PART 1: One-on-One with Michael Keith (formerly of 112)

Posted by Mack of Sound-Savvy On 3:53 PM

When Sound-Savvy's got questions, we go find answers... that's what makes us Sound-Savvy! So, our question is... WHERE THE HELL IS 112?? I've been a fan of 112 ever since '96 when they were fresh to death with that CLASSIC self-titled debut (I know y'all got it...). In fact, my first concert was at the WKYS People's Expo '96 at the DC armory and it featured 112, among other acts including Donell Jones (still got my 112 autograph too!). Well, the last few years, they've been missing from the spotlight and I didn't know why, until now... I caught up with Mike, formerly of 112 (YEP, it says formerly) and we discussed quite a bit, including his departure from the group. Check out part 1 of our discussion and stay tuned for part 2, where he discusses his solo album, his plans for the future, and why it's "gonna be hard" for Day 26!!!

SS: Mike, whats goin on today?
MK: How you doin brutha? I’m glad to be here man and glad to do this interview today.

SS: That’s wassup. U in ATL right now?
MK: Better believe it folk!

SS: Aight, that’s where you’re originally from right?
MK: Yes sir, I am.

SS: So how long have you been singin and what types of music have you done besides R&B?
MK: Whew! How long I been singin, man it’s been over 30 years that I’ve been singin. I’ve was singin before I was able to really talk if you let my mother or grandmother tell it! It’s been a while. It’s something that is a part of me, something that’s intertwined in me, it’s in my genome. I’m just one of those types of dudes that music is in my heart. Right now I’m just focused on this solo project right now and I’m so happy to be able to express myself fully through my music.

SS: So your solo album, that’s self-titled, right?
MK: Yes, Michael Keith.

SS: And what inspired the content on the album?
MK: Just life, period. From the time that I started doing the solo project, which was about 2 years ago up until completion of that album, that was pretty much my influence for what was going on. A lot of people thought I was gonna speak about something that happened with 112 and the whole nine and things of that nature, but - my whole goal in life was to make sure that my music was synonymous with the legendary Marvin Gaye, Donnie Hathaway, and Stevie Wonder and the people of that nature. I just wanted to be in that hilt of that caliber of artists. So rather than hear talk about things that pretty much aren’t gonna be relevant 20 years from now, I wanted to talk about things that had substance to it. I spoke on things that we as people don’t really like to talk about. Our emotions are so locked away and we have reservations about expressing ourselves emotionally so I wasn’t afraid to come out and say “these are some of the questions that I have about love?” why does love hurt so bad why does this girl not love me the way I love her or why can’t I commit to this girl or why am I committed only to this girl. These are questions that I know al ot of people have and need answers to and I’m just willing to provide my perspective.

SS: That’s wassup. So what label are you with right now?
MK: I’m on an independent label, my label a joint effort with my manager/CEO Carlos J. and the label is called Farina Records. We’re just as happy as we possible can be in this scenario, for the simple fact that we have creative control, creative freedom. Anything we wanna do, we can do without the middle man or without somebody saying “This is over budget and we can’t do it. If itt feels good and if the music sounds right then that’s the direction we’re going in. And honestly I don’t think I could have done my album any other way but to have done it independent because of that fact. Because of the history I have, people automatically assume that my misic was gonna be synonymous with the other guys. My music is similar but it’s more – 112’s music was moreso fun-loving just lightheartedness versus my album which is about substance and talking about issues that are grown man and grown woman issues but I do it in a way that everyone can relate to. It’s a definite trade-off. I would definitely love to have the financial backing of a major label but you have to give up something and freedom is something I’m not really ready to give up

SS: I definitely commend you , it seems that a lot of artists are going the independent route these days just so they can have more control over their content and I commend you for taking that step. It definitely takes a lot to be brave enough to step in that direction. Like you said, finances aren’t always there but if you’re passionate about what you do, I think anybody can make it work.
MK: I absolutely agree with you man. But the key thing is, I don’t recommend this to everybody. The only reason why I did it was because I had a history, I had a fanbase and I knew that once people knew that my album was out then they would go out and get it. I don’t recommend that for everybody.

SS: Tru dat. And you gotta have a heart for it. It seems from the artists I’ve spoken with, it’s more of a commitment, more of a struggle. But you get back what you put out…
MK: Exactly. The bible says to whom much is given, much is required. So I’ve been giving a lot…

SS: Now you spoke about your fanbase, which is mostly from when you were with 112. What’s going on with 112? Do you guys still consider yourselves a group just working on solo projects or are you no longer a member of 112?
MK: I’m no longer a member of 112 and as far as what the current status is, I couldn’t tell you because like I said, I’m no longer a member. You would have to speak to one of the other guys to see exactly what’s been going on with them. For me, I just had to pretty much exit the whole situation because there were other things that were involved on a financial and on a business end that I just wasn’t cool with and I really felt like it was time for me – before it got even more gangsta - where I started losing love for these cats, let me just back away from the whole situation, step back, still respect these dudes from a distance, still love these dudes from a distance but at the same time go out and do my own thing now because the current state that 112 was in when I left was something that I didn’t want to be a part of anymore.

SS: So would you say it was over money that you guys aren’t together anymore?
MK: I would say that money and bad business were definitely the 2 mitigating factors for me making the move that I made. Pretty much, let’s just cut to the chase and I’ll just speak on it. Anybody that knows 112 knows that we are a unified front. In our heyday, we were so unified in everything that we did, it was almost like our niche so to speak. Yes we were great singers and the whole nine, but we were moreso a shining example that you could really be in the industry 10+ years without having ill will towards each other. And so, we just did everything as a unit. And, because of the situation we were in when we first signed, which was a real bad contract we decided that in order for us to benefit outside of touring we need to split everything 4 ways. So that was advances, show money, credit for any kind of writing whatsoever so through the course of the 10+ years, in the event that someone wrote something and the other guys didn’t write on it, you would still gain credit for it, because we all understood that without each other being there we would never have 112 to begin with. We all went under that premise. There was plenty of instances where I wrote a song and everybody got credit for it. Q wrote a song everybody got credit for it. Slim, etc. So it wasn’t like this situation came out of nowhere, this whole situation with the publishing check. It came out of nowhere in the sense of how we dealt with it. Now a publishing check came in by the company where it comes in 2 halves. Now if 2 members of the group got the first half then quite naturally if we’ve done it the way we’ve done it for 10 years, then the next half was owed to the other two right?

SS: Right that makes sense…
MK: Well that was the philosophy that we had been working under for 10 years. Why all of a sudden, this last check comes in and you guys don’t feel that way? You guys feel that “okay we need to take a lil bit from the second one as well because we’ve done more writing than the other 2 guys have” and I just really didn’t feel like that was cool as a brother or as a family member. I just felt like that was not cool and I just really had to speak my mind on it and try to figure out. We gotta come to some reconciliation, ya know some kind of way to work this out because even with all that we had said, it still was not bigger than 112 to me. It’s still not bigger than that and it’s still wasn’t worth ending everything the way that it had to end. I tried to work it out; we couldn’t come to reconciliation. They were steadfast on how they felt about it. I was definitely steadfast on how I felt about the situation, so before it got to a point where I had dislike for these guys, I said “Let me backup”, let me move away from this situation and start building my own situation so I won’t have to be dependent on someone else’s decision – whether or not they feel me worthy enough to have some money or whatever. So that was the whole situation

SS: Wow.
MK: That’s the way the whole situation was. Just to clarify also, because a lot of people when they first heard about the publishing check they were asking how was it that they were able to cash a check that was in my name and Slim’s name. The thing is this, anybody that has a company, if you are part owner of a company you can sign off on pretty much anything. If your contract is with the company it’s made that way so any one of us could have taken any one of those checks. Because they were not signed to us individually, they were signed to the company. With all of us being CEO’s of the company any one of us could have signed off on those checks. So just to clarify as well what a lot of people were trying to figure out how someone was able to steal a check from me. And pretty much how it would sound. It wasn’t like my name was on the check and then dude took it and then went in and committed fraud. It wasn’t anything like that but if you’re the owner off a company and the check was cut to the company. You have the right to take that check and do whatever you want with it. So in a nutshell that’s really what happened as far as that whole publishing situation went

SS: You guys had formed the One Twelve Music Group, is that where that whole situation stemmed from?
MK: It stemmed from our past writings for other artists and things of that nature. Once we started getting a taste of the outside scene as far as writing for other people and producing for other people we started realizing that this could be real lucrative for us to be writing for individuals. That’s where the problems started. As long as it was writing and producing for 112 everything was cool. But the minute that you started venturing out and doing things for other people, then that’s when it wasn’t cool. And let me just preface it; I don’t have no problems with a dude goin’ out getting’ money. My whole thing was honor your contract.

SS: Right, it sounds like you guys had an agreement…
MK: You gotta honor the contract. You can’t say this because I’m your homeboy. That would be even more of an incentive for me to honor the contract BECAUSE you my homeboy! Don’t discredit the contract because I’m your homeboy and you feel like I can get away with it. You can’t do it like that, especially for someone that you “love” or “got love for” and that’s your “brother”. So if the guys wanted to amend the contract to where it benefitted them, I would’ve had no problem with it; all we had to do was sit down and talk about it. But instead, it was like “we doin it and pretty much go to hell”.

SS: Wow….
MK: That’s the stance that was taken. It’s like a take it or leave it, we takin this money so what you gon do? Leave?” that’s pretty much how the whole situation went down. Throughout all this, I still have love for these dudes. I still wish the best for them, I still wish the most success because that one incident does not outweigh the amount of success that we’ve had and the amount of time and you can’t tell me that those dudes that did that was the same dudes that I grew up with. So everybody goes through something and if I was dependent on that check solely then I probably would have a much bigger issue but it’s all about Michael Keith right now and doing the solo project so really you live and you learn with it.

SS: I hear you man, and I don’t wanna dwell on the 112 issue too much but I’mma just say this as a fan. As a die-hard 112 fan, I really hope that we haven’t seen the last of 112 and you guys can work this out and come back together. I’ve been a fan since the first album. It’s sad to hear about things like that but hopefully this is an issue that can be worked out between you guys. It sounds like it was just an agreement that wasn’t honored. And you guys were friends before you formed 112 right?
MK: Waayyy waaaayyy before. I’ve known these dudes 20+ years. I’mma be honest with you, we can sit down and we can talk about it. Honestly, in my heart of hearts I don’t have any ill will towards these dudes, they’re minds just ain’t right as far as that situation is concerned. It’s nothing for me to sit down with these dudes when the time is right because right now I’m so focused on the solo project that I really wanna see now because I’ve had so much success with this, I wanna see how far I can take it. I’m a fan of 112 as well and I definitely feel like we have not reached that upper echelon of the Boyz II Men, the Jodeci, the New Edition where we’re referenced when you say R&B groups of the late 1990s to 2000s. I don’t feel like we’ve got to that point yet where the world recognizes us as that caliber of group. I still feel like we have a long way to go and a long way to record sales and I’m definitely a fan of 112 and would welcome that day to happen one day but everything’s gotta be worked out right. Our business has definitely gotta be worked right. But I’m one of those dudes that - I’ve lived long enough to never say never. If the guys are willing and all the stars and the moon and all that other stuff lines up correct then I’d be definitely willing to sit down with these dudes and rock out. I feel like we still have a lot more as a unit but ya know, that’s just me.

SS: Well I’m glad to hear you say that, and I definitely hope that one day we will see the return of 112. I hope everything works out with that.
MK: We’ll sit down and we’ll talk, once everybody humbles themselves in themselves and in the Lord and go back to what it really means. Once you realize how cold it can really be out here on your own, by yourself. When people realize what we had versus what we have now, I think everybody will be willing to sit down and put everything on the table and just start out fresh. I’m pretty sure because I didn’t leave under ill will with these dudes. I still got love for these dudes and I still wish the best for them so the reason I say it possibly could happen and more than likely we would definitely sit down one day and talk about this whole situation is because I didn’t leave on a bad note, I didn’t leave on a sour note I didn’t leave on a note like “okay well screw all yall. I’m go out here and do my own thing”. It wasn’t like that. It was like “okay when y’all ready to talk about this then come holla at me but until then I gotta go out here and do me”...


4 comments and counting...

  1. Sane Said,

    Mack you already KNOW how I felt about 112! I was devastated to hear about the money problems that broke them apart. Seems like very good group has to go thru an inner battle that will disband them for a significant amount of time before they realize that their fans miss them and would welcome another album, project or concert from them as a WHOLE UNIT in the future, despite what happened. :(

    Posted on February 4, 2009 at 7:55 PM

  2. Odara Said,

    i heard Mike's album it SUCKS!!!!

    Posted on February 4, 2009 at 10:04 PM

  3. Julian Said,

    Great interview. I hope 112 is able to eventually work out their differences and release more music. The few songs I remember by them were pretty awesome.

    I also love the Sound-Savvy logo!!

    Posted on February 4, 2009 at 10:46 PM

  4. Elton Said,

    Man it sounds like Mike wants this situation to get better with 112. It almost sounds like he's opening that door up to reconcile, and record that 6th album. To me it really seems like he wants to see how far he can go solo, and honestly I don't see him being that big. Sure I like his vocals, and his album is really good despite being waaaaay too short. Still I don't think he's with the right label to market him properly. His album came out with almost no promotion at all, and you had to be a die hard Mike(notice I'm not saying 112) fan to know about it. I think if his album was 5 tracks longer, and he had a good marketing team that he'd do decent sales wise for himself. Now I don't know any of the four personally so I can't speak on the publishing check deal. All I'll say is that if Slim is still with them, and he allegedly got money taken from him then there's more to the story. Once again I don't know fully so I'm not going to say who's right or wrong, but I'm just saying that there's two sides to every story. But Mike I love your music. I've listened to you for years as a die hard 112 fan, and think your album is highly under the radar. I'll always be a fan, because I have so much history hearing you sing. I wish you nothing but success. Hopefully you'll have more albums in addition to more 112 albums.

    Posted on February 7, 2009 at 1:58 AM


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