The evolution of 112 has been an intriguing one, going from the “good boys” of the Bad Boys fraternity to the “rebellious” and increasingly flashy men they came to be. From white suits to black, to “even more black.”
As the sun blazed through the glass walls of a Los Angeles hotel lobby, Mike and Slim, one-half of the original amalgamation of 112, sat down with me to discuss the complicated inner-workings of the group’s breakup, and their onward-looking approach as they promote their newest single, “Tonight.”
The pig-skinned elephant in the room was Super Bowl LIII. Upon hearing news of Maroon 5's headlining, many folks in the black community gave their best side-eye and noted how the NFL fucked up in missing out on the best opportunity to showcase Atlanta’s huge contribution to music. It could’ve been black as fuck. On the flip side, a lot of black artists have turned down the halftime show, citing the league’s inability to effectively address the racism lobbed toward Colin Kaepernick, in particular.
So, I had to ask, were they even considered? And if not, how did they feel about the omission?
“We were not approached to perform and a lot of our constituents felt slighted like we did,” noted Mike, who, as the group’s founder, naturally took the lead in the interview. “Being R&B, we do understand that, if you would want to take a much more uptempo approach to the performance. However, 112 is synonymous with uptempo records and stuff.”
Mike believed they were likely written off because they are solely seen as an R&B group. But anyone familiar with their connection with Sean “Puffy” Combs and Biggie alone knows 112 is fully ensconced in hip-hop culture.
“If they really delve deeper into, who 112's history is, [they] would have known that we were capable of pulling off a Super Bowl performance,” Mike continued. “I really do feel like we could have been part of that whole machine. But ATL as a whole felt like we got slighted, for us to be the music mecca that we are and for us to have influenced the music industry the way that we have for so many years—and this is no disrespect to Maroon 5.
“I love Maroon 5, but the last time I checked they weren’t from Atlanta,” he added. “And now they’re trying to placate us by putting Big Boi and Travis Scott onto the performance. And I mean, that’s cool, but I felt like it was really like a backhanded attempt at trying to quell the fact that they really dropped the ball.”
But, since we were on the topic of R&B, I had to mention Jacquees’ recent headass “King of R&B” tour.
“Well, he can be a king; we Gods,” Mike quipped, also noting that inciting this hoopla was “freaking genius,” as it reignited the conversation around the dwindling genre known as true R&B.
“It’s like Zeus looking down at everyone else yelling, ‘Do what I tell you to do!’ Slim laughed, noting he doesn’t even believe they’re “a part of [Jacquees’] conversation” since the competitors are within his age group, not 112's.
When it came to Puff’s epic era of Bad Boy artists, fashion was on full display. Naturally, I had to ask the duo if they had a favorite look from their array of music videos.
“For me, it had to be “It’s Over Now,” said Mike. Yes, those Jordans. Oh and those furs they were rockin’ in front of the Waffle House in the video? They weren’t from the costume department; those were theirs. When Mike said he told folks, “If you won’t give it to Puff, don’t give it to us,” he meant it.
“The whole movement for that album was just us—and I say this in the most positive way possible—it was us being rebellious, because for the first two years it was ‘Listen to Puff...’, said Mike. Their album, Part III was a stark transition from the “church boy white suits” of their first self-titled album.
But even as they butted heads with management through their growth, you could always feel the affinity the two had for the Bad Boy family—particularly the late Notorious B.I.G., someone who went out of his way to advocate for the group.
When recording “Only You” (my fave!), Slim recalled one of their fondest memories with the legendary rapper.
“We kept coming up to him, thanking him, and it was driving him nuts like, ‘Stop it, stop it, y’all so nice!” Slim recounted.
“He was like, ‘it’s a hundred and twelve of y’all for real, son!” Mike chimed in.
All of the great groups have a “breakup” moment, whether it’s the real-life Temptations or the fictional Five Heartbeats (wait, they not real?!). 112 is no exception. What’s up with Daron and Q? Mike and Slim talked with TMZ when the other two men split from the group, but has anything else progressed since then?
“No more conversations; a couple of lawsuits here and there,” Mike noted with a slight chuckle. “Tours on our side. We’re remaining diligent and we’re moving forward. Clearly, nothing has stopped, so we’re going to continue pressing forward and we’re going to continue using God as our beacon. We’re not trying to hurt anybody and we’re not trying to stop anybody from eating. The same cannot be said for the other side.”
Mike concluded that his ultimate goal is to get the coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and whether four, two or even one member is present for the ceremony, they’ll get to say they have it. Should they get it, I assured them both that I’ll be there when they do.
Going forward, they’ll be on The Experience Tour with Jagged Edge. Given the epic competition between the two, I had to ask, “Who’s better?”
“It all depends on who you talk to,” Mike laughed. “We always going to advocate for 112 on the stage, but Jagged really does put on a great show. They are incredible vocalists and they are entertaining as all get out.”
In fact, the tour is the approximately 20-year-old brainchild of 112, initially intended to have more of a “112 vs. Jagged” vibe. It’s what essentially kicked off the legendary “beef” between the two R&B groups. However, today, it’s definitely more of a collaboration.
Lastly, I had to ask the ultimate question: are we getting our mixtape / EP of interludes or not?
The duo chuckled, noting they were constantly “inundated” with this request. As Mike noted, they did turn one of their interludes into a song on their first, self-titled album, transforming the “Why” interlude into “Why Does.” Mike pointed out how interludes were “a moment in time,”
Slim added some hope of possibility, saying, “Hey, us two heads, Heckle and Jeckle...?”
Like I told them: their interludes still rock in the club today. Not many folks can say that.
“Yeah, we could get away with it,” said Mike, musing on a possible EP.
The night after our interview, I got to witness a nostalgic bubble of entertainment at the R&B Rewind Fest including 112, TLC, Bel Biv Devoe, Mya, Ginuwine, Dru Hill, and Next. In other words, I got my life.
I’ll keep an eye out for that interlude mixtape. It has to happen. As truthful Cupid realizes, we won’t know unless we give it a try (give it a try).