Once upon a time there were great funk/R&B bands like Earth Wind & Fire, The Meters, War, Kool & The Gang, Slave, and numerous others who constantly broke down musical barriers. Their musicality was superior – they could rock or funk out as easily as they could move the crowd with a tenor soulful ballad. The rise of electronic music gradually undermined self-contained bands but in the 90s, a dynamic, young, new band emerged that took the R&B world by storm—Mint Condition. Two decades on, Mint Condition stands in a class by themselves. The dynamic ensemble along with The Roots as the only high-profile examples of a self-contained, hit-making band in R&B and hip hop. Mint Condition has rightfully taken the throne as the greatest R&B band of our time. “We’re headed in the right direction. It’s kind of strange to say this after two decades but we feel it’s our time now,” reflect the band members of Mint Condition. “We’ve paid a lot of dues, been schooled in the business and honed our craft. We’ve gone to the ‘puppet show’ and seen the strings!”
In an industry when acts constantly come and go, Mint Condition has managed to maintain and grow a devout following. Their strategy has been simple. “We have focused on staying true to what we do. Our music gives the people a kind of insight into who we are. There is a vulnerability that comes across in the music and people embrace that, whether it’s joy, love or pain,” explains the band. 2011 was a banner year for Mint Condition, who celebrated their 20th anniversary. Their album 7… was critically hailed, featuring a top ten hit (“Not My Daddy” with Kelly Price, which earned two Grammy nominations) and two top 20 singles (“Caught My Eye” and “Walk On”). Jet Magazine called 7… “The kind of CD you can put on and play all the way through, and The Philadelphia Inquirer raved, “This is what honest, open, mature soul sounds like. Pay attention!” Mint Condition was also tapped to appear on Prince’s Welcome 2 America tour and they were selected as the house band for TV One’s Way Black When. Prince has often called Mint his favorite band. “In many ways, he (Prince) continues to be a mentor for us,” says keyboardist Lawrence El. “He's a musical genius yet he is never condescending. He has a way of making you feel he's your biggest fan—we certainly are his! He's the best. Watching him perform always sends you back to the shed; you know you still have work to do.”
Mint Condition keeps the momentum swinging with their newest brainchild MUSIC @ THE SPEED OF LIFE, to be released on Shanachie Entertainment September 11, 2012. This album evolved quickly for the band as they usually have longer stints between recordings. “With all the choices people have out there, we have to keep our music fresh and keep it coming often,” shares the band
MUSIC @ THE SPEED OF LIFE’S vibe and feel call to mind their timeless breakthrough hits "Pretty Brown Eyes" and "What Kind Of Man Would I Be,” while at the same time showcases their never ending quest to push their music forward. Along with Mint Condition's bedrock funk and R&B balladry, elements of jazz, rock, and hip hop come into the mix. They have always delivered these elements live but here they are a part of their studio work. Nothing is formulaic or routine.
MUSIC @ THE SPEED OF LIFE sounds like nothing else on the scene today, once again demonstrating that Mint Condition is one of those rare artists with their own unique sound. Highlights on the CD include the album’s lead single, “Believe in Us,” which is sure to find its way into the hearts of couples everywhere working hard to make it work and the funky head- nodder, “Girl of My Life,” which describes one of the band members’ experience as the odd man out in the search for love as he witnessed the rest of the band settling down. The track features DJ Jazzy Jeff and a riveting drum solo by Stokley. The unforgettable ballad, “Completely,” is about finally finding and accepting your place in life. “It speaks to how we've synched up both in our respective personal lives and as a working band,” explains Mint Condition. The inviting and free flowing “649 Changes” is another stand out and features rapper Brother Ali and the M-Factory Horns lead by former Prince and Maceo Parker saxophonist Eric Leeds.
The song is an ode to Jef’s multi-generational childhood home. He recalls, "After the old house was sold, I even found myself driving out of my way in order to avoid driving past the house. I was trying to avoid the finality and change. This transition taught me a big lesson about acceptance."
The members of Mint Condition met as teenagers growing up in the Twin Cities—Minneapolis-St. Paul -- amidst a thriving music scene energized by Prince, The Time, Jam & Lewis, The Replacements, Soul Asylum and many other artists. Keyboardists Lawrence El and Keri Lewis, guitarist O'Dell, keyboardist/saxophonist Jef, drummer/vocalist Stokley, and bass player Ricky (originally from Chicago) came together in the performing arts program at Central High School. Playing together in different combinations led to them forming Mint Condition; a gig at the famed First Avenue Club in 1989 caught the attention of super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, formerly of The Time, and they were signed to Jam & Lewis' Perspective Records. MEANT TO BE MINT, their debut album, was released in 1991. Their first single, a New Jack Swing-styled number, had only modest success but it was a ballad, “Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes),” which has become one of the classic R&B ballads of our time, that was their breakthrough, hitting #3 on the R&B charts and #6 on the Pop charts, with the follow-up “Forever In Your Eyes” hitting #7 on R&B charts. Mint Condition was established as a gold-selling act. Further hit singles and albums followed, with “U Send Me Swingin’,” “Someone To Love” and “So Fine” all hitting from the FROM THE MINT FACTORY album and “What Kind Of Man Would I Be” (another chart-topping classic) and “You Don't Have To Hurt No More” from DEFINITION OF A BAND. After Perspective Records folded, Mint Condition signed with Elektra, delivering more hits with “If You Love Me” and “Is This Pain Our Pleasure” from the LIFE'S AQUARIUM album. In the early 2000s the group took a break from their relentless recording and touring schedule. They resumed as a quintet with only keyboard player Keri Lewis absent, releasing a new album, LIVING THE LUXURY BROWN, on their own Caged Bird label in 2005, hitting again with “I'm Ready.” Their high-energy live performance was captured with the release of LIVE AT THE 9:30 CLUB and then 2008's E-LIFE yielded another hit with “Nothing Left To Say.” MUSIC @ THE SPEED OF LIFE follows 2011’s 7... . Mint Condition shares about their newest effort, “Life was our inspiration; fast-paced, multifaceted, adventurous and ever-changing. Our music is drawn from various sources, and the lyrics speak to the hard knocks as well as the triumphs of life.”