PART 2: One-on-One with Michael Keith (formerly of 112)

Posted by Mack of Sound-Savvy On 12:12 PM

In the second part of my interview with former 112 member Michael Keith, we talked more about his self-titled debut album (released in November '08) and why it's "gonna be hard" for Day 26. Mike also shared his thoughts on 'Notorious' and his plans for the future! Check it out...
Sound-Savvy: So let’s talk about your album some more. The first single is called No More Tears, right?
Michael Keith: Yep, No More Tears.

SS: Tell me about that song, was that written for someone in particular? What inspired it, and did you write that?
MK: Yeah I pretty much wrote majority of the album. I wrote 95 % of the album. No More Tears is my interpretation of what I hear from women nowadays. It’s like we get such a bad rep for either being promiscuous or not being able to commit or just being this unscrupulous dude and I feel like there are still some good dudes out there. You don’t have to be a complete nerd but somebody who’s committed, somebody who’s a protector, a provider, somebody that can really show this woman that she’s all the woman that he needs. I felt like we needed a song out there that encompasses all that. So what I wanted to do was just let the world know and let these women know that there are a few good dudes out there man and I’m one of those good dudes. Have I done all that promiscuous stuff? Absolutely! I went out there and did it like everybody else did but I’m an older dude, I’m a wiser dude and it’s time out for all that play-play stuff. It’s real talk time and I just wanted to do a record to let these women know that there are some good dudes out there and I just so happen to be one of those dudes.

SS: Thank you for representin for the good dudes out here because we are still out here. I appreciate that, I listened to that song…
MK: We get a bad rep man! We get a bad rep, and I know you know what I’m talking about!! Everybody a dog, you a dog

SS: Exactly!
MK: What you doin and who you doin it wit? It’s like come on man, it ain’t like that. Just because I don’t pick up the phone at 10:00 just like you asked me to that I’m out screwin somebody. Let’s just cut that out. Go back to the basics. Let’s talk, let’s converse, let’s just get feedback from each other. Let’s talk to each other and not at each other. That’s basically what I’m trying to say.

SS: Hey I appreciate that dude. There was another track on the album, I’ve listened to it and I really liked it. You did a song called Father, a particularly strong track, is that something you’ve always wanted to do?
MK: Absolutely and that goes into my whole thing with the music and me wanting to come out with music of substance, and not slighting or taking anything away from 112, but our music as a group was more light hearted, more fun-loving. My voice is that type of voice that I command a lot of attention when I do sing, it’s almost “preacher” if you will, so I need to do records that are synonymous with that and conducive to that, words of substance. It’d be strange for you to hear a preacher preach about something that has absolutely nothing to do with saving your soul. So I wanted to do records that are about substance so when I did Father it was something that I always wanted to do but it just didn’t fit in the format of a 112 so I always put that on the backburner. Father is a record that’s about 3-4 years old, me and Daron did the record a long time ago but it just never fit the format of what was going on with 112. I always said “I’m Pro-112 anyway” but we just did the song just to do it but it had always been on the backburner. When I wrote Father with Daron, it was my way of getting it out of my system. I reconciled with my father four years ago and I really did not wanna go to him with all that “You wasn’t here!” and “Do you know the type of dude I am and the type of foods I like?” and “Why you do my momma like this?” It’s all in the past and regardless of what his answer might be, it’s still in the past and you won’t be able to take that back. So I was able to come to him as a grown man, with grown man issues, with grown man sensibilities and ways of thinking, and basically let him know “Look that was in the past, if you’re willing to start anew and start fresh, I’m willing to at least open the door and start to build a relationship so since then me and my father – he’s a barber, and every Friday or Saturday I go to his barbershop man, we sit and we converse and we talk about life and philosophy and spirituality and things that I know in my heart that as a child I would not have been able to comprehend but now that I’m a grown man, now that I’m a father those are the things that I need insight on because I really did need an older perspective, a wiser perspective on things and in turn I’m hoping I can shed some light in his mind, and in his life and his spirit. We’re so similar, we hold our hand the same way we look at things the same way. So I wanted him to understand. Did I need him in my life? Absolutely. It’s tough as a dude growing up, you need your father so let’s just cut the malarkey with it when it comes to that stuff. On the same token I wanted him to understand that because he wasn’t there, I’m the way I am now so I still do appreciate that as well. So when I wrote Father with Daron, I had to let him know I wasn’t lettin’ him off the hook, I’mma tell people what you didn’t do, but at the same time in the hook I’mma forgive you though. I’mma tell you whats goin on. My whole reason for that song was to let people know that they’re not the only ones going through a situation like that and hopefully it’s just a learning tool and a way for people to start a forum or a conversation, not even a worldwide forum maybe just something with you and your father or you and your mother. You may not have been able to say what you wanted to say for years but because you heard my song it’s like “If this dude can do it, I know I can”. And if I’m doin that then I feel like I’m doin God’s work. I really had reservations about it at first. When Daron came to me about the whole situation, cause I told him about it, he was like “Man, we need to write a song about this”. I was like “Man I don’t know if I’m ready to even talk about this. I don’t even know why I told you, let alone put it on a record.” But I felt like at that point it was God’s work and He in all his grace ?? We need to put it out there so it can start the healing process to those people that wanna be healed. So that’s one of the reasons that song is even on the album.

SS: Now when you guys wrote this song, had you reconciled with him?
MK: Yeah, I had told Daron that I had reconciled with him and that’s where the idea came up that I should write a song about it. Anybody that knows me knows that, contrary to the lifestyle that I live I’m a very private person. If I never sung about it, you would never know about it. You would never think that “okay this dude grew up without a father being there” because I don’t go around with a burden on my shoulder because my daddy wasn’t there. It was never like that, I grew up happy and loved. I just had mothers being the father figure as well. I just didn’t have time for all the self-loathing and trying to figure out why my father wasn’t there. He wasn’t there because God didn’t allow him to be there. He needed me to be the man that I am. So that’s why I did it, and I felt like it would be selfish of me to have it story in my heart and not share it because there are some people that need to be healed by it.

SS: I commend you for that, like I said it’s definitely a powerful song, so what’s on deck for your next single?
MK: Honestly, I don’t know. We’re trying to rock out No More Tears as much as we possibly can. Farina and I (head of the label) had a meeting today about the video concept, it’s gonna be illmatic man! It’s gonna be crazy. Real simple, but at the same time it’s gonna have a real impact. One of the slights that I feel as an artist that 112 had on us was video-wise you didn’t really get a sense of who we were as artists, or who we were as people. You knew we were this ultimate group but you didn’t know who Q was, who Mike was, who Slim was or who Daron was. This will definitely define me as Michael Keith. That’s what I’m about right now, building up this brand, keeping the whole machine going and letting the fans know that 13 years of being fans didn’t go away just cause I dipped out am no longer in the group.

SS: Yeah, because a lot of us had been wondering what was going on with 112. R&B has really faltered, especially in the area of male groups. Right now, you got Brutha, and Day 26. How do you feel about Day 26, the male R&B group over at Bad Boy?
MK: I honestly feel that these guys are very talented and Ifeel like if they were on another label they would definitely prosper. But being under the shadow of 112 like that, its hard for anybody to come after a machine like that. Not to discredit these dudes, because I’m pretty sure they’re some nice guys and they’re just as talented as I think they are from looking at Making The Band. But at the same time, when you have a machine the way 112 was a machine, everybody that’s there is gonna say “112 did it like this, or 112 sang it like that or 112 rocked it like this” the comparisons are always gonna be there. I mean for Christ’s sake they got two dudes in the group one named Q and the other named Mike!

SS: Ha ha haaaaa! I never thought about that!
MK: You know what I’m sayin’? Yeah you gotta think about that. Adding one more dude but you’re still gonna always be compared to 112. I don’t know for me if that’s something I would have been willing to do, to go out and be signed to that label. Maybe that was the only label that was gonna give them the opportunity to be a group and if that’s the case then so be it. But if everything was in a perfect world, I would have gone somewhere else because the machine that was left in their stead, that 112 machine… whew! We had our fanbase without a Making The Band 3 or Making The Band 4; we felt like we had put in that grind work, which I know these dudes did, ‘cause I don’t want it to seem like I’m dissing these dudes whatsoever. But it’s just, when you’re a part of creating something like what we did with the Bad Boy Era. To even say that... we were a part of that. That’s something you can hang your hat on and something that my kids can be proud of me for. The five original acts that were on Bad Boy was Faith, Craig Mack, Big, Total, and 112. Those were the ones that set that template. You either had to step up or step down. You comin after that, you comin after a machine like Craig Mack, Biggie, Faith, Total, 112… come on man…

SS: Yeah, y’all are a tough act to follow. My hats off to y’all and to Day 26 for trying to fill the shoes but 112 is a tough act to follow, it’s not going to be easy.
MK: It’s gonna be hard, it’s gonna be challenging for someone to come in and have that same kinda influence. That’s the biggest thing I see for these young guys like Brutha and Day 26. The biggest obstacle they’re going to have is getting over that hump of what people view as good music, because Jagged Edge and 112…

SS: That’s it!
MK: Those two groups right there represented for 5-6 good years strong. If you were an R&B group, between us two you couldn’t even stand on us. You gotta give credit where credit is due, 112 and Jagged Edge put it down for years. From the same city, we put it down! The biggest obstacle right now is to get past the old generation of 112 and Jagged Edge and create your own niche because trying to do what we did is counterproductive, it’s unintelligent. You always want to move forward. We fashioned ourselves between a mix of Boyz II Men and Jodeci. We wanted our image to be like the good guys, smooth harmonies from Boyz II Men but we had the vocal singing ability and the soulfulness of a Jodeci. We still had the black leather on and we were still kinda edgy but at the same time you could still take us home to momma. That was our niche. We knew we couldn’t be Boyz II Men, we knew couldn’t be Jodeci, so maybe a culmination of the two. That’s what these guys are gonna have to be, a culmination of Jagged Edge and 112 because those are the ones that were selling serious records! Honestly I can’t remember nobody else right now.

SS: Now you mentioned Total, have you heard from them? Where are they?
MK: It’s been some years, I know they’re married and happy right now.

SS: So they ain’t comin back!
MK: That’s the last thing I heard. I saw Keisha not too long ago. Kima’s been married for years, she’s happy. I haven’t really seen Pam. To be honest with you I miss the old crew. Seeing 'Notorious' (the movie) the other day, it really touched me in a way that unless you were there you won’t really get. It just reminded me of all those cold nights in the studio trying to figure out what the next hit was gonna be, and us livin with Faith and Faith livin with us and Total stayin in our apartment; those are things that you hold on to. Not necessarily goin’ out and being in the parties every night and seein what you can screw every night. It wasn’t really about that. It was about those memories that really make it worthwhile. It’s just, I miss the old crew, the whole Bad Boy thing I wish things would have lasted forever but when my man BIG passed it’s like everything just went south.

SS: Yeah I was gonna ask you, having worked with Biggie how you felt about the movie.
MK: I felt like the movie was a great representation I do agree with Lil Kim though, I don’t feel as though she was portrayed right in that movie. What I saw, she wasn’t like that. I guess you tryna do it so people will come see the movie and I understand that, but overall the movie was a great movie. Dude, he reminded me of BIG, he really reminded me of BIG. But honestly I couldn’t even watch the end. The whole truck situation, I had to get up and leave the theater. I don’t know how the movie ended ‘cause I just couldn’t - I know the story and how the story ends, but as far as the movie, I couldn’t watch it. I thought I had gotten past all that, but obviously not.

SS: Yeah it touched a lot of people especially the ending. Hip hop lost a great icon, a great guy with Biggie, and Bad Boy hasn’t been the same since. So getting back to the album, are you performing or touring right now?
MK: I have a show coming up on Valentine’s Day which I’m very excited about because that will be my first official show. I’m getting ready for that, and this is what I’m ready to do because I know that once I get out into the public and people start seeing how good of a performer I am. People know what I was able to do when I sung the Playa, and the Missin’ You and things like that, but it’s my full set. Just me singing my songs off my album, it’s gonna really show the world just how special this album is. That’s my whole campaign, that’s how I want to do this album, get out and sing and continue building. I am starting a promotional tour in addition to doing club dates and things like that. I’m planning on working out something with the USO (United Service Organizations). I’m really hoping that I can tour with these guys because our troops definitely need that inspiration and need to know that they’re forgotten. And anything I can do to boost that morale, I’mma get out there and do it because they sacrifice so much for us. Hopefully, God willing, the USO situation will happen. I think we’re close but I can’t get into the specifics but it’s something I’m working on. Just promote, promote promote!

SS: That would be a good look, performing for the troops. Man, you just gave me a moment, you said Playa and that totally took me back!
MK: Yeah man…

SS: I gotta hear that one as soon as we get done. So what are your plans for the future? Any other avenues of business?
MK: Absolutely, with the industry the way it is. When I started back in ’96 all you really could be was a musician. Nowadays, everything is so open. You have all these artists now like Ludacris and Nelly, and Will.I.Am in this new movie with Hugh Jackman. The doors are open now for everybody. I’m in the gym, pumpin up getting ready to go out to LA to start doing my acting thing.

SS: That’s wassup!
MK: Just trying to keep things moving. I do plan on doing more philanthropic situations, can’t get into specifics just yet, but I do wanna work with kids and do more philanthropy. I wanna do fundraising for different foundations and stuff. I’d like to find one foundation that I can really wrap myself around and really be a part of. So I definitely want tp be an icon, I want to be legendary. The way you do that is the way Bono does it, the way Sting does it the way Madonna does it. Anybody that’s heard and whose name is across all genres they do philanthropy. It’s not for publicity; it’s something I’ve really felt inclined to do as a member of 112. We used to do things for breast cancer, and the YMCA, but it never really got to a point where it was part of who we were as artists. I definitely want this to be something that is a part of me and a part of my legacy. I feel like its necessary and we are role models and it’s time for us to give back and not take all the time. So that’s what I plan on doing with the music, philanthropy and movies I’m trying to do as much as I can. In films, I definitely wanna direct, I’m co-directing the next video. It’s time.

SS: The show on Valentine’s Day, is that in Atlanta?
MK: Nah it’s in Auburn, Auburn University in Alabama. I don’t have all the specifics, but it’s gonna be a lot of women that’s ready to fall in love and my album is just what they need. I got everything they could possibly want and need as far as love is concerned.

SS: Do you have any favorite tracks?
MK: If you ask me Monday, I’ll tell you something different than I’d tell you Tuesday. I love the album so much because it encompasses everything that has happened to me in the last two years. On Monday, it might be Off Up in This Bedroom, Tuesday I might be feelin Love, Wednesday I might be feelin Picture Me Ridin'. It’s definitely my baby, my project, my baby. I put my ten fingers and 10 toes into it. I love the whole project but off the rip, I would say No More Tears I definitely feel and Love is a song I definitely feel, just off the rip.

SS: Those are two of my favorites along with Off Up In This Bedroom since you mentioned that one, I like that one...
MK: I definitely appreciate it man cause I can tell that you really listened to the album and that's what it's about.

SS: Oh yeah, Most def. So man I appreciate you taking the time out to talk to the Suavv Magazine audience and the Sound-Savvy audience today. We wish you the best with your project. Definitely wish you the best with the 112 situation, I see you guys coming back. You made a comment earlier - everybody I talk to and myself included, when we think of the best groups of the 90's 112 is probably the first group that comes to mind.
MK: I appreciate that

SS: I definitely put you guys up in the group with Boyz II Men and New Edition. 112 was the group that came behind that. After the Boyz II Men and New Edition Era there was 112.
MK: I definitely appreciate that man. Seriously you don't know how hard it is to get someone to basically admit that. But we know in our hearts how much time and how much we put into the sound and everything. We even worked with Boyz II Men and for those dudes to pass the torch to us, that meant a lot to us. It means they recognized our craft as well but at the same time I'm one of those dudes that's never satisfied, so even if we are the greatest group in the world, we need to be the greatest group in the universe. That's my mentality, but I definitely appreciate that Rob, and I appreciate the magazine for allowing me to just speak my mind. you can go purchase the album. Thank you very much, God bless y'all.

1 Comment

  1. Elton Said,

    Great interview. The interviewer asked the questions that the fans want to hear, but also made a good connection with Mike. He didn't come across as trying to dig up like most people in the media, and it seemed like a conversation between two friends that just met. I usually don't commend people doing interviews, but listening to this guy made me feel compelled to do it. As for Mike I'm glad that a video is coming out for "No More Tears." That way women will finally know what song I'm talking about when I'm singing it to them. lol And the interviewer is right about 112 being one of the first people you think of when mentioning 90s male groups. Outside of Boyz II Men they sold the most(even more than Jodeci), and they're one of the most successful R&B groups of all time. The only people off the top of my head that sold more albums than them are the Temptations, Boyz II Men, and the Jackson 5. After that 112 starts to get in that mix. Personally they're my favorite artist, but you at least gotta respect how big they are in the industry. Here's hoping for that 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, to 18th album.

    Posted on February 7, 2009 at 2:35 AM


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