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A welcome introduction to the voice of Mint Condition

No matter what the music genre is when it comes to a group or band, there's always a lead vocalist who stands out and whom the record company dreams of making into a solo superstar. After serving on lead vocals, drums & percussion with Mint Condition for twenty-eight years, Stokley Williams finally gives R&B fans his debut solo album "Introducing Stokely".

Initially, Stokley was offered a solo deal in the late nineties when Mint Condition was recording for Perspective Records. Stokley's first solo appearance was a fantastic cover of the classic Isley Brother's ballad "Make Me Say It Again Girl" from The 6th Man soundtrack. Appearances on other soundtracks would follow, but Stokely waited to release an album of solo material. When an artist goes solo, particularly in the R&B genre, they tend to stick with the formula that made their band or group. Sometimes sticking with the formula (i.e., Sisqo from Dru Hill's solo debut "Unleash the Dragon") works. Other times, straying from the formula can hinder the future solo endeavors, as it did with Sisqo's second solo album.

With Stokely's debut, this isn't the case, as he doesn't spend the entire album copying the Mint Condition style. Instead, we have a diverse offering of musical styles, which works to his advantage. The lead single "Level", has a smooth summertime laid-back groove, which should, without a doubt, be on your summer cookout playlist. "Organic" & "Think About You" follow "Level," and trust me, fellas, both tracks need to be on your slow jam playlist. One of the reasons I've always been more into ballads than the up-tempo material is my ability to identify with the vocalist.

When Stokley sings about natural beauty and just thinking about your loved one amid a busy day, no matter where they may be in the world, it made me smile and think about my wife.

Williams's musical influences are very prevalent on the album On "Cross The Line," he shadows the Michael Jackson classic, "I Can't Help It," while the groove on "Hold My Breath," is very reminiscent of the late, great Prince. The album also features outstanding guest appearances from Estelle, Wale, and the amazingly talented composer Robert Glasper. Estelle joins Stokely on the radio-friendly duet "U&I" while DMV native, Wale, lends some bars to "Way Up." One of the strongest tracks on the album is the Glasper produced "Art In Motion." Williams previously worked with Glasper on the Grammy-winning "Black Radio." The two have fantastic chemistry together, which reminds me of Kanye West and John Legend.

The album isn't flawless, though, as I wasn't too fond of "Victoria," which reminded me of what Ricky Martin or Enrique Iglesias should sing. The song just didn't work for me. While "Be With You" seems to come across as a filler, the closing song the Omi featured, "Wheels Up," is an unneeded attempt to cross over to pop radio.

Thankfully Stokely's solo debut features more hits than misses through a fifteen song journey. Mint Condition is one of the LAST great R&B bands in modern music. Throughout a two-decade career, they have continued to make classic songs and give audiences around the world excellent live performances. With his solo debut, Stokely has shown he has a musical persona outside of Mint Condition.

Final Grade B+

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