Oh, they're still on Bad Boy, and Puffy shows up on the album. But the Atlanta vocal quartet — Mike (Michael Keith), Slim (Marvin Scandrick), Daron (Daron Jones) and Q (Quinnes Parker) — took more creative control than ever, writing and producing nine of the disc's tracks.
"Not trying to dis Bad Boy or Puffy or whatever, but ... a lot of music that came out on Bad Boy in '96, '97, it was 112 writing it," Mike said. "It's our time to shine now."
They also drew from their own experiences for many of the songs, including the R&B #1 "It's Over Now," in which a man comes home from the road and finds out his woman has been cheating on him. And they've long left behind the clean-cut image that helped romantic ballads like 1996's "Only You" and "Come See Me" find success on the pop and R&B charts.
This time out, they get nasty on "Peaches & Cream," and they face up to heartbreak on the R. Kelly-produced "Do What You Gotta Do." The group hopes their new direction will let them top even the platinum success of their first two albums.
112 recently sat down with Curtis Waller to talk about their emerging maturity, the meaning behind their songs and partying off the hook at Atlanta's Waffle House.
MTV: Tell me how you feel about the success of this latest album?
Daron: It has our first #1 ["It's Over Now"] and I'm happy.
Mike: Just goes to show you, man, that if you leave 112 alone...
Daron: It's one of the few records, or the first singles, that we dropped without a featured [singer], you know?
Q: Right, that's all of us.
Slim: It's just straight-up 112.
Daron: The music came from the group, written and produced by the group.
Mike: With the approval of Puff.
MTV: What's "It's Over Now" about?
Mike: It's about how, just being an entertainer, a lot of times you might be in a relationship where the woman has to be able to deal with the fact that you're going out of town and doing your thing. If she's not able to deal with that, a lot of times she tries to find what she's missing somewhere else. In this song, she does find it somewhere else, and you find the numbers in her pocket, and you just basically catch her doing wrong.
MTV: What about "Peaches & Cream"?
Mike: "Peaches & Cream" was really our [1998 hit] "Anywhere" times 10. We wanted a song that was kind of fun and at the same time giving a little sex appeal. We're older now, we can talk about subjects of this nature. "Peaches & Cream" talks about pleasing your woman and using your imagination. It's like that D'Angelo song "Brown Sugar," where he was talking about one thing but made you think he was talking about something else. It's pretty much a nasty song. Ain't no way it's an erotic song.
MTV: What's the third single going to be?
Mike: It's going to be "Player." We definitely knew that we needed a ballad for the third one, because, like Daron always says, what groups are most remembered by are those ballads. Like Boyz II Men, Jodeci, you remember the ballads; you don't remember the up-tempo songs, even though 112 has been fortunate enough to have successful up-tempo songs.
MTV: What's "Player" about?
Daron: It's just redefining what a player is. A lot of times, people think of a player as somebody that might have 50 girls, or 30 women or just juggling women. But to me and to 112, a player is someone who just plays the game correctly. I don't mean to say that life is a game, but it's like playing the game correctly. Being honest. It's about not having one woman and then having five girls on the side, but having six women and letting them all know that you're not ready to settle down, or you're not ready for a commitment. In my dealings with women, I can say that one thing that I have learned, growing up with two sisters in the house, is that women appreciate honesty more than anything — or more than a lot of things. That's really what the song is about: honesty.
MTV: How do you guys collaborate in your writing?
Slim: Sometimes I might come up with a song or a verse, and then I bring it to the rest of the guys and we all come up with the hook, and vice versa. Mike might come up with the whole song itself and he'll just figure out, or we'll all figure out who's gonna sing it, so it could be a lot of things. It's no set formula of how we do it. We just go with the flow.
MTV: What was the most difficult part of recording the album?
Slim: This album was so relaxed and so together as far as we were concerned. We were all on the same page as far as what we wanted to say to the world. We took time off, we moved down to Nashville for a little while and we just got it together and had a meeting of the minds.
Daron: It was one of the first times I felt like we had total creative freedom. There was nobody telling us, "No, you need to sing on this." It was just total freedom. We had a chance to grow and tune into who we are as a group.
Mike: It's us growing from little boys in the game, from 16- to 17-year-olds to young men in their 20s who have experienced what it is like to be successful and not successful in this business. Out of the 12 songs, we wrote and produced nine. For everyone out there that don't know, 112 are not just the singers or the artists, but we are taking it a step further. We are the writers and the producers.
And not trying to dis Bad Boy or Puffy or whatever, but we got to let people know, man, a lot of music that came out of Bad Boy in '96, '97, it was 112 writing it. But we always took the backseat to it because [of] the powers that be. It's our time to shine now.
MTV: Why did you name the album Part III?
Mike: Like a trilogy, like "Star Wars." It also signifies the unity between us and [how] we've grown now in this game. We understand what it takes to be successful. We were friends before, and it really doesn't matter about the money and all this other stuff. Just to let everybody know that 112 is together, 112 is tight.
MTV: What's the last song you recorded?
Mike: I think it's the interlude. No, intro to the out. We always try to keep [the Notorious] B.I.G. in our hearts, we try to keep B.I.G. alive as much as we can. The intro has "The weak or the strong, who got it going on, you're dead wrong." Just keeping the relationship between us and B.I.G. alive, because we always had him on the album[s], it don't make no sense to stop now.
Slim: He always showed us love on his album, too, like on his last album, a lot of songs referred to us.
Mike: And we were lame, man — don't nobody want to mess with us, we were these country bumpkins — but B.I.G. was the only one that stayed down with us. Showed us all the love, put our name on the mount, really. That phrase he came up with, that "Rule with the 112," man ... so many people came up to us and say that same thing: "That's what B.I.G. say." We know he's listening and nodding his head, because he loved to hear us sing like no other, and it was kind of funny, because he was this hardcore rapper, and we like to sing R&B. But he was like, "Yo, sing that one again, and this one again. Do the medley again." He had a special place in our hearts.
MTV: Any favorite tracks on the album?
Mike: One of my favorites is called "Don't Hate Me," which I like for two reasons. Number one is what we're singing about. It's a message within a message saying, "Don't be mad at me if a girl come home with me, because obviously you weren't doing something you were supposed to do at home." It's a warning to the brothers, saying that we are going to take [their ladies] when we come to your city. The second reason is how we are singing it. You won't expect it from 112. Like a lot of people didn't expect "It's Over Now" to be coming from 112. We are evolving now, we are ascending, going to a higher level. We hope we never reach our pinnacle. We just want to keep growing and growing.
Q: My favorite is "Peaches & Cream." It's erotic and sexy and I'm a freak, basically. I know a lot of guys out there that are really going to like that one, and it's for the girls too, so ha ha.
MTV: Would you talk about the video for "It's Over Now"?
Daron: We were really trying to establish that we are from Atlanta. One of the scenes we shot was in front of a Waffle House. If anyone knows anything about the South, they know that that's the after-hours spot — after the club, everybody goes to the Waffle House and get something to eat and it's always off the hook. We were excited that we got the chance to dance, so when people see the video, they know we are so excited. It's like we're a new 112.
MTV: What was it like working with Twista on "Don't Hate Me"?
Mike: We did our vocals in Atlanta, and he did his in New York, and we just heard it and we were like, "Yeah, that is hot." The thing with Puff is that we have to give thanks to him for allowing us to do that. He had enough confidence in us to go down to Atlanta and record an album and send it up to him. We had trust in [Twista]. It just came out hot.
MTV: Any talks of touring at this point?
Slim: We got a couple of tour options on the table, but I really don't want to speak about them, 'cause nothing is in stone right now. But we'll definitely go on somebody's tour this year. If not our own, then on tour with a host of other acts.
MTV: Can each one of you share one of your craziest experiences on the road?
Mike: Can't do it.
Daron: Whoa! Whoa!
Slim: [laughing] This is a family-oriented, PG show. But hey, it's been crazy, from people climbing on your cars to naked girls waiting in your room.
Mike: I never had a naked girl waiting in my room, so Slim, that's one up on me there. The craziest was our first show in Moline, Illinois, when we got locked in the bathroom for 45 minutes. We were on the Keith Sweat tour with Bone Thugs [-N-Harmony], Nas and Foxy Brown. We were supposed to perform that night, but the powers that be were like, "Y'all ain't performing tonight. We'll give y'all tickets to the show, and y'all perform tomorrow." We were like, "All right cool, no problem." Keep in mind that we had our performance outfits on, so we were all looking alike, and I guess that they didn't realize how strong [our 1996 hit] "Only You" was at the time. They were brushing us off, and they put us in the nosebleed section. We didn't get backstage or nothing. It was intermission and all the lights were on, and some little girl screamed, "That's 112!" They started chasing after us, and we ran into the men's room. We had to stay there for 45 minutes. We know never to do that again.