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Hello Mint Condition Family, This is footage from the Fan appreciation dinner at Rudolphs given by the Mint Condition fan page at yahoo and the CD release party for Mint Condition on May 8th and 9th in Minneapolis. Copy and paste the link below in your browser httpwww.mydeo.comvideorequest. asp?XID23534CID188711
Modern, infectious soul grooves fringed with Latin and jazz, buoyed by fiery dashes of rock and funk; when musicians create ---as well as sustain---that level of quality for nearly two decades, they are more than an average group or band .they become, in fact, Mint Condition.
After five successful studio albums, over a dozen hit singles, multiple world tours and collaborations with some of the biggest stars in the genre (Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Janet Jackson, Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band and Maurice White of Earth, Wind &Fire, to name a few), Mint Condition is a rarity in today's R&B, their generation's lone example of 'old school' bands that now serve as templates for many of their peers. And it's their classic, yet contemporary approach, combined with Stokley's agile and emotive tenor, which fuels their sixth studio CD and the second release from their independent label (Cagedbird Entertainment), eLife. The recurring theme: filtering the challenges of family and relationships through the murky cosmos of the internet.Â According to their bass guitarist, Rick Kinchen, those are issues that nearly everyone's encountered before.
In fact, the perpetual balancing act is what inspired eLife's opening track, "Baby Boy Baby Girl" (featuring Anthony Hamilton). Although the celebratory song hits home for the musician, Rick says that its message is a universal one. "You'll go through all kinds of relationships, but your kids are the only ones who will be there in the end. I didn't want the song to be only about me though, so I included other situations that I've watched my friends go through as well."
Other songs expressing such struggles include the wistfully edgy "Wish I Could Love You," the angst-filled "Somethin',", featuring Little Brother's Phonte, and the CD's most intriguing cut, "Why Do We Try," showcased by a haunting backdrop of sparse beats and eerie scratches by none other than A Tribe Called Quest's "sound provider," Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Its sound is quite a departure for the band and illustrates their willingness to stretch their artistic boundaries.
And it's that sort of ingenuity keeping MC alive and thriving in the music biz. Every member of the band, including keyboardists Lawrence El and Keri Lewis, guitarist O'Dell and keyboardist/saxophonist Jeffrey, came of age in the Twin Cities (St. Paul &Minneapolis) and were inspired by Prince's electrifying hybrid of funk, soul and pop (now known as "The Minneapolis Sound,"). The young men knew of one another peripherally, but the collaborations didn't fall into place until they united under Central High School's performing arts program; O'Dell and Stokley, who had a steel drum class together, absorbed the musicians after practicing sessions in Stokley's home basement. "There was a performing arts class that we were all in," says Lawrence of that fertile period. "A lot of singers around town would hire musicians and we ended up playing in gigs together as the backing band. It happened so often that eventually, we decided to just do it all ourselves."
Even when the Perspective label folded and the band moved to Elektra, their fourth CD, Life's Aquarium, spawned the Billboard R&B top five hit, "If You Love Me." The band also ensured its longevity by building a reputation for energetic and engaging live performances.
And if the sudden implosion of record labels weren't enough of a change, another one loomed on the horizon; in 2001, two years after Aquarium's release, Keri Lewis departed from the band to produce and tour with his future wife, Toni Braxton; according to his band mates, the split was an amicable one. "We talk on the phone at least once a month and we run into him every now and then. We're even talking about him joining us on stage for a few dates this summer," says O'Dell. And in the years that followed, the band, now departed from Elektra, decided to follow Prince's iconic example and start their own label; its first release under the Cagedbird Records imprint (distributed by Image Entertainment), 2005's Livin' the Luxury Brown, debuted at number one on Billboard's Independent Albums chart and gave the band yet another R&B hit, "I'm Ready."
The CD eLife, like the band itself, is irresistibly eclectic; it positions Mint Condition as a five-man oasis in R&B's parched landscape and reinforces their relevance amongst the old and the new school. "We can straddle the fence in both worlds," Stokley says. "You can't get the full experience on CD, nor can you get it all by just watching us perform live. Stay tuned to what we're doing, because our goal is to entertain and inspire. It's about forward movement."
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