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Mario: Go Time

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Like most of the world of entertainment, music has always had a revolving door of relevant characters. So much that we often take for granted the artists that we have grown with. One such character is Mario. We’ve watched the songbird grow from a teenager asking girls to braid his hair, to a man asking the object of his affection to let him love her. Yes, in his still young career Mario has done a remarkable job of keeping us entertained and interested.As Mario continues to grow, so does his music, and we are continuing to learn so much more about our beloved Baltimore crooner. 2007 not only sees the release of a new album (GO!) for Mario, but the revelation of a private truth he had held in for so long – his mother’s addiction to heroine. In the midst of the heat his new songs are generating at radio, he took the time to unveil his most personal body of work to date – I Won’t Love You To Death a documentary chronicling his battle with his mother’s sickness. Fans across the country witnessed a new side of their favorite singer, a side that shouts what many artists can only say with words, “I’m just like you, no better, no worse.”On the day that saw the advanced screening of his documentary, what must have been undoubtedly a very emotional day, AllHipHop Alternatives got the chance to catch up with Mario. From speaking to him, it is evident he has a clear picture of where he was, where he is, and where he wants to GO!AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Who are you today in comparison to who you were when we first met you? How are you different?Mario: I feel like I’m a lot stronger as a person. I feel like I’m a lot stronger as an artist. I’m 21. I think my experience as an artist traveling has made me different than when I first came out. Each album grew in a different way each time. Like when my first album came out I was introducing myself to the world as Mario. Then when I did Turning Point I had toured a lot. My focus on that album was pretty much to show growth, but I still feel like it was still only 60% percent who I really was. Now with this record, I’m at like 90%. I had a lot more say so. I had a lot more involvement in the writing process, whereas on the last project it was more my A&R telling me who I should work with. This record is pretty much me.AHHA: Do you feel in the past couple of years that you have made any mistakes?Mario: Yeah, I feel like I made a lot of mistakes – some I don’t really regret and some that I do. I feel like I should have changed management sooner. That’s pretty much the only mistake that I regret.AHHA: What for you has been the highlight of your career thus far?Mario: The highlight of my career, for me has to be being nominated for a Grammy. I enjoyed that experience; I wish I would have won. I felt like I should have won. John Legend had a good year that year and he took home the Grammy, which was cool. AHHA: You and I both know that different things can be written about different artists. Some things are true. Some things are not. Does it ever get easier to see incorrect information about you in magazines or on the internet or does it still make you angry?Mario: No it doesn’t really make me angry. I would rather somebody came and asked me something in person. And when I do get asked about certain things, I try to set the record straight. And I don’t really read the internet and what people say too much. I don’t really get into that.AHHA: This kind of leads into my next question. With everything that is going on today with the screening of the documentary about your struggles with your mother’s addiction (to heroine), I’m wondering was there any reason you decided to get so personal now with the public? Mario: Umm. It got to a point where I had to help my mother. As time goes by, the addiction only gets worse. And with the documentary, it was just originally my mom wanting to have her experiences on camera. Then it turned into a documentary. I just wanted to get it out there in the right way. This is real. It’s uncut. A lot of people go through this sh*t. A lot of people have experienced this. I feel like you will get to know more about me through this than my music. I actually pushed the album back because I didn’t want people to think I was doing this just for the album sales.AHHA: When you decided to come out with this and be open about your experiences with your mother, were you in any way worried about how you would be perceived?Mario: I don’t really care….actually I’m not going to say I don’t care. But to me it’s too real…it is what it is. It’s nothing people could say that would be negative. They could say I think he was wrong for doing it and that would be their opinion. And the things with opinions are everybody has them. So I wasn’t really worried about what people thought about me per se. I was worried about how it would affect the people who are going through the same sh*t or went through the same sh*t. For a lot of people who haven’t experienced that life, they probably don’t care. But it is what it is…AHHA: Do you have any advice for anyone who went through what you did as in trying to pull themselves to a more positive place?Mario: I would advise them to try to get counseling. Try to talk to someone who has been through it. Someone they trust. If you feel like you are trying to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves and they are very adamant about it, it’s important that you take care of yourself too. And do the things you need to do for you. Sometimes you have to show tough love. Like with my mother, when she wanted money for certain things I had to say no.AHHA: How did the idea for the documentary come about? Did that come from you or was that something she wanted to do?Mario: It was a mutual thing. She agreed to do it. There would be times where she would come back and say “I’m not doing this anymore.” But she really wanted to. She wanted to help other families who were going through the same thing.AHHA: How is your mother today?Mario: She’s good. She’s been clean for about three months. Whether the documentary came out or not, she still would have gotten clean and I still would have stuck in there with her.AHHA: Growing up with those experiences, do you feel that makes you different than a lot of other artists out there?Mario: Hell yeah. Absolutely it made me different. My skin is tougher. I’m just different. I think it makes me stronger. AHHA: Growing up seeing what you saw, would you say that music was kind of a coping mechanism?Mario: It was definitely a way for me to stay away from the streets. A lot of people in my family turned to the streets either to get money or to just do drugs. Music was a gift. If I didn’t have music to fall back on then I probably wouldn’t have taken education. I probably would have turned to the streets. I’m so blessed to be in this position.AHHA: The title of the album is GO! correct?Mario: Yes. AHHA: Is there any particular reason that the title was picked?Mario: Pretty much because of the record I have on my album. I felt like the record “Go!” made a statement. So I made that the album title as well.AHHA: What is different about this album than your previous offerings?Mario: I think people can really relate to this album. It’s more of an artist’s record. They are all great R&B records. I have great collaborations on there with people like Juelz Santana, my homeboy, I worked with Rich Boy on a record called “Kryptonite,” which I wrote with my production team, Nightriders. Also I worked with Polow Da Don on a record. So I think the producers kind of bring a different swag to the record too. And the result is classic R&B.AHHA: I’m sure you have heard a lot of people talk about how R&B is not what it was. Many people have exclaimed that they are bringing R&B back. What do you think about the state of R&B right now? Do you feel its lacking anything?Mario: Yeah, there haven’t been a lot of true R&B artists out there who write their own music and do their own music. Also I think that some of the biggest records of the years have been R&B-Hip-Hop records, records that have the influence of both. AHHA: With the current landscape of R&B…what do you feel you bring to the table that is different?Mario: Real singing. I’m one of the few R&B artists who really have distinctive voices that really give something strong and positive to the R&B world. I have very creative records as well.AHHA: At the beginning of this interview I asked who are you today and how do you differ from when we first met you. If someone asked you this same question 15-20 years from now, what do you hope your answer would be then?Mario: In terms of learning things as you go along, your music should grow with you as a person. The visuals and records you have should really compliment who your are as a person. If you do that along with coming out with great music, people will take you in an authentic way. That’s where I’m growing to as an artist, as opposed to just being a young artist who can sing. I want to be somebody who left a legacy behind. Someone who opened doors for other people; somebody who started new trends. I want to be an artist that can go anywhere in the world and sell out.AHHA: What about personally?Mario: Hopefully just someone that is able to live comfortably and not let the craziness affect them. I hope I’m able to just sing and live and not always have the paparazzi all up in my business. I know people that have been doing this since they were young that aren’t too comfortable right now.AHHA: Is there anything you have to do just for yourself each day?Mario: I work out, I box. I have to eat. Because sometimes I work so much that I forget to eat.

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