AHHA: Well, I think that’s a good attitude to have. It sounds like you guys are well adjusted too.
Mike: We did that on the fourth album. There’s nothing like mediocre success to bring all the problems out. It seems like when one problem happens all of ‘em happen at the same time, so it definitely has a s########## effect. The thing that makes 112 so remarkable is the fact that, despite that, we were able to overcome the adversity, still keep it moving, still make money, still be successful and still be Q, Mike, Slim and Daron – the same four individuals. We stood by each other through that whole adversity together. What makes us so special to me is the fact that through it all we’ve still been able to maintain through these years. That’s the special thing, anybody can sing if you in this industry, anybody can write if you’re in this industry, but stayin’ together this long is a testament unto itself.
AHHA: You have L.A. Reid over at Def Jam now, and he’s really responsible for making some of the biggest R&B acts in history. You guys worked with him in some capacity through the Bad Boy/Arista situation. How has the relationship grown or changed since those times?
Mike: It’s grown, because we really didn’t have that hands-on experience with L.A. Reid with him being at Arista, and Puffy being the head of the ship at Bad Boy. We [had to] go through Puff in order to get to L.A. Reid if we wanted to do anything with him. Now that we have this relationship, and he’s an artist-friendly CEO – he really cares about our opinions. He really wants us to be us, he really wants us to shine. It’s not about who’s behind us with him, it’s about, ‘Let’s make some hit music and create a star’. Being with [L.A.], alongside that you got Jay-Z, the number one guy in rap, so it’s kinda like because 112’s music is Hip-Hop and R&B we kinda have a little bit of both of ‘em in the mix. So to have L.A. Reid on the R&B side and then Jay-Z on the Hip-Hop side, it’s like you can’t lose. It’s a win-win situation.
AHHA: What have you guys done to make sure that you’re still keeping true to your sound, but keep up with making hit songs that match what’s out there today?
Mike: You gotta how learn how to listen. In the first album, if you really pay attention to it, a lot of it is a learning process, and you’re listening to a lot of people in the beginning. You’re listening to all the experts, all the executives, you’re listening to what they’re telling you, you’re being guided so to speak. But then you say, ‘Okay with this next album I’m gonna do what I wanna do’ – and that may not exactly coincide with what’s going on in music nowadays. My advice to artists is to learn how to listen. Just because you’re a celebrity, just because you’ve sold millions of records, that still doesn’t mean that you can’t listen. That’s what we did for this fifth album. We understand who we are, but at the same time we’re not so big that we can’t listen to somebody who’s completely out of the loop, just to tell us what’s real and what people are listening to nowadays. Listen to children – children they got their ear to the streets all the time, they know what’s new, they know what’s hot – we listen to a lot of them too.
Slim: I hang around a lotta young kids and we were lucky to start the trend. We were kinda responsible for the changing of that guard. When we did come out, it was Jodeci, Boyz II Men and Mint Condition, and anybody else of that [era]. We were the first group to go straight into the clubs – we changed the look, the clothes, everything, and it’s good that we learned how to listen. Long as we do that and get a variety of opinions, like I keep a lotta young folks around me, and they’ll tell you right straight up like, ‘Yall aint hot’, and you can tell by their body language. They might not say it with their mouths unless you straight up ask them, but you can tell. You can just play it around ’em – like I got young kids, and if they catch on off the rip without you saying anything, that’s a hit.
AHHA: What pressure have you guys felt now as far as people coming to you like, ‘[Usher] is what’s hot, so you need to do this too?’
Slim: We know how to do the music that fits 112. Everybody that goes to Lil’ Jon is not gonna come out with an Usher record, and if we chose to go that way, which I think we did kinda scratched that itch [on the album], but if it’s not for you, I would suggest not to do it. We’ve learned to master both sides – in doing an up-tempo or coming out with a hit ballad. I think we’re probably like one of the rare groups that’s been able to do that. From the first album we set that standard, we wanted that to be known. That’s why when we came out with ‘Only You’ we changed the game, now everybody wants to be ‘pump me in the club’, and then when we came out with ‘Cupid’ on the same album, everybody was like, ‘Oh that’s right, they are a singing group’ – so that’s supposed to make you fall in love. We’re R&B.
AHHA: What do you guys want people to know about 112 at this point?
Q: A couple of things. One, that we’re not going anywhere. We’re standing for a career of longevity, career albums – total albums and not just singles. We take a lot of pride in what we do and the product that we put out there. I also wanna just say that we really appreciate the fans. We take time to look at emails, and we take into consideration the opinions of our fans, because again, they’re gonna tell you what they expect, they’re gonna say if they were disappointed. I think one of the worst things for 112 being the supplier is, I would hate to disappoint my fans – because that’s who makes you who you are. So their opinion is very important to us. Also that this new album Pleasure & Pain March 29th is one of the best albums that 112 has done.
We just had to refocus. It’s almost like you sat out a whole year on injury reserve, and everybody run you off saying you can’t…Grant Hill, for prime example, sat out like three years from a broken ankle, but now he’s putting up the numbers. I know while he was on the sidelines he couldn’t wait to get back out there. That’s similar to 112 – we had the writeups saying we couldn’t do it, but we turned those writeups into motivation. We pinned them up in the studio and everytime you were in the vocal booth singing, this is what you was looking at. It’s just 112 to the fullest – Daron producing, 112 writing as a collective group, and it’s our best work. I know that people are gonna be able to feel that hunger, that drive, that refocus from 112. From the look, the vocals, from the way we talk, the way we walk – the swagger is back.