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Formed in the early '80s in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Mint Condition began as lead singer Stokley Williams, guitarist Homer O'Dell, keyboardist Larry Waddell, keyboardist/saxophonist Jeff Allen, keyboardist/guitarist Keri Lewis, and guitarist/bassist Rick Kinchen. The six talented musicians combined a variety of influences and experiences to shape their own sound. Williams began playing classic West African instruments at the age of four, while O'Dell grew up listening to his father play blues bass and singing with him in a family group. Waddell played in a recording arts band at school and mastered keyboards by listening to jazz greats Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock. Exposed to his father's extensive jazz collection, Allen played keyboards and sax in local bands throughout his high school years, as Lewis was mastering keyboards, percussion, and guitar while attending school. Kinchen's first and strongest influence was his family, all of whom played instruments and encouraged his interest in music. He developed his skills as a bass player by listening to records by Stanley Clarke and Louis Johnson of the Brothers Johnson. Kinchen played in various bands in his native Chicago and performed at several productions at Kennedy-King College before moving to the Twin Cities.
The band was featured at the 1986 Minnesota Black Musician Awards program and built a strong core following for itself in a multiple-state area (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Nebraska) as a result of its dazzling, highly energetic live shows. Mint Condition came to the attention of Minneapolis R&B producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as a result of a showcase performance in 1989. The band had steady success beginning with the hits "(Breaking My Heart) Pretty Brown Eyes" and "Forever in Your Eyes" from its debut, Meant to Be Mint (1991), and with "Nobody Does It Betta" and "(U Send Me) Swinging" from its second album, From the Mint Factory (1993); the group continued with the platinum success of the single "What Kind of Man Would I Be" from its gold album Definition of a Band (1996).
Approaching the 21st century, Mint Condition were the only high-profile R&B/pop band with a major-label recording contract. In 1999, they released the excellent Life's Aquarium, which was led by the Top Five Billboard R&B single "If You Love Me." However, it would be their last release for a major, even though it was their first Top Ten R&B album. Throughout the early 2000s, their profile wasn't nearly as high, but their core following remained and developed along with a consistently high-quality series of unique independent albums, including Livin' the Luxury Brown (2005), Live from the 9:30 Club (2006), E-Life (2008), 7... (2011), and Music @ the Speed of Life (2012).
Mint Condition is an American R&B band from Saint Paul, Minnesota. Formed in the mid 1980s at Central High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, its original members were Stokley Williams (lead vocals, drums, percussion), Homer O'Dell (guitar), Larry Waddell (keyboards, piano), Roger Lynch son of Roger Troutman, Ray Coleman and Kenny Young. Lynch, Coleman and Young all left the group however and were replaced by schoolmates Keri Lewis (keyboards, synthesizer) and Jeffrey Allen (saxophone, keyboards) along with Chicago native Ricky Kinchen (bass guitar). This lineup of Williams, O'Dell, Waddell, Allen, Lewis and Kinchen comprised the classic lineup of the band. Currently, this line-up remains intact, with the exception of Lewis, who left the group to focus on his marriage to Toni Braxton and produce for her and other artists. The group is well known for its diverse musical style (able to play anything from traditional jazz stylings to mainstream R&B and rock-based music to funk grooves and even Latin and Jamaican-based rhythms) and also its captivating live performances. The band is also well known for their well written and produced R&B ballads, mainly in the 1990s. They are mostly known for their hits "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)" (1991) and "What Kind of Man Would I Be" (1996).
ContentsHistory1.1 Early years1.2 1996–20001.3 2000s: Livin' The Luxury Brown and E-Life1.4 2010–present: 7..., Tour with Prince, TV appearances
Discovered and originally signed to Perspective Records by music producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in 1989 (after being heard at a performance at a club in downtown Minneapolis called First Avenue), their debut album was entitled Meant To Be Mint (released in 1991). Despite their musical versatility the band attempted to attract new jack swing listeners with their dance cut "Are You Free", but it wasn't successful (the song hit #55 on the R&B charts). However, they did enjoy major success with the ballad "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)". The song stayed on the charts for 34 weeks, hitting the R&B top 5 (#3), and the Pop Top 10 (#6) and was certified gold by the RIAA. The third single "Forever In Your Eyes" was also a successful Top 10 R&B hit (#7 R&B). Two years later they released their 2nd album, From The Mint Factory (1993). They enjoyed success with the single "U Send Me Swingin'" which peaked at #2 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart for four weeks straight in the spring of 1994. The song was also a smash on the Rhythmic Top 40 charts where it reached #14. The band's next two singles "Someone to Love" and "So Fine" were Billboard Top 30 R&B hits hitting the #28, and #29 spots respectively.
In September 1996, the band released of Definition of a Band. The album peaked the R&B Top 15. The first successful single on this album was the Billboard R&B smash hit single "What Kind Of Man Would I Be?" which was about remaining faithful in a relationship (#2 R&B, #17 Pop). The single crept up to the number 2 spot on the Billboard R&B charts in a matter of weeks and received a Gold certification by the RIAA that December. "What Kind Of Man Would I Be?" was so popular that it stayed on the Billboard R&B Charts for a total of 41 weeks before it finally fell off. "You Don't Have to Hurt No More" was the second single released from Definition of a Band and it was also a Top 10 R&B hit. (#10 R&B, #32 pop). With the success of these two singles along with the positive reviews that the album received allowed Definition of a Band to reach Gold status as well. Two years later, The Collection: 1991-1998, a greatest hits compilation, was issued. After Perspective Records/A&M folded, the group signed with Elektra Records in 1999, releasing their fourth full-length album, Life's Aquarium which also debuted in the Top 10 (#7 R&B). Its main single, "If You Love Me", hit the R&B Top 5 while appearing on the R&B Charts for 31 weeks. The second single "Is This Pain Our Pleasure", peaked at #42, while also peaking at #34 on the R&B Airplay Charts.
§2000s: Livin' The Luxury Brown and E-Life
After a six year hiatus, the group resurfaced as a quintet due to former member and keyboard player Keri Lewis leaving the group to produce for other artists, such as his wife, singer Toni Braxton. In 2005, they released Livin' The Luxury Brown on their independent label Caged Bird Records. The album hit #1 on the Independent Album Charts. Live From The 9:30 Club, a performance of a concert at the 9:30 club in Washington DC, was issued in 2006.
In 2008 they released a new album entitled E-Life which debuted at #8 on the Billboard R&B album chart, and spawned two singles, "Baby Boy, Baby Girl" and "Nothing Left To Say." The second single "Nothing Left To Say" became the band's first Top 30 R&B single in almost a decade (#27 R&B) and also a Top 5 Billboard Urban Adult Contemporary hit peaking at #3.
§2010–present: 7..., Tour with Prince, TV appearances
In December 2010, Mint Condition joined pop legend Prince and an ensemble cast of R&B and Jazz musicians for his Welcome 2 America tour. Coming towards the groups 20th anniversary that year together, Mint Condition celebrated with the release of their new album 7.... Released April 5, 2011, Shanachie Records produced several hits on this multi-dimensional piece of work including, "Caught My Eye" as well as their collaboration with Kelly Price, "Not My Daddy". The reported name, “7...”, for this album was to mark the groups seventh studio album of their career. During the month of February, Mint Condition appeared as the house band for TV One's program Way Black When, which celebrated the greatest African American music artists throughout the 70’s, into the 90’s. Towards the end of 2012 in December, Mint Condition was entered into the Soul Music Hall of Fame.
The group released a new album called Music At The Speed Of Life in September 2012. They were also featured in the 2013 season of TV One's "Unsung". Mint Condition. Retrieved 2013-09-30. Robson, Britt (November 25, 2008). "The enduring honesty of Mint Condition". MinnPost. "Elton, Fugees Score Big In October RIAA Certifications". Billboard Magazine. .books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-08-27.  Soul Train. Retrieved on 2013-09-30. SoulMusic.com. SoulMusic.com. Retrieved on 2013-06-01.