Natural can be described as innate or instinctive in essence, disposition or temperament. Quite simply, natural can be summed up as God-given or God-inspired because it comes so easily. When 20 year-old Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, actor Mario realized that his talents came to him naturally, his growth and acceptance of these gifts aptly produced his third album, Go. “I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m supposed to be at this place in every aspect of my life, from personal to business. This is where I am, this is where I chose to be.”
At age 15, when his 2002 debut album Mario garnered 700,000 copies in sales, sparked by the lead single “Just A Friend (2002),” young Mario set the stage for his 2005 sophomore set aptly titled Turning Point. Worldwide, the album reaped 2 million units in sales as “Let Me Love You” propelled him to the number one spot for nine consecutive weeks. The single holds the honor of being one of the highest selling ringtones to date with 1.6 million downloads and Mario himself was bestowed with accolades including 2005’s Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Award for Top R&B/Hip-Hop Single, a Billboard Music Award for Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Single of the Year and a slew of nominations from the Grammys, BET Awards, Vibe Awards, MOBO Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards.
The Baltimore, Maryland native witnessed the biggest transition of his young adult career between Turning Point and his new album Go. As a self-described old-soul, the wunderkind reflects on his journey introspectively, “I’ve always been that way, I’m just able to express myself more and I have time by myself instead of everybody always being in my ear. When you have time by yourself, you can see and analyze things for what you think they are.” While his developing perspective continues to evolve, Mario’s attitude and approach remain focused on the goal of longevity and happiness. “As you grow, you learn more about yourself and come upon things that touch people,” adding, “what makes me happy most is that I’ve changed lives. I love to see people touched by my music. I love to see people touched by my growth.”
Raised in his formative years with his dearly departed maternal grandmother, then during his teens with his former management team, Mario quietly learned how to be faithful. “That’s the real gift, to really experience things and really take it in. And don’t just see it and overlook it, but really see it for what it is. And that’s what I’ve learned how to do in these years. And that’s a blessing to be able to understand that.”
Carefully weaving the fabric of his life over delicately orchestrated rhythms, Go utilizes its hip-hop influences, throwback soul sensibilities and lyrical honesty to demonstrate just what’s been on Mario’s mind. From changing management to relocating back to his hometown of B’More, to exploring his sensuality and sexuality, Mario is prepared to unveil the sides of himself that have been hidden since his debut.
One revealing song is the Pharrell written and The Neptunes produced album title track, “Go.” As the scenario suggests, it explains different situations about spending time with a girl and while some guys feed women lines to get with them, at the end of the night it’s time to “go.” For Mario, it’s a lyrical fantasy all in good fun. “It’s not disrespectful, it’s honest. They’re going to tell you the sky is green, I’m going tell you it’s blue.”
“How Do I Breathe,” is the melodic mid-tempo first single produced by Stargate, that simply granted Mario permission to “let down my guard to let my fans know I’m human. A lot of fellas can relate to the lyrics expressed in this song but they don’t always say it.” The same sentiment is true and expressed when Timbaland blends finger snaps, drum patterns, synthesizers and an airy piano on “No Definition.” As ambiguous as the song title suggests, Mario would prefer to allow his actions to speak louder than words, as he will treat his woman like she deserves, however there is no title to this thing they have together.
With “Kryptonite,” Mario wears his heart on his sleeve as he empathetically talks to his woman from a far. Serving as a co-writer on the harmonic track produced by Oak, Mario dares to express what most men quietly feel, as he reveals that he wants to be the Superman to his Lois Lane but his “kryptonite” are the other girls that constantly tempt him.
Mario treads on the sensual track with “Let Me Watch,” co-written by Sean Garrett and Michael Croom, co-produced by Mr. Collipark and Garrett. A more personal tale for the bedroom and the clubs, this song “allows a woman to explore her sexuality in a very comfortable state and be ok with it” explains the expressive crooner.
Producers T-Wayne & Stee are behind the boards as they take it back about two decades for the Keith Sweat remake “Right and a Wrong Way.” As Mario recollects vibing before they finally decided to re-record the track, “it’s me wanting to introduce something different to my fans and re-introduce a classic song to their parents or older siblings, etc.” For Mario, the song means something different now as he looks to bring substantive music to the attention of the masses again. Admitting, “being a young man that’s willing to be submissive that’s what that song means. I understand that there is a right and a wrong way to do things and I’m willing if you’re willing.”
Singer, songwriter, producer Akon contributed the emotional “Do Right” in which Mario addresses his relationship with his mother. “Coming up, some family and friends weren’t on the right path. In some cases, wrong turns can be over looked but I had to look at them for what they were.” The result has been to overcome life’s challenges in order to pursue his love for singing and turn that love into the stellar music career that he’s experiencing today.
That process of growth for Mario has been therapeutic as the freedom of expression became comforting because there was no “fear of being judged.” Assuredly, “there are a lot of songs on this album that the fans can relate to. I want them to go out there and feel proud about picking this album up in the store. You can rock it at any time and feel like you are a part of what I’m doing when it comes to this movement.”
This multi-layered “movement” featured Mario the actor in the 2006 teen dance movie Step Up, which debuted at #2 and grossed over $21 million during its opening weekend. In January 2007 Mario continued his burgeoning acting career with a lead role as an at-risk student in the Paramount Pictures/MTV Film Freedom Writers with Hilary Swank, now available on DVD.
Being the voice of a generation is a heavy responsibility, but Mario Barrett is up for the task at hand. Optimistic and faithful, Mario is clear that his role as an entertainer is to perform, however his obligation is to give back to others. He looks toward the distant future to reposition the spotlight off of himself and his personal accomplishments in order to develop and invest in other things – music, artists and a non-profit organization for underprivileged kids and those that grew up with parents with substance abuse problems like him.
Soul Truth will be the breeding ground for developing talent under Mario’s wing. “I’m in touch with my soul. Your soul is what carries you and that was the realist thing I could find that I could relate to people with. And then truth just comes from what I stand for and me not ever wanting to take for granted that God has given me a gift to be who I am and stand for just that, and that’s a gift too. Soul Truth!”
“Go is really just about me finding out who I am and really getting a grasp of it because I know I’m going to give my all, and my career is only going to go up. I’m a very spiritual person. I see God in everything.” Maturing and accepting who he is becoming is the greatest gift Mario could have ever given to himself, and thankfully, his fans get to come along for the ride.