Tony! Toni! Tone! (141319)

I had the pleasure to speak with the leads in two R&B groups, bass guitarist Rick Kinchen of the talented Minneapolis R&B band Mint Condition, and D’Wayne Wiggins, one of the original members of Tony! Toni! Tone.

Both groups burst onto the music scene in the late 1980s. Mint Condition is known for their diverse R&B sound with elements of rock, funk, Latin, jazz stylings and Jamaican-based rhythms. They are known for hits such as “Believe in Us” and “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes),” which went gold. Their song “What Kind of Man Would I Be?” was so popular that it stayed on the Billboard R&B chart for a total of 41 weeks. Meanwhile, platinum record winners Toni! Toni! Tone! are best known for their hits “Anniversary” and “It Never Rains (in Southern California).”

Kinchen told me how the band got together originally. “Everyone in the band was from St. Paul general but me. I was up from Chicago. I was playing with Kevin Jackson and he had Stoke on drums and Larry on keyboards. They would invite other members like O’Dell to check me out. They would say there is this guy who’s spinning who wears a Jheri curl. They’d say, ‘The grease from his hair is spraying everyone in the crowd.’

“They talked about me doing splits and wearing tight pants. At first, they weren’t thinking of using me in the band because me and Kevin would get into it. I came from the streets and needed to learn how to talk to people and deal with people in a respectful way. I’ve grown a lot, but I guess you could still refer to me as the pit bull of the group,” said the bass guitarist, laughing.

Other Mint Condition band members include Stokley Williams (vocals and drums), Homer O’Dell (guitar), Larry Waddel (keyboards), Jeff Allen (sax and keys) and Keri Lewis (guitar and keys), who left the band to produce his wife, Toni Braxton, and other artists.

“I grew up during a great time in music. My older brothers had in their music collection bands like Parliament Funkadelic, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, War, Queen, Earth, Wind and Fire, Jimi Hendrix, Ohio Players, et al. As band members, we have listened to jazz and many styles of music that have influenced us as a band. We also do ballads. Everyone in the group writes songs. Women inspire us so we write about them and other life experiences. Everything I write is about something that has happened to me, like dating or meeting women who may need some anger management. This will be the new stuff from me. In fact, Mint Condition is in the studio right now working on our stuff and on our first Mint Condition-styled Christmas album. So you can definitely look forward to hearing a Christmas album from us this year,” said Kinchen.

Mint Condition toured with Prince, who is also from the north side of Minneapolis. “He asked if he could come up on stage and play with us and of course we said, ‘Sure, man. Go ahead and play!’” recalled Kinchen. “We then did other shows with Prince in France and Belgium, where he drew a huge crowd. It was great working with him. We are out on the road consistently, every weekend or every other weekend, so if folks want to catch up with us, they can go to Twitter or Facebook or go on to find out what we are doing.”

Family members Tony! Toni! Tone! came out of their Oakland, Calif., neighborhood with their album “Who.” “Who” went gold and spawned the No. 1 R&B hit “Little Walter.” The group consists of brothers Wiggins (vocals and guitar),

Raphael Saadiq (lead vocals and bass) and their cousin Timothy Christian Riley (drums and keyboards), and another family member, Amar Khalil, who has been with the group since 1999. The group’s first record also contained three additional R&B top 10 hits: “Born Not to Know,” “For the Love of You” and “Baby Doll.” Their second album, “The Revival,” garnered platinum status with R&B hits “It Never Rains (in Southern California),” “The Blues,” “Whatever You Want” and “Feels Good,” which went gold and won the ASCAP Award. The group won the Vocal Group of the Year NAACP Image Award and the American Music Award for Favorite R&B/Soul Group. Not to be outdone, their third record “Sons of Soul” went double platinum, charting at No. 3 (R&B). It included the hits “Anniversary” (No. 2 R&B), “(Lay Your Head On My) Pillow” (No. 4 R&B).

“The name Tony! Toni! Tone! happened to be the nickname of a roommate of mine. We were joking around and created this image because we had a certain style of dress which we called Tony Toni Tone. We joked around with the Tony! Toni! Tone! thing long before we even started the band. We used to jam at the house and did all these jam battles. Our song ‘Hey Little Walter’ was our message to folks that if you did evil and bad things, those bad things come back to you one way or the other. We always wanted our music to impart a message,” stated Wiggins.

The group has a nonprofit in the Bay area that mentors young artists and kids via schools. Check out their nonprofit endeavors at

“We are also interested in preserving rhythm and blues and passing it down authentically,” stated Wiggins.

Fans looking forward to seeing Mint Condition and Tony! Toni! Tone! at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts May 30 at 8:00 p.m. can call 718-960-8833 for tickets or go online to