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  • November 18 Mint Along With The Sounds Get Love from Home!

  • (From City Pages, A MN Weekly Paper)

    Twin Cities black pop is less a sleeping giant than a waking one surrounded by a sleeping music scene. That point was never brought home more forcefully than when Next signed to Arista right out of the community-center circuit to record the biggest-selling Minnesota single ever, 1997's "Too Close." Yet the harmony-funk trio was following the example of two long-lived local soul groups who knew the young crew, both with similarly low profiles at home and the means to bring the world to their music.

    On first listen, the gospel-rooted collective Sounds of Blackness and the rhythm-and-blues sextet Mint Condition are as dissimilar from each other as they are from Next, but both share an eclecticism and ensemble identity that have blurred their pop image, perhaps holding their star low along the horizon. Both acts were taken under the wing of producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, signing to the duo's A&M subsidiary Perspective Records in its late-Eighties ascendancy. After the imprint folded in 1996, Mint eventually signed to Elektra/Asylum, and Sounds to Zinc Records, the upstart indie owned by ex-Prince and the Revolution drummer Bobby Z.

    Now both bands have what may be career-making new albums of versatile pop soul that sound surprisingly of-the-moment considering that they come from such veterans. The two works feel as simultaneously contemporary and old school as a classic Thunderbird low-rider rewired with a Global Positioning System and MiniDisc player. Even so, neither Sounds, a 30-member orchestra that debuted with "Optimistic" in 1991, nor Mint, an R&B band known for their chart-topping anti-OPP slow jam "What Kind of Man Would I Be," downplay their wholesomeness. (Sounds' The Night Before Christmas...remains the only Minnesota album my parents own.)

    The equally omnivorous Mint Condition would similarly leave the pesky job of crafting an image to people less busy making music, though the musicians are sharp dressers, and lead singer Stokely Williams maintains a distinctive, medium-sized patch of neat dreadlocks. Rather than build one member into a star and risk obscuring their six-member democracy, though, Mint Condition approach their songs from six directions, putting everyone's ideas on the assembly line. When off the road, the members spend most of their time in the Twin Cities relaxing, though they maintain a nearly nonexistent live presence here.

    Like Hines, Mint's Williams won't be pinned down on a favorite genre. Speaking over the phone from a promotional tour stop in Los Angeles, he reports that he has been switching Cuban diva Celia Cruz, the Roots, early Chaka Khan, and the Cardigans on his CD player. Despite the way his new, fourth album, Aquarium, playfully flips from Tony! Toni! Toné! dance-funk to the requisite bedroom balladry to tangoed silliness and dance-rock rave-ups, it all sounds of a piece.

    "In some ways, this album's probably more focused than our others," Williams allows. "We've still got the ballads, but this one is equally strong in mid- and uptempos."

    Like the Isley Brothers in their underrated Seventies heyday, Mint Condition jell around two prominent voices: Williams's compelling alto, and the subtly atmospheric, loopy squeals of guitarist Homer O'Dell. With bassist Ricky Kinchen, keyboardist Keri Lewis, sax player Jeffrey Allen, and keyboardist Lawrence Waddell filling out the group, Mint are perhaps most recognized by R&B heads as that increasingly rare late-Nineties species: an African-American band that plays contemporary soul styles live, with "real" instruments. Hailed for 1996's Definition of a Band, which critic Tonya Pendleton dubbed one of the ten most important soul releases of the Nineties, Mint were soon joining Toni Braxton on the road and receiving fan mail from TLC. Without making a show of it, the musicians managed to equate manhood with bandhood, harking back to a local tradition that many thought went the way of publicly worn garters and mirrored trench coats.

    Half a generation younger than the Seventies funk-soul-brotherhood led by Prince in Minneapolis, Mint Condition's members grew up in St. Paul closely following the fortunes of Prince-associated bands like the Family, his Grand Central, and Jam and Lewis's Flyte Tyme. Like those groups, who learned their licks in school and at the Way Community Center on Minneapolis's north side, Mint Condition began their musical education in the classroom. As Purple Rain washed over the world, band members attended music classes at St. Paul Central.

    "It was a magnet arts program, as they called it," Williams says. "They had a studio class and a steel-drum class, and we got involved." Williams kept his drum, and its distinctive West Indian plink pops up on one of Aquarium's hidden tracks, "Decuervo's Revenge." (The only non-band local brought in for the sessions was expert Brazilian and Cuban jazz percussionist and Artist accomplice Esther Godinez.)

    Speaking wistfully of his longtime admiration of local blues-funk greats Dr. Mambo's Combo, Williams seems to sense that he's got a tradition to uphold. But he has mixed feelings about being "the last band" in a shrinking field.

    "There's no direct competition right now for what we're doing," he says. "But it's kind of a sad thing as well. That means all these programs in school are cut, so nobody's learning any of these instruments. That's the first thing that's gonna get cut, because they aren't gonna cut no sports."

    Aquarium's organic mix of live instruments and programming was recorded song by song in six different home studios around town--one belonging to each band member. Williams believes the fluid results came from the ability to record spontaneously in the studio. "They tried that whole multitrack thing before," he says of earlier collaborators, "but it was defeating our whole purpose as a band. So we had to stick to our guns: We signed as a band, and we're going to stay a band. We get a lot of love from people who say, Keep doin' what you're doin', be strong: It'll happen."

  • November 17 Mint Did The MN Thing!

  • Mint celebrated the release of "Life's Aquarium" right here in MN yesterday. First appearing at Urban Lights Music & then the album release party at South Beach. Mint represented in both spots & the fans/friends helped celebrate the release of the new project (including me). I have alot of pics, so stay tuned to the site for the coming days for new pics of Mint! I also got some Mint things autographed for some give-aways including the new CD & some posters. Stay tuned!


  • November 15 Mint Doing The MN Thing!

  • Out of all of the places Mint could be on the day of their album release, they choose to kick it here in MN. That's right for the MN fans on-line. Mint will be doing the runs tomorrow. First they will appear on KMOJ radio (time unknown) I believe with Q-Bear in the morning. Then they will be going over to kick it with Tim at Urban Lights where they will sign copies of their new release "Life's Aquarium." Tomorrow is the day, so GO OUT & PICK THE ALBUM UP. It's four stars for real. Check the site later this week for exclusive pics & some other things!

  • November 6 Wanna Own "Life's Aquarium" Now?

  • Someone on Ebay is selling an advance copy of Mint's new CD. If you want to get it before it's released CLICK HERE. Mint is doing great on the charts with "If You Love Me", this week it moves to #5 on Billboards Hot R&B singles & #43 on the Hot 100. Go out this week & buy the single again & request it on the radio, so we can make Mint #1 next week!

  • October 27 "If You Love Me" #11

  • Thanks to us that went out & got the "If You Love Me" single last week. It's currently the 11th biggest R&B single in the country. Last week it was #43, but with sales it came up. Keep supporting Mint!

  • October 27 "If You Love Me"

  • DALE SOLIVEN, MD, XHTZ, San Diego says MINT CONDITION If You Love Me (ELEKTRA) - The Spanglish version is bangin'! Just added to their playlist this week. The single is currently #16 on the urban airplay chart.

  • October 24 "Mint does the "teen" thing"

  • Mint condition appeared on "Teen Summit" yesterday. I missed it both times:( I heard the guys did a great job (of course). I'm sure they loved doing it being they had a chance to "really" play live unlike on "Soul Train." I'm trying to work it out so that I can get an exclusive interview with Mint Condition just for "10 Million Strong." Just like I did with Shanice in August for "Shanice World." I'll keep you posted. For everyone that still hasn't had a chance to read my interview with Shanice in Atlanta, go check out "Shanice World".
    Shanice World!

  • October 22 "Something I found & 1000 Hits!"

  • I was looking through my Mint archive yesterday & found this ad for the "You Don't Have To Hurt No More" single.

    Kinda cool huh? I'm happy to report that "10 Million Strong" has had over 1000 hits since October 6th. I'm happy about that & I hope the website & guest continues to grow. Much love Mint fanz!

  • October 21 "Experimenting With Sound"

  • By Jeff Lorenz
    Just what is a fully-fledged, living, breathing R&B sextet doing releasing records on a major label in this day and age? If you thought that the romantic concept of an R&B band died out with Afros and bellbottoms, think again. Mint Condition, the group originally signed to Perspective Records by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis in 1992, is now on to album No. 4, Life's Aquarium. (The title "reflects the diversity of cultures, people, and sound.") Now with a new label, Elektra, the group is hoping to embark on its most fruitful period to date.

    "Basically we went in and asked for a release," explains bassist Rickey Kinchen of Mint Condition's departure from its previous label home, A&M. "They were happy with the last record because it went gold, and we weren't. We both saw ourselves differently, so it was time to move on."

    Of course, economic realities require that Mint Condition continue to be successful and sell records. So far, each of its albums (Meant To Be Mint, From The Mint Factory, and Definition Of A Band) have managed to yield one hit single--"Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)," "U Send Me Swingin'," and "What Kind Of Man Would I Be," respectively--that has facilitated the inevitable album-support tour as well as the group's overall survival. Therefore, important factors such as radio play were definitely taken into consideration during the making of Mint Condition's new album.

    "We wanted something that would be able to fit in between the other songs on the radio without losing our identity," Kinchen says of the contemporary programmed beats that undercut many of Life's Aquarium's songs. One has to wonder if, as a band noted for its musical dexterity, Mint Condition found it constricting having to tone down its natural flair to cater to radio.

    "One day we're gonna do a more musical album or some kind of rock alternative album," assures keyboardist Keri Lewis. "We have a lot of different influences in the band, so if we do something that sounds really commercial it's because one of the guys is really into commercial music. If we do something with a Latin feel or a rap feel or Jimi Hendrix or Led Zeppelin, it's because someone really likes that."

    The first single from the new album, "Pretty Lady," sees the group playing it far closer to home, drawing on a far more obvious influence, '80s funk gods the Gap Band, with Gap's lead singer Charlie Wilson trading vocals with Mint's vocalist/ drummer Stokely.

    "He actually said that he felt a lot more freedom from working with us than from being with his brothers," says Stokely of the recording session. "I think with [the Gap Band] it's a lot more regimented. There was a lot of energy in the studio that day, which I think translates to the record."

    Like all musicians worth their salt, the men of Mint Condition--Stokely, Kinchen, Lewis, guitarist O'Dell, keyboardist Larry Waddell, and saxophonist Jeff Allen, who have all played as hired hands for other artists, including a stint as Toni Braxton's touring band--agree that their resilience has been forged from the dues they've paid over the years. "I remember when our first album came out, it wasn't really happening and we had to go out and support it on tour," recalls Lewis. "We had no money, no techs, we were setting up the equipment ourselves in the rain, playing to small places, but everywhere we played, that's where the record happened. It's been rough at times, but one thing we never lost sight of is the fact that we're fortunate to be able to do what we love doing and make a living from it."

  • October 14 "If You Love Me"

  • Don't forget the single for "If You Love Me" WILL BE in stores this Tuesday. I have also learned that there will be a maxi also. Meaning some remixes will be on sale also. Support Mint & get the single(s)!

  • October 14 "THE ALBUM, LIL MINT & THE CHAT"

  • The album is wonderful (of course), I'm listening to it as I type this. I have to say my favorite track right now is "Who Can You Trust" & it's not even a ballad. That song is too real, I'm lovin' it. "Be Like That Sometimes" is another favorite & "Tonight." What can I say, I like the whole thing. Not to mention the two bonus cuts after "Leave Me Alone", Mint has done it yet again! I was gonna scan the pics in the J-Card, but there're already on the site in the photos section. All of the pics are already on the official sites. I did scan the one above from the J-Card though. The album is dedicated to Michelle Thomas, which is real cool. Some will remember she was in the "What Kind Of Man" video. Mint also gives thanks to two of my friends Sue Owens from Flyte Tyme ("Sue you da s***, lol") only she would know what I mean & Terry Lewis. They also give thanks to Pete Rhodes, who is a really cool person around these parts, I use to work for him, he owns a radio station & runs Black Music Expo here in Minneapolis. So happy to see Mint still showing love to home. Them cats will never change & that's why there're the greatest! BUY THE ALBUM NOVEMBER 16TH. I will still be buying two copies even with a promo, I gotta support home.

    Ever heard of the group Imajin? Well if not where ya been? Imajin is like a lil Mint Condition. They write, produce & yes even play their own instruments. Their always giving Mint Condition props in interviews & now their doing it on wax. Their new single "Flava" samples "Breaking My Heart." Make sure you support them brothas because there're relly some cool talented dudes & I'm hearing great things about their debut CD that should drop next month also.

    Hey Mint fam. Don't forget to take part in the chat event in TMF on Saturday Oct. 16th @ 8pm PST. All that is required is that you have registered (for free) with Delphi! No Mint band members will be present on this one, just some friendly conversation on the Soul Train episode. (From Lisa) So make sure you make it, so we can talk about the tightest band around after we catch them on Soul Train!

  • October 12 "SOUL TRAIN" "THIS WEEK"

  • Although it said it would air next month, the "Soul Train" addition with Mint Condition WILL AIR THIS WEEKEND!!! Here's a pic from the show & an interview Mint also did at the taping!

    STM: So what do your fans have to look forward to on this new album?

    Stokely: Excitement. We got, on this one, of course, more ballads. We got a lot more up-tempo, a lot more mid-tempo songs, a lot of emotion like you always get from Mint Condition, and a couple surprises.

    Rick: [It's] a good album, a solid album. When you go to the store and buy this record, you're not going to buy three songs - you're going to buy an album.

    Stokely: A deep album.

    STM: In your own words, what sets you apart from other R&B groups?

    Stokely: For one, we're a band, you know, a self-contained instrument. We're instrumentalists primarily. And pretty much when we say self-contained we mean that. It's like from the inception of a song we writing in teams, all together sometimes. Then we go on to the next step, you know, which is you record it, then you go and produce it, arranging it, then to now, the stage.

    STM: Besides the instrument that each of you play, what role does each of you play in the band?

    Rick: I'm the band photographer. I was fortunate, I guess, to do all the portraits in the new video and stuff like that, so that was great.

    Stokely: Larry is like the band pilot. He can fly planes. We're trying not to have one of those major tradgedies though, so we been tryin' to split it up.

    Larry: They won't fly with me.

    O'Dell: He just flies equipment around, but we're gonna get close to flying with him soon.

    Rick: Better not let nothin' happen to my guitar!

    STM: How has your sound evolved from your first album to this album now?

    Stokely: I think as you live you experience things in life and you grow more. It's like we don't read the same books we used to five, six years ago. You gotta change. It's just like winter, spring, summer, fall. I mean, there's changes you gotta go through in each one of those seasons, there's something that develops.

    Rick: Sounds. New equipment you purchase. You know, there's newer drum sounds, there's a lot of things.

    STM: It's been three years since your last album. What have you guys been doing?

    Rick: Well actually, in between that time we did a lot of touring and stuff like that. We toured overseas - Belgium, Paris, Germany. We had the opportunity to play a lot of places. So it actually wasn't three years that we've been actually off. We switched the label. We were with A & M Perspective, and now we're with Elektra, and just taking on hobbies and stuff like that - [Larry's] flying and me doing photography - everybody's been doing a lot of different things on our little time off.

    STM: So who did you work with on this album?

    Rick: [Looking around at his bandmates] Jeff, Larry, O'Dell, there's Keri...

    STM: Self-contained, right?

    Stokely: And Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band was the only outside person we used.

    STM: Now is there anyone you guys would really, really like to work with in the future?

    Stokely: There's a lot of people. It's just time... the time's just gotta be right too, I think, on everthing.

    O'Dell: But this project, the song with Charlie Wilson was like perfect. His voice just... whew! It's a song that's like right here, but his voice just takes it right on in to where it needs to be - home run! It's called "Pretty Lady," written by Stokely, and this brother here, Ricky, so look out for it.

    STM: When you guys first got together, looking at yourselves now, are you right at the place you thought you were gonna be? Are you further that you thought you were gonna be? Are you just right? Did you project it?

    Stokely: I think yeah, because our main objective is longevity and being able to maintain a certain level. It didn't have to be at a mega-status, but at a consistent status where we're comfortable, and I think that's the thing we've been playing for. So, I guess to answer your question, yeah.

  • October 12 "I GOT IT"

  • Yesterday I got my promo copy of "Life's Aquarium." I haven't had the time to play it yet, but I will today & give me feedback tomorrow or later today. I'm also gonna scan the pics & things, so on November 16th, you'll know what to look for in the record store. I can't wait to listen to the whole thing.

  • October 6 "A NEW SITE"

  • Well I did it. After almost a year of talking about it, I've started my Mint Condition site. I wanted to wait on the eve of the new album's release & I did. The album will be in stores on November 16, so we still have time to promote the tightest & talentest band around! You can read on the main page why I wanted to do a Mint site? I can say this, make sure you check this site from now on, because it will have all of the latest Mint news, pics & music as soon as it's available. I gotta represent my hometown peeps, Enjoy "10 Million Strong!"


  • The single for the first single "If You Love Me" will be in stores on October 19th. Make sure you pick it up & help our boys reach the top 10, hell #1. Also make sure you request the track on the radio. Visit to request it on urban stations across the U.S. The single is currrently #21 on the urban airplay chart & #17 on the Urban AC chart. With the release of the single, I'm sure we're gonna see it fly into the top 10.

  • October 6 "MINT ON THE TUBE"

  • Mint will make many T.V appearances soon. Including The Queen Latifah Show, Motown Live, Soul Train & many more. So keep checking back to our TV/Tour section for the dates when there're available.