When you’re in the moment, it’s really easy to miss the forest for the trees. June 29, a surprise performance at the 2015 BET Awards was Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records 20-year reunion performance sent a reminder that despite the flash and controversy associated with the label, at its core was strong music.
The following day, Combs took to social media to announce that the performance was a springboard for something bigger, saying, “My girl @lilkimthequeenbee killed it last night #BadBoyFAMILYtour #Comingtoa
About a month later, Combs once more took it to Instagram with another announcement, this one regarding the progress of his next music project, tentatively titled “Money Makin Mitch.” He posted, “Ladies and gentlemen I’m pleased to announce that I am back behind the board! I got the hitman with me @chucklife365 @iammariowinans @hitmansteviej_1@itsseanc @lvizual DDOT , NASHIEM & the newest member of the hitman KANYE WEST #BREAKINGNEWS #Everything
So to make it clear, the production clique of the Hitmen—Stevie J, Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie, Ron “Amen-Ra” Lawrence, LV, Sean C, Chucky Thompson, Mario Winans and Nashiem Myrick, with Kanye West thrown in for good measure—were onboard for the project. It was typical of how the company has done things, that is, with huge announcements.
Sometimes though, other major things are brewing. To find those, you have to look at the adages “Bad boys move in silence” and “Silence is golden (sometimes platinum).” Embodying that statement is perhaps the only other Hitman aside from Combs and West who has precious metal plaques as a producer and artist, and that’s Mario Winans.
If the last name looks familiar and you’re wondering, he is of “that Winans” gospel cloth, as his personality attests. “I love music, and I thank God for the opportunities I was given to share my talents with the world,” Winans says of his career.
When asked about the responsibilities that entails, he says, “First and foremost is to serve; us as children of God, we’re supposed to. Lead the best life I can and provide for my children so that they can also. Professionally, I need to put out great music that awakens, touches and make them feel good.”
For the multi-instrumentalist, his foray into the music business began after graduating high school, eventually working with gospel music artists Fred Hammond, the Clark Sisters and various members of the Winans family before moving into the secular realm.
In 1997, he signed with Motown and his slept-on debut, “Story of My Heart,” flew under the radar. Undeterred, production work was still available, leading to working with the Bad Boy roster and eventual entry into the Hitmen team of producers.
“The role we all had was to hit a home run every time we stepped to the plate, but I was probably more so a finisher if a song needed a bridge, hook, chords or extra music to bring the song to life. That’s how I saw myself, but we were all capable of that. That was a special time and made for some great music,” said Winans.
The public’s perception was probably that because he didn’t get to produce a B.I.G. record, he didn’t produce a BIG record while at Bad Boy. “Emotional” by Carl Thomas, 112’s “Peaches and Cream” and Puff’s “I Need a Girl” parts 1 and 2 and “Last Night” quickly come to mind, but it was one of his own records that established him in Bad Boy lore. Released originally on a Bad Boy compilation, “I Don’t Wanna Know” hit the ground running and created a public demand for his second album and his first for Bad Boy’s 2004 “Hurt No More.”
“When you make a song that connects with people like that, it is an indescribable feeling. It’s a confirmation that the way the song made you as an artist feel when it was created really touched people. That’s not just here but around the world. Of the 2.2 million copies of ‘Hurt No More’ that sold, only 800,000 of those were in the United States and I’ve been touring heavy for the last 10 years. The majority of my shows have been abroad.”
Trey Songz’s “We Can’t Be Friends,” Raheem Devaughn’s “Pink Crushed Velvet” and future songs by Keisha Cole, Fabolus and Combs to come show that as a writer-producer, he is still creating in the studio. Meanwhile, the “Reunion Tour Experience 2” is here in the tristate. Saturday, Aug. 22, Winans, Mase, the Lox, 112 and Total touch down at the Grand Theater in the Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Tickets range from $58 to $178 and are available at foxwoods.com.
If you can’t make that, Winans sends a personal invite. “My birthday is August 29, and we’re going to celebrate on August 27 at Stage 48 [605 W. 48th St.]. Maino gonna host and I’m going to jump on stage and do a few classics, so if you have the time, come through.”
Over and out. Holla next week. Until then, enjoy the nightlife.