He emerged as a sensational teen-R&B singer in 2002. Born and raised in Baltimore, Mario started improving his natural vocal skills while singing along with his mom using a karaoke machine at home. The promising singer was discovered at the age of 11 in a local talent show. The pop-rap enthusiast traveled to N.Y.C. to become a new R&B artist, developed by producer Clive Davis soon after. Following his contribution to the Dr. Doolittle 2 soundtrack and a captivating performance of Stevie Wonder's "You and I" at Clive Davis' Grammy party in February 2002, the newcomer was ready to get involved in the contemporary hip-hop scene. At the age of 15, Mario debuted with the release of "Just a Friend 2002," produced by Warryn Campbell and based on rapper Biz Markie's hit "Just a Friend." His self-titled album followed in July, featuring contributions by Grammy-winning Alicia Keys.
One cannot deny their destiny, regardless of what path they take. Oftentimes, the realization of one's destiny is a time consuming, difficult quest, even when destined for greatness. Mario is one of the few that recognized their gifts very early on as he commenced his journey to success and greatness as a toddler.
Born in Baltimore, MD and now residing in New Jersey, Mario has wanted to sing since he was four years old. He honed his gifts singing along with a karaoke machine and plunking out melodies on the piano his mother bought him. By the time he was in elementary school, Mario was developing harmonies, constructing melodies and finding inspiration in a range of artists including Stevie Wonder, Brian McKnight, Usher and Joe.
As a young teen, Mario was a regular contestant in talent shows. These frequent competitions helped greatly in turning his boyhood dreams and career aspirations into reality. Mario signed to 3rd Street/J Records and immediately began working on his infectious debut; one that showcased label mate Alicia Keys, who declared Mario's voice is "one of the most beautiful I've ever heard."
Mario's first single, "Just a Friend 2002," off his debut and self-titled album, shot up the charts and the video featuring Biz Markie was a fixture on BET and MTV rotations. The positive attention and response from critics, fans and peers alike, was pleasantly surprising to Mario. All listeners were quick to praise his superlative singing and appeal. "I didn't know people would accept it. God was on my side, and I thank him every day for the blessing." The newfound exposure lead to greater opportunities to showcase his talent to the world. Soon after his debut, Mario hit the road as the opening act for Bow-Wow and followed by being part of the Scream 3 Tour, which also boasted B2K, Nick Cannon and Marques Houston. "Being on tour taught me how to handle the stage on my own and now I'm ready to do it again. I'm excited."
Mario's sophomore CD is entitled "Turning Point" and is more than just an R&B album as it is also the follow-up to one of 2002's biggest surprises. Mario was just 15 years old when "Just a Friend 2002" was released but seems confident in how his age and personal growth have affected his work. When asked if he's concerned with making the segue from boyhood to manhood, Mario was forthright. "Any changes that hae taken place between that album and this one have all been natural. I didn't have anybody saying to me, this is what you're going to do. This is what your image is going to be now. It wasn't made up. What everybody is hearing right now is me. It's all natural."
Mario sounds like a well-seasoned, veteran artist when he addresses his approach to recording his new album. "When I went into the studio I wasn't thinking about the last album. I was just thinking about the future, where I'm at now and even where I want to be a year or two from now. I was thinking about how I want people to see me as an artist. On Turning Point I decided to just do what I felt because if you plan stuff out too much you can mess up what's real."
As fans listen to this second album, changes in this young man are easily apparent. "Definitely there's been a change between this album and my last one," Mario affirms. "Changes as far as my voice, my image and most importantly, as far as the topics. They've matured because I've matured. I'm 18 and been through some things as far as relationships and just life in general and so it's only natural that you're going to hear that."
While these changes are certainly heard, they are also strongly felt through his new material. The album includes tracks from some of the hottest producers in the industry, such as Scott Storch and Lil' Jon and also features songs co-written by Mario himself. Mario has fashioned a record that shows you where he is currently and also, where he is going as he blossoms into manhood. Filled with aching ballads, introspective sentiment, hot club tunes and a focused approach that belies his years, Turning Point is a musical snapshot of an artist spreading his creative wings and taking flight with confidence, cool charm and a unique style of his own.
The first single, "Let Me Love You," is a lilting and heartfelt piece produced by Scott Storch, who also did the honors on the raucous "Call the Cops." Co-written by Mario, "Let Me Love You" is Mario at his most emotional; ready to bare his soul and speak his mind. Mario offers, "It's about a girl that's going through a lot with this person that she's with and I see that she's kind of in a transitional period. You know sort of halfway between him and the next guy and so I just ask her why don't you just let me love you? You know what I could do for you. Make me your selection."
Mario continues his theme of dealing with relationships with the passionate "How Could You," written and produced by the Underdogs. Drawn from a real life incident, "How Could You" breaks it down with an honesty that is hard to ignore. "I'm talking about how she broke my heart and hurt me. I felt like it was my time to say how I felt about the situation, to ask how could you let somebody lay where I lay? How could you do this to me?"
Throughout the album Mario uses a range of producers as he worked with well known hit makers such as Scott Storch and newcomers like the Underdogs, Nephew and Harold Lilly. "The new guys give me a fresh sound and make my album different from everyone else's. That's how I've felt I've always been. Even when I came out with "Braid My Hair" (Mario, 2002). Nobody would think that somebody would come out with a song like that and be serious about it!" Mario's unique creativity is evident on his current CD as well. Just check out the sexy and husned "Nikes Fresh Out Tha Box" which subtley uses the metaphor of a pair of kicks to describe the thrill of new love.
One of the album's highlights is the incredible "18," produced by Nephew and featuring Mario's label mate Cassidy. "As soon as I got the track I knew it was a straight up club record and that it was perfect because I wanted to have something that let everybody know that I was coming back. "18" goes out to anybody who felt as though people were holding them back from doing what they want to do or not understanding where they're coming from. Cassidy came in and dropped a hot verse. He laced it! Now that I'm 18 myself the song is to let people know how I feel."
In an industry that has seen its share of baby stars, Mario's dedication to his art and appreciation for his accomplishments is noteworthy. "I think the thing that I've really noticed is that I'm starting to understand what it really means to appreciate family, people, relationships, my fans and life, period. The success I had was so unexpected. I didn't really get a chance to think about it. I just did what I did and didn't say, oh now I have a hit record. I was just being myself."
With plans to attend college, a role in the feature film "Destination Fame" and hopes of more acting opportunities on the horizon, Mario's future is bright as is his outlook. Asked what Turning Point offers his fans and Mario replies, "I'm leetting everybody know that I'm creative, controversial and not stuck on one thing. I'm ready to do it all."
Mario rubbishes Usher feud
R&B star Mario has urged music fans to stop inventing stories of rivalry between him and Usher.
The Let Me Love You singer is entirely focused on his music career and has no plans to waste time feuding with other artists.
But he's flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as the Confessions megastar.
He says: "People making out that Usher and me are rivals (annoys me). We're not! I don't mind if girls compare us, though. I think it's a big compliment.
Mario loves the Brits - espcially the ladies
Mario's 'Let Me Love You' has been number one in the US Billboard chart for the last 6 weeks, it's out here in March.
His album 'Turning Point' is about to go platinum in the States and he's still only 18.
He's in the UK at the moment and told Radio1 he's been getting to know the local ladies a little better:
"I love the UK. I've been here a couple of times before, it's not my first time here or anything."
"The UK has some wonderful girls. The UK girls are beautiful, they're direct, they know what they want and they're very confident. That's very, very attractive to me."
Mario Shoots Heartbreaking New Video, Looks Toward Hollywood
Singer hopes to parlay his musical success into acting opportunities. Drudging up painful memories from the past might seem a strange thing to do for someone who's got the #1 song in the country, but don't tell that to Mario. The singer is following up his smash "Let Me Love You"
with the heartbreaking ballad "How Could You."
"This single is about a relationship I was in with a young lady and, basically, me getting hurt in the relationship," Mario said on the set of his video in Brooklyn. "The video describes the whole situation that went down with me and the young lady. It starts off by one of my friends coming to my car and telling me that he's seen my girl kicking it with some other dude. It surprises me because [I think] we're on a good basis, but obviously she sees something in him that I don't have. Throughout the video, I just show my emotions on how I feel about that.
"The song means a lot to me," he added. "It's something I really experienced, so I thought that I could do a great job in expressing that in the video. And [video director] Benny Boom wrote a great treatment that really matched my situation, so that just added up to a great possibility."
A host of extras, crew members and screaming fans braved freezing temperatures in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn for the video shoot. Among those in attendance were Mario's labelmate Cassidy and actor J.D. Williams, who plays the "other man."
"I'm playing Mario's man and showing him some support," said Cassidy. "He went through something with his girl. She was cheating on him — doing him dirty. So I put him on to that and let him know the whole situation, and I let him know that if he had a problem with the homeboy that she was cheating with that he could come holler at me and I'll hold him down in the 'hood.
"Mario is my man," he added. "We go back a couple of years. We're both on J Records, so we see each other all the time, so whatever he needs me to do I'm holding him down. It is what it is."
With "How Could You" on the way and "Let Me Love You" still topping the singles chart, Mario said he's already contemplating the up-tempo "Here I Go Again" as his third single.
"[It] kind of has a rock appeal to it," he explained. "It's a real upbeat song. 'Let Me Love You' is a mid-tempo, and 'How Could You' is a ballad, so I think it would be time to come out with something to hit them hard and make them rock their heads a little more."
Given the young soul singer's success, Hollywood has come knocking. Mario said it's a transition he's looking forward to making.
"There are a lot of different scripts coming in. Actually, I am reading something right now that I am looking forward to doing with Cedric the Entertainer. I've always been a fan of his, so we'll see how that works out. Nothing is promised, but there are a lot of different things that I want to do as far as movies."
Amidst the flurry of opportunities that success has brought with it, Mario continues to count his blessings because he remembers how unsure he was about how fans would react to his latest album, Turning Point.
"Every time I do something, I think back to my success and it helps me to keep that newfound glory there," Mario said. "It's been fun, but at the same time I was a little nervous. I didn't know how Turning Point was going to do out here in this big world. It's my 'turning point,' so I didn't know how it would be accepted or if people would really care. Of course, my real fans caught on to it, and 'Let Me Love You' ended up being ... a timeless record that everyone can relate to."
Mario's 'Love' Endures at No. 1 on Singles Chart
R&B singer Mario ruled the U.S. singles chart for a sixth week Thursday with "Let Me Love You," leading a field generally unchanged from the previous period.
In addition to Billboard's Hot 100 chart, Mario's single also topped several other listings in the week ended Jan. 23: Hot 100 Airplay, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Rhythmic Airplay charts, and Mainstream Top 40.
"Let Me Love You" stems from Mario's album "Turning Point," which fell two places to No. 15 on The Billboard 200 in the latest period and has sold 620,000 copies in the United States since its December release, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Ciara's "1, 2 Step" featuring Missy Elliott was No. 2 for the fifth week on the Hot 100, followed for a third week by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz's "Lovers and Friends" featuring Usher and Ludacris.
Destiny's Child's "Soldier" was No. 4 for a second week, while Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot" featuring Pharrell was No. 5 for a fifth.
The Game's "How We Do" featuring 50 Cent was steady at No. 6 for a second week. The West Coast rapper's major-label debut, "The Documentary," currently stands at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 587,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
50 Cent was still on fire as "Disco Inferno" sat tight at No. 7 for a second week. By adding "Candy Shop" to the chart at No. 53 as this week's top debut, the rapper has a total of four tracks currently on the Hot 100, as he's also a featured artist on Eminem (news - web sites)'s "Encore" at No. 64. 50 Cent's new album, "St. Valentine's Day (news - web sites) Massacre," is due March 8.
While Mario had things covered on the R&B singles charts, Green Day reigned in the rock world with "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." In addition to a No. 8 berth on the Hot 100 for a second week, the song was No. 1 for a fourth week on Hot Digital Songs chart, a fifth on the Mainstream Rock Tracks tally and a ninth on the Modern Rock Tracks list.
T.I.'s "Bring Em Out" was the only new entry in the upper ecehelons of the Hot 100, jumping five places to No. 9. Nelly's "Over and Over" featuring Tim McGraw was in the No. 10 spot for a second week.
Notable gainers included Usher's "Caught Up" (24-14), Jennifer Lopez (news)'s "Get Right" (41-28), Fantasia's "Truth Is" (51-34), Mariah Carey's "It's Like That" (53-36), Frankie J's "Obsession (No es Amor)" featuring Baby Bash (63-46) and Nivea's "Okay" featuring Lil' Jon and YoungBloodz (80-66).
Other Hot 100 debuts included Twista's "Hope" featuring Faith Evans (No. 65), Nelly's "N Dey Sey" (No. 69), 3 Doors Down's "Let Me Go" (No. 73), Craig Morgan's "That's What I Love About Sunday" (No. 74) and Montgomery Gentry's "Gone" (No. 76), while 2Pac's "Thugs Get Lonely Too" featuring Nate Dogg re-enters at No. 100.
Mario Sings About His Nikes And His Honeys On Turning Point
As you get older, your priorities change. A couple of years ago, all Mario wanted was for somebody to braid his hair. Now 18 and with both Air Force Ones officially planted into adulthood, he says just hand him a hairbrush.
"One of the biggesr reasons I wanted todo it is that I did want tosatnd out from everybody,''
Mario said about the beginning of his new video, "Let Me Love You," in which he's shown right after getting a haircut. In real life, it took him about five years to grow his hair long (see "Mario Needs Comb, Hair Grease To Escape"), and he cut it two months ago.
"I just wanted to do something different," the Baltimore native said. "So many young artists out there have braids. It was hard for me to cut it. I was debating before we shot the video, then I was like, 'I don't think I'mma cut my hair.' One day I'm in the barbershop, getting a shape-up, and I say, 'I'm about to cut my braids. Let's lose it.' "
Mario's new set, Turning Point, came out on Tuesday. Although we haven't heard too much from him in the last couple of years, he says he's not shying away from growing up in public.
"I get to share it with the world," he said. "It's good for me. I been blessed to be in this situation. Everything's been going great. I just been pacing myself, working real hard on this album. That's what my life is about right now: my transition into manhood."
On wax, he's experiencing what most men spend their lives trying to figure out: how to deal with women. Singing about treating one young lady right has paid off. Turning Point's lead cut, "Let Me Love You," is exploding.
" 'Let Me Love You' is just a universal record," he explained. "Anybody can listen to the record and relate. I'm talking for the fellas and the ladies. More so for the fellas because I'm sure you been in a situation where a girl you was digging was going through something with a dude. You're like, 'I know I can treat shorty better.' It's timeless."
If you look at the production credits for the mid-tempo record, you may be surprised to discover that the song was produced by Scott Storch, who's been making noise with club bangers like "Baby Boy" and "Lean Back" the last couple of years.
"He did a lot of stuff back in the day, you'd be surprised," Mario said of the producer's talents and versatility. "He played me some stuff he did for Erykah Badu, for Lauryn Hill, for Eminem and 50 Cent. When I went to Scott, we went in the studio and freestyled and came up with some great records."
Storch also produced "Call the Cops" and the "Let Me Love You" remix with Jadakiss and T.I. Mario called on Lil Jon and Juvenile for "Boom."
"It's a straight club banger," Mario said. "There's another record called 'How Could You.' I did that with the Underdogs. It's a ballad about me being in a relationship with some shorty. She was doing some things behind my back. I'm telling her, 'Yo, how can you teach somebody the ghetto Kama Sutra?' It's a timeless record, real strong and powerful. Then there's a record called 'Nikes Fresh Out the Box.' I'm talking about a girl, but I'm comparing her to my Nikes."
For the record, Mario's favorite kicks of all time are the Air Force Ones. He has a weakness for the tennis shoes, but he doesn't have it as bad for them as he does for the honeys.
"Another one's called 'Couldn't Say No,' " the singer continued. "It's about me and my girl having some problems. The time we were broken up, her girlfriend came and took her place. I say, 'I couldn't say no. It's a shame when a man can't say no. I gotta tell you the truth, and this is the truth.'
"Some of it is real life," he added about his songs. "Some of it is your imagination — what could have taken place. That's how some of the songs are done."
Mario Needs Comb and Hair Grease To Escape
Sometimes the simple things in life provide the most pleasure, especially when you're a budding superstar.
On Wednesday, Mario, who has been traveling across the country getting the word out about his self-titled debut, said that in his new video for '' Braid My Hair'' he'll be showing how he finds
some escape: All he needs is a comb and a little hair grease.
"We about to do the video next week [in Los Angeles]," the Baltimore singer revealed. "It's basically just the storyline of the song. About me on the road every day, doing my thing and me just needing to get some time to myself. All I want to do is go home and let my girl braid my hair."
While Mario said that he's going to be staying on his musical grind away from home, he won't be doing it as part of the Nellyville tour, a deal that had been in the works (see "Nelly Making It Hot In Herre And Therre With Fall U.S. Tour").
"Right now I'm just doing promotions," he explained. "But after that we might be doing a tour at the top of the year."
Before 2002 is over, however, Mario said he wants to hit the studio.
"We about to start on the next album, probably in December," he said. "We'll probably have some [guests] on the album, but you all just stay tuned."
Mario Loves Older Women
Clive Davis' crooning boy wonder helps rapper who wrote 'Pickin' Boogers' make big comeback.
"It was great," Baltimore native Mario said a couple of weeks ago about having rap legend Biz Markie in his video for "Just a Friend 2002." "He's a funny man. He's real cool people. When I first met him at the video shoot, he was like, 'I love the joint, you blazed it. That was just like a
big moment for me. He's a hip-hop icon. Biz is the greatest."
Mr. T better look out, because the author of such classics as "Nobody Beats the Biz," "Pickin' Boogers" and "Vapors" is taking all his light as the new comeback kid. It's been almost 10 years since the Diabolical One released his last album of new material, All Samples Cleared, but Biz, who's been a staple on the club and college party scene during the interim, has been extra busy lately stepping out in front of the masses.
Ticket-buyers across the land are getting to peep him as Will Smith's intergalactic beat-boxing b-boy buddy in the sequel to "Men in Black." Before then, Biz Mark laid vocals for Jay-Z's "Girls, Girls, Girls" and did his signature namesake dance in the video. Probably the biggest shine he's getting lately, though, comes courtesy of Clive Davis' crooning boy wonder: Mario's "Just a Friend 2002," which pays homage to one of the rapper's most celebrated smashes, has become a hit, and Biz can be caught rhyming on the remix.
Mario said a couple of weeks ago in New York he wasn't aware of Biz's 1989 classic "Just a Friend." "I didn't know nothing about it, but when I first heard it I was like, 'That joint is hot, I'm glad I remade it.' That was a big hit for him back in the day, right?"
The idea for Mario's song was the brainchild of the track's producer, Warryn Campbell.
"He played it for me over the phone," Mario recalled. "I didn't really get a chance to get into it, but when I went into the studio to record the song, that's when I [realized] this song would be real perfect for me. 'You say I'm just a friend' — a 15-year-old talking to an older girl, perfect song."
Turns out the young buck has an affinity for the ladies who have a few years up on him.
"Yeah, man," he laughed after making the admission. "For real, I do man. I like older girls. But I'm going to slow it down a little bit, 'cause you know, I'm not trying to move too fast."
On his self-titled debut, which drops July 23, "What Your Name Is" finds Mario singing about spitting game to a chick who's reluctant to rob his cradle.
"Basically I'm with an older girl and I'm asking her, 'You want to go out with me?' " he explained. "We're having a conversation. I know what her name is, but in the song she's older than me, and she ain't trying [to go out with me]. So I'm like, 'What your name is? When are we going to chill?' "
Mario did get to spend Q.T. with a sexy elder while recording his LP, though. Alicia Keys, whom he refers to as a big sister, wrote two songs for him: "The 2 Train" and "Put Me On" (see "The Next Alicia Keys Might Be A Boy Named Mario").
"On 'Put Me On,' Alicia is talking at the beginning of the song," he divulged. "I'm playing basketball and I'm like, 'Who's that girl you were with the other day?' She came through and I'm like, 'I like her so why won't you put me on?' That's basically what that's all about. 'The 2 Train' is about me. I like this girl and we chill a lot. Her pops isn't really feeling me but her mother loves me. The only time we get to chill is on the 2 train."
Only a sucker would bet that Mario will be traveling via iron horse while promoting his upcoming project. He'll undoubtedly be on a tour bus, but he just isn't sure as of yet how many stops his vehicle will be making. He's currently in negotiations to appear on Bow Wow's Scream 2 Tour with B2K and IMX (see "Bow Wow Sniffs Out A Trail For Tour With B2K").
"We don't even know yet," he said about the possibility. "That would be a good tour. Much love to them for real. Hopefully it might happen. It might not."
The Next Alicia Keys Might Be A Boy Named Mario
Music mogul Clive Davis unveils his latest protégé. Mario.
At Clive Davis' annual Grammy Eve party last year, the music mogul rolled out his latest hot prospect, a singer/pianist named Alicia Keys. Twelve months later, she was Grammy's golden girl, taking home five trophies.
So who did Davis introduce a few years ago?
He may only be 13, but R&B singer Mario is poised to be the next Clive Davis-groomed success story. In fact, Keys produced two songs for the Baltimore native's as-yet-untitled debut album, due in June.
Warren Campbell (Kelly Price, Sisqó) and Gerald Isaac (Mary J. Blige, Angie Stone) also handled production duties on the record, which Mario said he is putting the finishing touches on this month.
Walking the red carpet with Davis, the youngster said he does not feel any pressure to live up to Keys. "[Success comes from] just being yourself and being natural with what you do," he said.
Mario, whose first single, the Campbell-produced "Just a Friend," will hit the airwaves later in March, is confident he will be around a while. When asked if he was able to convince Keys to sing with him, he answered, "Nah, it's not a duet. Maybe next album."
Later at Davis' party, Mario showed his confidence by performing Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet" to an audience packed with artists, including Wonder himself.