Q, Mike, Slim, Daron (released October 27, 2017)
Want to feel old?
It’s been more than two decades since four guys in white suits first danced in their way into the world of R&B, taking the genre by storm. And their initial trio of albums are the Star Wars trilogy of R&B – a fantastic debut, a legendary sequel and an underrated but strong third offering.
It’s not up for debate: 112 is one of the best groups in modern R&B history.
Well, you know what they say, the only constant in our world is change. R&B is a much, much different place than the world 112 knew when they dropped what many assumed to be their final album in 2005. And though all four members have spent the last 12 years releasing their own solo projects, recapturing their synergy in this brave new R&B world seems like a tough task.
But like they told us in 1996, you won’t know unless you give it a try.
112’s aptly named comeback album, Q, Mike, Slim, Daron, aims to be more than a dusty, nostalgic reunion tour – its goal is to evolve the group’s sound while also serving as a love letter to longtime fans.
And when it works, it works.
The sparse, bouncy production of the album’s first proper song, “Come Over,” definitely sounds like a 2017 R&B offering. But wisely, the group leans on current trends without totally Jeremih-ing themselves. Essentially, this still sounds like a 112 record, giving them a fresh but authentic update to their sound.
“Without You” is a cool hat tip to their legacy, utilizing a subtle interpolation of their signature hit “Cupid” to fuel the track. Current single “Dangerous Games” has the group rediscovering their chemistry as they fess up about their infidelities. There’s even a nice interlude featuring frequent collaborator Faith Evans here. It’s a fun nod to their past.
The track that’s guaranteed to make the most noise here is the LONG-awaited collaboration between 112 and Jagged Edge, two Atlanta groups that have been compared for decades. The result of the dream paring is “Both of Us,” a song that is certainly serviceable but, honestly, there is no way it could have lived up to expectations. By 2017 standards it’s pretty solid, but fans expecting these groups to recapture their 1997 prime are going to be let down.
That’s pretty much the story of the second half of Q, Mike, Slim, Daron – technically solid tracks that come just short of reaching the group’s previous heights. The gentle acoustics that back “Wanna Be” are noteworthy and “Lucky” is vintage 112. Even the strip-club anthem “1s For Ya,” which I’m sure will cause some purists’ heads to explode, is catchy enough to warrant repeat listens.
However, the album is sorely missing a blockbuster ballad or signature cut to really tie the set together. The morose “My Love” seemed to be heading in that direction – and certainly the guys were betting on “Both of Us” to really turn heads – but the lack of a memorable track keeps the set from reaching the heights of 112’s holy trinity.
Finicky fans looking for Room 112: Part Deux may turn up their noses at 112’s attempt at evolution, but I don’t mind the direction. I mean, it ain’t 1998 anymore, y’all. As a comeback album, Q, Mike, Slim, Daron puts the quartet back on the right track – a modernization of a sound that has fueled a generation of hits. Yeah, it doesn’t hit all the right notes 100% of the time but there’s definitely room to grow.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another 12 years for us to hear from them again.
Best tracks: “Without You,” “Both of Us,” “Dangerous Games”
3.5 stars out of 5