latest album, as well as his 2016 album Refueled, plans for a big upcoming project working with Poo Bear, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Come together over 2 decades ago, 112 attained a mass of success from the late ’90s into the early 2000s. Through top-selling records, touring, and more, how would you describe your journey as a performer?
Slim – I think it’s always evolving. Even though I have been doing this for 21 years, I am still a student of the game. I think I did all the hard work as far as recording and trying to prove over and over again the music has staying power. Now it’s about touring, performing, and making our fans happy, who have been faithful to this movement for 21 years. I would say, as a performer, I have grown at leaps and bounds. I am still a student of the game, it’s still fun to learn and keep learning.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and you are always learning something new, right? In 1996, the group dropped their self-titled debut album, and it was a huge success. What was it like to have early success, and how did it shape the group moving forward?
Slim – On the first album, we pretty much wanted the fans to see 112 evolve from boys to men, no pun intended. Truthfully, when we first started recording that album, we recorded it when we were still in high school. Before we had a deal, we met up with Tim and Bob, and working with them, they took our skill and sharpened it even more. They basically enhanced us in an incredible way.
To be able to work with Boyz II Men, we felt so humbled and blessed that they believed in us. We actually got a chance to sit down and write with them and put together records. At that time, I always say, the ’90s was about being very truthful and honest. We just put our life on our sleeve, that is what that album was about. We just wanted everybody to be able to relate to the records, and I am just glad everybody took it for how it was.
CrypticRock.com – You followed up with a list of great records in the years thereafter. Being one of the key groups a part of Bad Boy Records, 112 had always done some really great collaborations with other artists. What did you take away from all those collaborations?
Slim – Well, you know, each artist we learn from. Whether it was writing records with or touring with The Isley Brothers. Or even writing records and going on tour with New Edition. We touched so many genres of music. Really embracing Hip Hop and combining smooth R&B sounds, it was something we always said we wanted to do.
We wanted to say, “50 years after we have done what we did, when anyone talks about good music, our name would come up.” We just want our name set in stone as far as music is concerned. It was just a blessing learning from each artist, whether it was writing, producing, performing with them, or just getting great advice. Talking to people who we looked up to, pulling from them, it was just absolutely amazing.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and 112 has collaborated with a lot of great artists. The group released a new album, entitled Q, Mike, Slim, Daron, back in October of last year. Your first studio record in a little over a decade together, what was the writing and recording process like?
Slim – After being away for around 12 years, our last official studio record was 2005, the one thing we had to pay attention was – what does music sound like today? Obviously music has definitely changed and evolved in so many ways. What we wanted to do was use the same sounds. We love the beats and cadences of how everybody is writing records, however, 112 has always stood for a certain way of how we write music, how we present it, and how we communicate to our fans and fans who are just being introduced to us.
We wanted to let people know, we are not too much into the flashy stuff. It seems all materialistic stuff has an overtone of records. I think anyone can relate to love where there is a good, bad, and ugly. What we did was combine with what we stand for on top of the beats that are out right now. We definitely kept it R&B, we kept the album very classic. Anyone who reads this, and they haven’t picked up the new 112 album, hey, you are definitely missing out on it. We were blessed to have a top 10 record with “Dangerous Games.” We got with some cool writers and producers that we are friends with. The album came out to be very good.
CrypticRock.com – It really did, 112 hit the mark with the delicate balance of sounding modern and keeping the classic sound of the group. As you said, you had the success with “Dangerous Games,” but can we expect another single to be releases?
Slim – A lot people ask that, but I think it will probably be the only single off that album. It is one of those things, music has definitely changed. Unless all 4 members want to give it a push, we just feel like, when we came out, when you think about the older albums, we were really trying to establish ourselves – who is 112 and how do we fit in this puzzle of R&B?
Now that we have set our situation in stone, when we came out with this new album, we definitely wanted to present ourselves properly of who 112 is, but it is so different now. It’s 4 individuals and 4 individuals with our own situations, all of us have to come together. If I was a betting man, I don’t think there will be any other singles coming off of it. If y’all curious of how this album sounds, and I am telling you it sounds amazing, go pick up the album, it’s a classic!
CrypticRock.com – Agreed, it really is a must listen for 112 fans, new and old. Beyond 112, you have also done work on solo albums. In 2016, you released a really strong album, entitled Refueled. This album has a mix of styles throughout. What was it like putting that album together?
Slim – That is actually a crazy situation. In the middle of recording Refueled, I started having a strong love of different genres of music. My soul food and go to is Hip Hop and R&B, but as I started recording Refueled, I really started getting into Country music. I really started listening to Country music and how the words are written – I admire the writers and artists who put the records together. One thing I have a true love for is guitars. I played in the orchestra, so I love anything with strings. Listening to the guitar, man, I just started to have a true love for it.
As you listen to Refueled, it starts feeling very eclectic. When you start hearing records like “Ain’t Going Nowhere” and “Ready To Fall” you will hear all the acoustics and different forms of guitars. Big shout out to Guitar Boy, who I work with. I was telling him, “I am really starting to feel Country music,” and because he plays all different types of guitar, he started putting it inside the songs. I can’t front, as the album went, I really started getting into it. Who knows what might happen, I have some big stuff going on with collaborations. I don’t want to give it away, but I just have to say I love Country music.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool, and Refueled is a really good record. With these two albums released in the past 2 years, what is next for you and the group? Can we expect some more live performances in the USA?
Slim – Yes, 112 just came off the 90’s Block Party Tour. It lasted for 3 months, so pretty much on the weekends, since February, we had been going all around the United States. We combined our show with Jagged Edge, so it pretty much had a Broadway feel with all our hits combined. It wasn’t one of those, you hear 112, then you hear Jagged Edge, it was combined together. There was even one part where we sang each other’s songs, it was absolutely amazing. I think we had just as much fun as people who were listening to it.
It was combined with other amazing R&B artists such as Brandy, Monica, Next, Dru Hill, there were so many other people who joined along. We were listening to the fans, who they wanted to hear, and we put them on the tour. It was absolutely amazing, and probably 90% of the tour was sold out. It was a great situation, and be on the lookout for a possible tour where 112 and Jagged Edge are headlining our own tour. We are working on that for the near future. There is a lot of good stuff going on.
CrypticRock.com – That would be exciting to see happen! As you mentioned, the music industry has changed a lot. The way we receive our music – now everything is digital. The way we listen to music – many people cherry pick and do not listen to full albums anymore. One-Twelve came up in a time when people were still buying and listening to LPs. What do you take from all the changes?
Slim – Creatively speaking, I definitely respect the forms of music and how it comes out. I listen to all genres, and I can probably be disappointed with some genres of music, and actually impressed with other forms of music. What I have noticed is there has been a lot of combining. I think the ’90s kind of set that pattern where there were collaborations. Even back the late ’80s, when you saw Run DMC do “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith, that was like a breaker. When I was a kid, I saw that and was like, “Wow.” These were straight up rock stars. As you started going into the ’90s, you started seeing R&B artists do records with Pop artists. Then, all of sudden, seeing artists, who I thought were Country, going Pop.
It started going even past that, even us, we were blessed when we did a collaboration with P Diddy and Faith on “I’ll Be Missing You.” We performed on the MTV Music Awards for that, and we were doing a duet with Sting! You start seeing this whole evolving, fluid-type feeling of how music is changing, we have to adapt to it. Now, here we go, Nelly with Tim McGraw over and over again. As you start going on, it starts feeling more regular. I start seeing new artists of this generation making collaborations. I start seeing people like Florida Georgia Line doing a record with The Backstreet Boys. They did it also with two other cats and I was like, “Wow, it has nothing to do with Country music, and it’s popping over.” For the music culture, it’s amazing.
It’s now like alien when I start looking at the ways people are buying music and getting it. My situation, every Tuesday, I was dying and waiting to buy someone’s music. If there was a Jay-Z or Mary J. Blige, it was artists where you said, “Uh oh, Jodeci is coming out with a record.., Uh oh, Boyz II Men is coming out with record…” It was like, I am faithfully going to go to the record store, not to just buy the CD, but I want to get that CD and look on the back of the pages, read the credits – I want to know who are the writers, see the pictures! It’s totally different now, now it’s about streaming, and with that, music changes so fast, that it seems it doesn’t stick as well as it should.
There are some records here and there that sometimes I will make comparisons – if this record came out in the ’90s, do I think it would it be as big as it is? Or, if it came out in the ’90s, it probably would have been one of the biggest records of the decade. That situation is so weird. Now you are buying records and listening to them on phones. Where in our situation it was radio was for the radio, but it’s all good. It’s just a way for us artists to adapt. I consider myself a renaissance man anyway, that’s the reason I put out records. I was very blessed to have extreme success in the ’90s and 2000s. To put out records and still make an impact, 20 plus years later, and still be in the top 10 in charts, it’s an absolute blessing. That is how I pretty much look at it.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it is a testament to your body of work. You were mentioned about collaborations and gave the example of Run DMC and Aerosmith, and that really opened a door. Also, look at what Public Enemy did with Anthrax, after that it seems now, Rock and Rap have unified for a whole new genre that has stuck.
Slim – Yes, it’s so wild. You just talked about Public Enemy and Anthrax, it was so ingenious to me at the time when I was young. To grow up in our neighborhood, my mom is an Evangelist, so the only thing I could listen to was Gospel music. As I got older, and joined a group, I started listening to R&B. I started learning more about secular music.
To see extreme forms of music, for me being in my neighborhood, and you look at this band and say, “Wow, this band does not look anything like me,” but look how powerful the music is when you have two artists who decide to work together – you can make two people who don’t look alike, have different social classes, come together in one spot and appreciate it the same way. That really intrigued me and that is why I always say I am still a student of the game.
When I listen to people like Aerosmith and Run DMC, and then you see someone like Lil Uzi Vert, this man is like a real rock star. He will jump off a stage 20-25 feet, that is something KISS probably would have done in the ’70s. Then I see Ty Dolla $ign, I listen to his music, but when you see him perform, he looks like a rock star – he plays all forms of instruments, he is headbanging, it’s crazy! It’s just amazing how music and different genres have really joined forces. You are right, Hip Hop and Rock has really stood the test of time. I am really interested to see where it goes from here.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, and that is what music is about – it unites us. That is what makes it so powerful, that is what it should be about.
Slim – Oh yea. Everyday I am always watching the news, I watch CNN, I turn to Fox news, I turn to them all. I love to be abreast to what is going on in the world, especially in these times where everything is so divisive. Sometimes, I really want people of the newer generation to really embrace music that pulls us all together. With everything else making us be so divisive, and it’s crazy what I am seeing, what we are getting numb to what is actually right and wrong. Things that I used to read in social studies books of what used to be the qualification for platforms, even in governments, it’s totally out the window now. The one thing I can go back to is, I can listen to a record. I can listen to a record back from the ’50s and ’60s, and I can still feel the same way. A love song still feels the same way, no matter who sings it. The Rolling Stones to me is really R&B, The Beatles are R&B, to me. When The Beatles say, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” what’s the difference of me saying, “Only You.” It has the same feel to me.
I am really hoping and I really want to be a cheerleader of music that joins us all together and really touches on things we can all relate to. All of us can relate to love. Everybody can’t buy a Bugatti, everybody can’t say I ride around in the hood in a Wraith, but everybody knows what heartache feels like. Everybody has experienced the good, bad, and ugly of love – life and relationships. I don’t care what the genre, I just want it to pull us all together.
That is one of the blessings of singing a 112 record, we have sold 25 million plus records. There are records like “Only You” and “Cupid” in countries where they do not speak much English. We just did a show in Japan and they told us speak as little as possible, they don’t really speak English. When those songs come on, watch, they were singing the songs louder than us, it was just amazing. That’s what I am here for, I am here for that culture there. That’s what I came back to 112 for.
CrypticRock.com – That has to be an amazing feeling. Yes, you are 100% right, we need a unifying ground, and music is a great start. Last question for you, CrypticRock covers music as well as movies, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites?
Slim – I’m old school, so Horror movies, and I probably got this from my dad, I always watched a lot of B-rated movies. I still have DVDs that I collect, so there might be some weird ones. Of course I grew up on all of the A Nightmare on Elm Streets. Then anything with Michael Myers, then Jeepers Creepers (2001), but then I have Prom Night (1980). I like The Skeleton Key (2005), Underworld films, etc.
It’s crazy because I look at movies, not because they are scary to me, but a lot of times I pick up on scoring. The feel of when a violin comes on, or when the low bass feeling as something goes on, that is how I sculpture music in mind. So, if I am writing a record, and I am feeling a certain kind of way, I can almost actually hear the music before a note has been played. I kind of go to those types of movies.
Also, people don’t actually know, I love Star Trek, I love Star Wars, I grew up with Battlestar Galactica. There is so much stuff, but I am talking about stuff that if you are under 25, people don’t probably know what the hell I’m talking about. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Well, some people could use a history lesson. You are right about soundtracks, you take away the music from a film, particularly Horror, the tension is gone.
Slim – Yes! I’m from the ’90s, movies had soundtracks. In Sci-Fi or Horror, the music is just as important as what’s going on. Sometimes what I do, I will turn down the volume of the movie and take away the music and everything, and see, can I actually feel that actor or actress without any sound? I know it might sound crazy, but actually, it made me respect the actor or actress even more if I could still tell what was going on without any sound. I guess being a musician I might sound a little weird, and I have embraced that, but I feel music has so much to do with a lot of things.