112 was released on August 27, 1996 by Bad Boy Records. 112 arrived on a musical landscape where R&B music was at its peak for mainstream audiences. During this juncture, there were a plethora of R&B groups making their mark on the industry and opening doors for new acts to breakthrough. The opportunity to capitalize on this momentum was made available and 112 seized the opportunity in the stellar fashion.
Bad Boy Records was the newest label on the scene and their youthful exuberance shined through with the hot acts they were signing in both the R&B and Hip Hop genres respectively. 112 became the second R&B act signed by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and he clearly saw something in the quartet ages ranging from 17-19. The group failed to disappoint with their debut offering and left quite the impression on the multitude of music fans worldwide.
This album would introduce the group as an alternative choice from the other R&B groups on the music charts. Their style of rhythm and blues was reminiscent of Boyz II Men and many of the forefather R&B groups throughout the history of R&B music. Each of the 19 songs on the album highlighted the four part harmonies of Michael Keith and Daron Jones and lead singers Marvin “Slim” Scandrick and Quinnes “Q” Parker. It would also showcase the production talents of group member Daron Jones, up and coming Bad Boy Hitmen producer, Steven “Stevie J.” Jordan, Tim & Bob, Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men and Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. All of these elements proved to be explosive once the album hit stores in the late summer of 1996.
The concept for the group was formulated by Daron Jones and Michael Keith when they were in 7th grade. 112 formed as a group in 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia while attending the same high school. They were originally a quintet and their group name was Forte, which was an acronym for Forever On Route to Excellence.
After various line up changes with different group members, co-founders Daron Jones and Michael Keith recruited Marvin “Slim” Scandrick and Quinnes “Q” Parker to become part of the group. The group began to build a legendary reputation around their hometown of Atlanta by winning consecutive singing competitions. They eventually gained the attention of producers Tim & Bob and managers Courtney Sills and Kevin Wales.
As the story goes, the group was brought in to perform for Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs at the famous Buckhead 112 Club in Atlanta, Georgia. It would be here where they would obtain the name for their group. After receiving a co-sign from Faith Evans and Chucky Thompson, Combs signed the quartet to his label to become his first male R&B collective. A year later, the group would release their debut album and the rest would be history.
Between the months of February 1995-January 1996, 112 was recorded at Daddy’s House studios in New York, New York.
SoulCulture recently sat down with co-founder Daron Jones and producer Steven “Stevie J.” Jordan to discuss how the album developed from beginning to end.
Jones recalls how the group was signed and the creative influences behind making the album.
“We were at the 112 club parking lot initially,” says Jones. “Later on we had another meeting there when Faith and Usher were there. We sang a song for Puff and that’s really what sealed the deal. Faith was the one to tell him that he should sign us. I don’t know if he was uncertain or not, but back then people were saying that he asked Faith what she thought of us. At that time, she was the one of the true singers at the label so he confided in her to see what her thoughts were. From what we heard, she told him, ‘You’re crazy if you don’t sign those boys.’
“At that time I was just a musician. I started playing music for my church when I was young. I was always into R&B and Hip Hop. I was very into the music, but I didn’t know the business side of it at all. I didn’t know how much producing went in to finishing a song. I had that organic musicianship and I was just hungry back then. I was so young and I would sleep on the studio floor and just stay in the studio creating music because I was so hungry.
“I stayed in the studio to see how I could take my musicianship to the next level. The next level for me was doing tracks for other people’s albums outside of just playing the piano. I was doing what felt natural to me and that helped shape the sound for the group.
“Boyz II Men had a lot of influence on that album because a lot of the songs that made the first 112 album were songs that didn’t make the last Boyz II Men album. The songs that were produced by Tim & Bob like ‘Can I Touch You’ and ‘Now That We’re Done.’ Those songs actually helped to shape what the sound of the album would be also.
“Once you get the foundation for the album, you can follow the rest the script. You will be able to know which direction you want to go vocally then you will be able to shape the album around that. So we knew there would be a lot of harmonies, riffs and rhymes. And it was going to be sensual because those original Boyz II Men songs followed those concepts.”
Jordan remembers how he became involved with the record.
“When I came onto the project, I had just left working with Jodeci and being on tour with them as a musician, songwriter and a background vocalist,” says Jordan.
“So I came into the 112 project with all of that energy from being with Jodeci on the road. I felt like this young group had all of the proper utensils to go to the next level. It was just this young, fresh energy there and we ran with it through the entire album. There were a lot of late nights in doing the album, but no rough patches at all.
“The guys already had something with them. It seemed like they were chosen already. When I first heard them sing I said to myself, ‘This is going to be easy.’ They knew their harmonies and their notes. I pretty much got together with them on a musicianship tip and assisted with their writing. Once we got together, we got it in as quickly as we could.”
Jones discusses the impact that Stevie J. had on him and Jordan speaks about what he brought to the table as a musician.
“Stevie J. had a lot of musical influence on our first album,” says Jones. “To me, he was the best producer at Bad Boy. He came in with live instruments like the guitar and just an organic music sound. He came in at a time when a lot of people were sampling and synthesizing. He was coming in with the real instruments and that had a huge effect on our overall sound. On our duet with Faith, he played live guitar and drums on that record. People were hearing live instrumentation on records back then, but they were being sampled.
“Stevie J. was a real mentor to me. I was the young kid who was gifted musically, but I didn’t know the ins and outs of production. With me being around him, it helped me get placements on that album and learn about the production side of things. Being a singer and musician is one thing, but being able to produce and write songs is another skill entirely. We were both learning from each other at the time. We produced a lot of stuff together. I was learning a lot more from him than he was from me honestly.”
“I brought a lot of different things to the table with the musicianship I acquired over the years before joining the 112 project,” says Jordan. “Working with the group Joe Public in Buffalo is where I first had a chance to do my producing thing. I went on to work with Jodeci and I brought some of the guitar stuff from Joe Public, the R&B chords from Devante and a little bit of bass stuff as well. It was really a cool process for me.”
Jones recollects the studio atmosphere during the recording of the album.
“There was a lot of energy in the studio back then because Bad Boy was just starting out as a label,” says Jones. “There were three different rooms where different producers would be working in. We had the A Room, the Midi Room and the B Room. There was always people working in the studio or bringing another person through to use the studio. It was really jumpin’. We would be in the studio working on some of the songs and Puff would come in and tell us how he didn’t like something. He did it so often that we eventually told him to leave us alone and he left us alone to work on the material. We would spend like 6 hours working on a song and then Puff would come saying we needed to change this and that so much that we told him to just stay away. [laughing]”
Jones expresses the group’s feelings behind the making of the first single from the album, ‘Only You.’
“We hated ‘Only You,’ says Jones. “The only thing that made us like that song was the remix that featured Biggie. We liked Slim’s part in the original song, but Slim hated his part in the song though. ‘Only You’ wasn’t a record that was showcasing us vocally the way we wanted to be showcased vocally. There wasn’t a whole lot of riffs and runs and it wasn’t our best harmonies or our best ballad.
“We said to each other this song wasn’t going to do anything because it was just a beat. We didn’t look at it from the perspective of it being a club banger or a hot song because we were four vocalists in a group and our lead single was going to be different than what we were used to doing. Once Biggie hopped on the remix, we thought Biggie kilt it, but on the original it was one of those songs we weren’t really feeling. We wanted to put out ‘Now That We’re Done’ as our first single back then because it showcased our vocal ranges and abilities.
“During this time, you had radio program directors and they had a certain format to follow. Their tempo was a certain tempo that they needed for their listeners. We wanted to put out ‘Now That We’re Done’ as the first single. Puff told us he was talking to program directors all day long and they were telling him what their formats were going to be and what tempos the songs needed to be on. Puff told us to give him something that resembled this because we were trying to win. It was that business side that Puff had, which we couldn’t see being performers and musicians.”
“Only You” co-written by Stevie J., Combs and 112 went on to peak at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and #3 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart in the early summer of 1996.
The next single to follow “Only You” was the smooth track “Come See Me.” Jones spoke briefly on how the song came together.
“Come See Me” was a song produced by Tim & Bob. It was developed in the studio and we added Mr. Cheeks from the Lost Boyz later on after the track was completed.”
112 – “Come See Me”:
“Come See Me” peaked at #33 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and #15 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart.
The final single to be released from the album would be the classic “Cupid.” Jones tells a fascinating story on how the song came to fruition.
“On “Cupid” I remember we were newly signed to Bad Boy and we were trying to find our way as artists on the label,” says Jones. “I remember we wanted a song from Babyface. Babyface was charging a certain amount for a song and we were trying to get Babyface to come under budget and give us a song or work with us on a budget. Someone set up a meeting and we sang a song for him to see if he would work within the budget we had. So we sung for him and he didn’t want to work with the budget we had at that time. The song ‘Cupid’ was inspired from that because I said to myself I could write a Babyface type of song. Arnold Hennings and I produced on that song together.”
“Cupid” peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and #2 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart.
Jones and Jordan went on to provide insight on the tracks they produced for the remainder of the album.
“’Now That We’re Done’ was a Boyz II Men song and we were in the studio with Wanya Morris one day,” says Jones. “It was a cool time because both him and Brandy were in the studio with us. Wanya was producing the vocals for the song. It was a fun time back then because Wanya was one of the guys I looked up to and we were in the studio trying to figure out who was going to sing Wanya’s part in the song.
“I ended up being the one to sing that song and I murdered it. I was completely shocked about how good it sounded. I came out of the booth and Brandy was telling me to teach her how to do some runs and riffs and I was like ‘Who? Me.’ Because I was the dude in the group who couldn’t sing. In high school, I wasn’t the one in the group singing that much. I’ll never forget that day.”
112 – “Now That We’re Done”:
“’Pleasure and Pain’ and ‘Throw It All Away’ were songs I wrote with a friend of mine in Atlanta years before we got signed to Bad Boy,” says Jones. “Once I got to New York, I was in the studio singing this song one day and Stevie did his production thing on it.”
“’Pleasure and Pain’ was Daron’s creation if I’m not mistaken,” says Jordan. “I heard this interlude and Puff asked me if I could turn this into a record. I sat down with Daron and I made the track and he played the chords on the record. Classic songs like that bring back certain memories for me.”
112 – “Pleasure and Pain”:
“Why (Interlude)” was produced by Tim & Bob, “Sexy You (Interlude)” was produced by Stevie J and I and “Keep It Real (Interlude) was produced by me.
“‘Call My Name’ was a song where Puff and I had a disagreement, says Jones. “But that happens in this industry a lot. It was one of those times where we told Puff that he wasn’t a musician and that we needed our creative space to work in to make good records. It wasn’t any disrespect toward him because we respected him and the position he was in at that time. The song ended up being on the album.”
“’I Will Be There’ was a song where I was experimenting with producing because at the time I was just learning how to produce,” says Jones. “Everything I was producing I was being coached by Stevie J on what to do and what not to do. When I would be in the Midi Room, I would go into the studio to perfect my craft. One day, Puff came into the studio and said ‘Yo, that’s hot right there!’ and it was this song. This was the first time I could say I was producing actual songs now.”
“’Why Does’ was a song we worked on with Courtney Sills, who was our manager,” says Jones. “He actually introduced us to Kevin Wales and Kevin eventually introduced us to Puff. But Courtney wrote the lyrics to this song. Once we got into the studio with Tim & Bob, we got on the piano and came up with all of the melodies and harmonies. They went on to produce the song for the album.”
“’This Is Your Day; was written by Al B. Sure! for the group. At that time, he was doing a lot of songwriting for our group. He did a couple of songs for the album, but “This Is Your Day” was the only one to make it. We had the opportunity to get into the studio with him and Puff set that all up for us. When we got in the studio with Al B. Sure!, he had some hot music.”
“We were working with Dave Hollister from Blackstreet on our first album too,” says Jones. “The song we did with him didn’t make the album either. ‘Erase The Day’ was another song Al B. Sure! produced for us, but it didn’t make the album. It was one of the songs I really liked.”
112 peaked at #37 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and #5 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. The album went on to sell more than 2 million units worldwide. To this day, it’s regarded as one of the best albums released from an R&B group during the decade of the 1990s. Their debut record signified that the future of R&B music was in good hands. These four young men gave the world one more reason to love harder with their infectious ballads. 112 holds its weight among other classic albums from any group in any generation of music proving their legacy will endure through the rest of time.