LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Celebrating his 21st birthday in
June, R&B singer Mario is already dreaming about where he sees
himself in the future.
"My biggest dream is to become heavy in commercial real
estate -- to sit back and watch my buildings go up," he said.
For now, the multiplatinum-selling artist will have to be
content watching his new single, "How Do I Breathe," climb the
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (at No. 26) and Hot 100 Airplay
(No. 69). The song is the lead track from Mario's new album,
"Go," due August 21.
The project, his third for J Records, continues the
teen-to-adult transition Mario began in late 2004 with the
release of "Turning Point." That album's hallmark was the
long-running R&B/pop crossover hit "Let Me Love You,"
co-written by Ne-Yo.
Ne-Yo is among the collaborators on "Go," having
contributed the song "What's It Gonna Be," about a woman
playing a guy at his own game. Additional producers and
songwriters on the album include Akon, the Neptunes, Timbaland,
Polow da Don and Sean Garrett. Under the banner of his
production team the Nightriders, Mario also co-wrote several
"This is an awesome time for us right now," Mario (whose
last name is Barrett) said when asked about his place amid such
R&B artists as Tank, Lloyd, Ne-Yo and Akon. "We're the next
generation of Marvins, Stevies and Jackie Wilsons. It's
friendly competition where we're unconsciously feeding off each
PASSION AND INTROSPECTION
The more mature feel of "Go" underscores how much Mario has
grown musically since those not-so-long ago teen idol days of
early hits "Just a Friend 2002" and "Braid My Hair." One of the
songs he co-wrote for the new album is possible second single
"Kryptonite," which he calls a "passionate anthem about a
20-year-old trying to stay in a committed relationship."
The most surprising track is the introspective "Do Right,"
co-written by Mario and produced by Akon. The song stems from a
painful chapter in Mario's life that he has been reluctant to
discuss: his mother's drug addiction.
"I wanted to do something that would allow my fans to come
a bit closer," he said. "I'm letting people know that I may
have experienced some of the same things they have."
So much so that he agreed to let MTV film a documentary on
his family life. The film exposes what was happening behind
closed doors as Mario, the oldest of several siblings, juggled
a troubled home life in Baltimore while dreaming of a music
Mario has matured businesswise as well. In 2006, he sued
former manager Troy Patterson and Patterson's Third Street
Music Group to void an "oppressive" production deal. The
complaint charged that under the contract Mario signed with
Patterson -- who discovered and later sheltered a minor Mario
during his mother's bouts with drugs -- the singer received
only about $50,000 from the sale of more than 3 million
records. Those units generated about $20 million for J Records.
After Patterson filed a countersuit in April 2006, the dispute
was settled in January 2007. Mario is now managed by J. Erving
of J. Erving Group.
Now on the other side of those personal and business
issues, Mario declares that he "definitely knows what I want
and who I am. It's about creating a legacy. As I experience
more things, I'll be able to relate more with people on a
different level. Creating music for life; that's more important
than anything to me."