In the mid-‘90s, 112 rose from the stable of Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and his Bad Boy Records. Named for the defunct Buckhead hip-hop haven Club 112, the then-quartet churned out hits including “Cupid,” “It’s Over Now,” “Dance with Me” and the Grammy-nominated “Peaches & Cream.”
As part of Puff Daddy’s homage to the deceased Notorious B.I.G. in 1997, 112 teamed with the rap mogul and Faith Evans for the worldwide No. 1 song, “I’ll Be Missing You.” The anthem also nabbed a Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group.
In 2017, 112 released their first album in 12 years — “Q, Mike, Slim, Daron” — which featured other original members Daron Jones and Quinnes “Q” Parker. But their new EP, “112 Forever (Slim & Mike),” available Friday, spotlights Scandrick and Keith.
While the coronavirus pandemic spurred the creative outlet that led to the “Verzuz” series, the virus intersected with 112′s lives again in July.
As the pair prepared the rollout of their new music with the release of the single “Spend It All,” Keith became ill with COVID-19.
He said that after three and a half weeks, his energy crept back, though he’s still saddled with a lingering cough and a hazy mind.
“It’s so debilitating,” Keith, who lives in Villa Rica, said. “There was one point when I felt like getting my affairs in order. I definitely turned the corner, but it takes all of it out of you.”
Scandrick, who lives in Henry County, and Keith started working on “112 Forever” when they realized that touring was unlikely for most, if not all, of 2020.
“We had a touring schedule that would make most new artists lose their minds,” Keith said. “When they shut everything down, it was like hearing the Bob Barker (”The Price is Right”) ‘whomp whomp’ sound. That’s when Slim and I said, ‘You know what bro? Let’s do this EP.’ This needs to be about me and Slim, the new K-Ci & JoJo.”
Mike Keith (left) and Marvin "Slim" Scandrick of Atlanta R&B group 112, want their EP to position them as the "new K-Ci & JoJo." Courtesy of G. Moodie
Keith and Scandrick recorded most of the album at Hot Beats in Atlanta and last week unveiled another single and video, “For Us.”
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, 112 sings over the gently pulsing track, “Starting today let’s take this vow, we’ve got to change things right here and now…every night I pray that tomorrow is a better day.”
“We’re not politicians; we’re musicians. The best way we could contribute to the revolution happening now was through song,” Keith said. “The message is we can’t do this on our own. We have to reach across. We’re celebrating Black excellence. My daughter is in the video because I wanted to highlight our young Black queens as well.”
Scandrick, who is also working on projects with country artists Blanco Brown and Jimmie Allen – “just adding more and more to the brand!” he said – is also on a quest to generate industry respect for 112.
“We’ve gotten a lot of accolades, but now we’re trying to get in line for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We want a star on the (Hollywood) Walk of Fame and to get into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame — that one is a little frustrating,” Scandrick said. “We want to win the NAACP Image Award. We have Grammys and (MTV) Moonmen, but for us, being African American, that’s the highest honor. We have unfinished business.”
Both Scandrick and Keith have used their unplanned time at home this summer to dig through their record collections.
“I’m a big fan of Brandy right now. I’ve listened to Juice Wrld’s album and Lil Baby’s album. ‘Right Time’ from Ye Ali is absolutely amazing,” Scandrick said. “I appreciate when younger artists take the time to understand R&B.”
Keith, meanwhile, is reconnecting with his inner rocker.
“Slim knows I’m an absolute rock star,” he said with a laugh. “I’m a white dude in a black body when it comes to that stuff. I grew up with gospel, but Nirvana is where I made my bones. I’ve been listening to all of that — Audioslave, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam — that whole Seattle sound,” Keith said. “Corona(virus) gave me a scare, and I’m just living life like it’s my last day.”