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112: Right Here, Pt 1

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While Atlanta quartet 112 has yet to reach a decade in their recording career as a group, they are on the verge of a “comeback” of sorts with their fifth studio album, Pleasure And Pain. In the midst of the current trends of rap-crossover, crunk&b, and two-stepping, the group is revitalizing the club-friendly vibe that lit up the airwaves with their 1996 single “Only You”, while bringing back the sensual ballads that made 112 a force to be reckoned with in the realms of R&B and pop music.

112’s self-titled debut album dropped on Bad Boy in 1996, following with Room 112 in 1998, and Part III in 2001, churning out several massive hit singles and driving the group to incredible heights of popularity. After a quiet, yet tense breakup with Bad Boy in 2002, they were re-introduced to fans through a new record deal with Def Jam. Unfortunately their 2003 album Hot And Wet was anything but, and critics along with fans turned up their noses at the effort.

After taking some time off to rejuvenate and refocus, 112 is back with a vengeance. The four charming crooners sat down with AllHipHop.com Alternatives to talk about the good, the bad, and all things in between with regard to their career. Will they be able to give the fans what they delivered with the first three albums? Their first single states their case: “U Already Know”.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: What have you guys been up to since your last album?

Mike: [We’ve been] recording this fifth album, we’re in the jam, we’re in choreography – we’re just getting back to what makes 112 so special. We’re just getting back to basics. This is the most critical album of 112’s whole career, because a lot of people are doubting 112 right now, a lot of people are saying ‘Can they do it? Are they gonna come back?’ Everybody’s just waiting in anticipation to see what 112 is gonna come up with, and we got something baking in the oven for you. It’s a beautiful thing right now to be 112.

AHHA: The last album didn’t necessarily live up to the expectations that a lot of fans had. Going from that first experience with Def Jam, what do you guys feel that you’ve learned?

Daron: The thing we’ve learned I think the most is that no one is gonna love your project more than you. With that you gotta also be careful what it is you ask for. You ask God for it because he will give it to you, we asked for total control. We asked to be the heads of our ships and we got it, and when we got it we didn’t know how to handle it. We had all this control, all this power but in a sense we kinda abused it. It was a humbling experience with the mediocre success of the fourth album but we’re grown men, we admit that we looked at the fourth album with a little lackadaisical mind frame.

AHHA: But is that really fair though, considering the fact that in the past you guys hadn’t had a lot of control and everything was laid out for you? Do you feel that maybe it was unfair for people to expect you to know what to do?

Daron: I don’t even think there was a situation in the past where everything was totally laid out for us, but I think that our relationship that we had developed with Bad Boy, they knew what things to lay out and what things to fall back on. From a musical standpoint, we pretty much always had that locked down – we pretty much always wrote our own lyrics and always produced our own records. But in terms of other things, like marketing and promotion, and maybe helping the group pick the singles, helping the group styling, different things of that nature – I think now we’ve developed a relationship with Def Jam where I feel like everybody knows their place. They know when to step in, whereas in the past they were tryna kinda feel us out and tryna see, ‘Ok what can we and can’t we say to these guys? Even though we might feel like they’re going a little too to the left with this, we don’t wanna step on their toes, we don’t really know them that well’. I think at this point we got it down to a science, and people gonna see that with this new album, because the new album is incredible.

AHHA: I’m sure you’ve all gone through some changes personally and professionally. Have you guys had any pressure at any point to do solo stuff? Have you had people in your ear?

Mike: Well I think everyone has heard the conversation once or twice before. We take it with a grain of salt – we look at the situation, and we look at what’s going on in the music industry right now and say, ‘Is that something that I really wanna do right now?’ Why be an alright solo artist when you could be the greatest group in the world? I think that’s the main goal right now, to establish 112 the group, the brand, as those legendary R&B singers. That group that could just not be faded no matter what you did.

You entertain the possibility, ‘cause it’s been put out there. We’ve been talking about the whole situation, because we feel like in a sense it may be inevitability that one day we may wanna go out and do the solo thing. You grow up and you go out, but it won’t be anything that’s underhanded. It won’t be negative it wont be like ‘Ay dawg, my album comin’ out tomorrow’. It would be done strategically, it would be done with the blessings of everybody else in the group, and we’ll just keep it moving like these rappers do. You got 50, he’ll come out with his solo project, Lloyd Banks come out with his, then Young Buck, then Yayo, and they come back and do G-Unit and keep it going and keep all that money flowing, so why is it so different for a R&B group to do it?

AHHA: Have you guys ever had people coming to you individually like, ‘Why don’t you get more time on the songs?’ or ‘Why aren’t you getting more credit?’

Q: Quite naturally that’s gonna happen because you have four individuals to make up this one particular brand. We know exactly internally what makes 112 tick. We knew strategically when we first came out with Puff, that because Slim had the most distinctive voice out of the four of us, to have him sing on a lot of the records – so that no matter in the midst of what song was played, if they heard Slim’s voice they were automatically able to connect his voice with 112. Then the trump card you have with 112 was, not only does he have a great voice, but once you get into 112 you realize that Q has just as much a special voice as Mike and Daron.

I really think that we are the ultimate group because we all play our equal part. If you come to one of our shows or listen to our album, everybody has their chance to shine. Slim is not the only one that sings in the show, he’s not the only one that sing on the album. Of course we would love the acclaim of being such great [song]writers but the things that we can always hold close to our heart is we’ve been behind every successful record that 112 has put out. Any song that comes to your mind from 112, we either wrote it [working with another producer], or wrote it and Daron produced it. So regardless of if we get that acclaim – of course we won the ASCAP Writer awards and the Songs of the Year awards – but if that’s overshadowed by our music, 112 still gon’ get the acclaim.

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