The land of R&B groups is a barren world we have yet to return from. Many of the most beloved R&B groups have allowed internal squabbles and growing pains to deter them from making the type of R&B fans have been needing.
One of the groups who have gone through those types of problems is former Bad Boy recording artists 112. Daron Jones of 112 knows all too well about the hardships of trying to keep a group together. Though many might not immediately recognize his name, Daron Jones is responsible for writing and producing some of the group’s biggest hits. (If you love “Cupid” or “It’s Over Now,” thank Jones for his creativity.) Jones spoke to The Urban Daily about why most groups don’t last, maintaining a life that doesn’t go along with an artist’s image, and updates us on the status of a 112 reunion.
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TUD: So, first off, you’ve been singing and producing new material for other artists for how long now?
Daron Jones: Probably since 1996.
What songs did you write for 112?
DJ: I wrote and produced “Cupid,” “It’s Over Now,” and “Dance With Me.” Really about probably 80% of the music.
See now, most of those are my favorite songs. When my 8th grade girlfriend and I broke up, “It’s Over Now” was it.
DJ: Okay. I appreciate that, man. I appreciate that.
What’s the difference in the music you wrote and produced for 112 and the music you’re making for yourself now?
DJ: I think a lot of it is just personal to me. Like when I was writing for 112 in the group, I think a lot of things were happening to me too. But a lot of stuff I was singing about was happening to us collectively. As a writer and producer I try to connect what the artist if I’m writing a song for or I’m producing a song for. I try to make a connection to an experience that they had. So when you’re singing a song, it comes across as something that’s real and sincere to people.
With the group’s music, those are things that I was going through as an individual and as a group too. I think the major difference is that the things I’m writing about now are just a little more personal. Like these are vital experiences that I went through and I don’t really know if guys had these things happen in their lives.
Did you guys break up? Or are you just taking a break from 112 as a group?
DJ: Well, for a while, you know, we separated because of creative differences. We had just a few creative differences within the band. But as of the past couple of months, we’ve got back together and kinda reconciled our differences and we’ve been touring a lot lately. Our first show was in Atlantic City, and it was with Jagged Edge and Dru Hill. It was a good feeling being on stage back then. Now, we’re back together and just doing a lot of show dates. The second show was in Detroit. The fans really coming out showing a lot of support. Both shows were sold out. So it’s really what’s going on at the moment.
Before you guys got back together, how many times a day would fans walk up to you like, ‘We need another 112 album?’
DJ: Well, I mean it just depended on where I was at. I would talk to fans. A lot of times I kept in contact with the fans online, stuff like that, and they just wondering when there’s gonna be another 112 album or they just wanted to know what the deal was. I think fans of the group, pretty much, they just want music. Whether it’s a project that you’re doing on your own, or whether it’s a project that the group is doing, they just want us to keep making music they love.
This is your third independent album? Your third solo album?
DJ: Yeah. I put out a Christmas album on iTunes and I put out an album called Uncensored. So this will be my third independent album. And it’s entitled Re-invention.
I was getting ready to ask you about that. Why the title Re-invention?
DJ: Well, Re-invention has a couple of definitions. But the one that rings true for me is to take something that is familiar and make an improved version of it. It’s almost like a Benz that came out five years ago. If you go back to the dealership and get that Benz now, it’s gonna give you the same feeling. The same beauty and same intensity, but it’s gonna be upgraded a little bit. It’s gonna have a few additional features. So I’m going to deal with myself the same way as an artist. I’m just making improvements on myself as a performer, as a singer, as a songwriter, and as a producer. I think that’s what it means for me.
Besides writing and producing , you’re also a businessman with DPS label, correct?
DJ: Yes. DPS Productions is my company. I formed it after I started producing records for other artists. So that was really the umbrella that I was producing up under for a few years. And then I decided to brand myself with that company and just start selling music independently. So that’s what I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, and also I have a few artists signed to me. My sister, Soni Jones, and a couple of other acts that I’m working on right now.
I see you have a country artist. Have you always wanted to get into the country music genre?
DJ: Yeah. My country artist is Heather Mayfield. I love music overall so it doesn’t really matter what genre it is. I think country music has a lot of similarities to R&B and Gospel, and that’s really my foundation. I started off singing in the church and just grew up listening to R&B music. Then I fell in love with country music over time. So I think it’s very relative to the type of music that I’m doing. I think a major difference is just instrumentation of it, how it’s played and how it’s formatted.
On Real Housewives Of Atlanta we got to see Kandi Burruss trying to get some of her songs to place with country artists and the differences between that and R&B. Where like an R&B singer would hold the note or use a lot of power to get that note out, a country artist doesn’t really wanna do the vocal tricks. Are you blending the R&B elements and ideas with the country ideas with Heather Mayfield?
DJ: Well, right now, it’s not really defined as to what the sound is gonna be. Honestly at the moment, what I’m doing is just keeping it straight country and not really putting an R&B twist into it because that’s really going away from the genre. Like you said, that’s true. Country music kinda stays true to the melody a little bit more. That’s their style.
What else do you have going on? I know one as busy as you always has more than one thing going on
DJ: I’m working on a product line. I’m just trying to keep it under wraps. But it’s coming pretty soon. I’m also doing a campaign that is called the Beautiful Campaign, because one of my singles that’s available on iTunes right now is called “Beautiful.” We’re doing a campaign to empower women worldwide so that’s something we’re working on right now. It’s a beautiful thing.
Speaking of empowering women, a lot of R&B used to be–from a man’s point of view–how much he loves his woman or how much she hurt him when she went away. What do you think has changed in the music to where that’s no longer the case? Now it’s more like dudes are talking about, ‘Yo, I’mma take your girl from you’ instead of really wanting to love a woman.
DJ: Yeah, I think certain things come up out with the business. Once you get into the business and you become an entertainer, you start making a lot of money and you get a lot of power. There’s other things that you can talk about. Like these certain songs that have been chosen in the past like, with 112 and even on Uncensored I wrote about certain things. Just being a famous person in R&B and having power, we can talk about that type of stuff like, “I’m taking your girl or I’m a player, I thought you knew.” But at the end of the day, the root of R&B and the translation of R&B is life relationships. I think it’s kinda always based on what that person is going through in they life. Because they have to kinda talk about what that person is going through in their life. A lot of times, as artists, we just kinda express ourselves. Sometimes people are like, ‘Yo, I understand that you’re going through and that you’re throwing money up in the club, but where is my real song?’ I think we gotta try as R&B artists, we gotta find that balance and say some of the things that we wanna say that people, you know, we just wanna express, but at the same time, give people who classic R&B music that’s timeless.
Rappers can rap about being with multiple women and doing all this stuff while they have a wife in real life. But if an R&B guy sings about that, they kinda want him to keep his real-life wife or long-term girlfriend a secret. Why do you think that is?
DJ: A lot of times, it’s just marketing. Like a movie, it’s a product. You might love this music, that might be your dude, you might see him on TV rapping or singing or dancing or whatever it is that he doing to make you feel like, ‘Yo, that’s my man. I like this dude. I like his music. I’m a fan of him.’ At the end of the day, this guy’s a product. A lot of times if you’re an R&B dude, the fantasy of a woman being able to have you for herself, that’s part of the marketing. If you got a girl, just keep that on the low because that ain’t really got nothing to do with your brand.
How do you define that line for yourself when you’re on your own personal time and then you get that one fan who’s just like, ‘Okay, I gave you your autograph. I took your picture, but you’re still in my face.’ How do you politely ease them off?
DJ: Well, I mean, you just gotta keep it moving. That’s part of the program. You know, women gone be there. It’s always gonna be somebody that wanna get more than their picture. It is what it is. Over time, you just kinda get over it and you get to a point where you like, ‘Okay, thank you. Goodnight.’ But when you’re young and first get in the business, you’re probably lovin’ it and you probably taking advantage of it. Once you get to a certain level, you kinda get over that and want to be about your business.
As a member of a male R&B group, why do you think there aren’t any male R&B groups anymore?
DJ: It’s hard to keep a group together. That’s why you see a lot of the young groups together. When they get a little older everybody starts thinking for themselves. They want different things out of the business. A lot of groups tend to stop getting along. Look at Jackson 5 or New Edition, they split and did different things. After a while, it’s harder to get along because people just change.
Would you say that the money changes them or the money and the fame just amplifies those negative traits they already had inside of them?
DJ: I think people just change over time. I don’t even think it takes money to make a person change. I think when you 15, you’re thinking a certain way. When you’re 21, you thinking a different way. When you 25, you thinking a different way. You know what I’m saying?
A lot of the fellas in the group had kids early. Having a child makes you look at life differently. I didn’t have any kids at the time. I was young and doing my thing. So a lot of things they could understand and deal with, I couldn’t understand those things. So it’s just like a natural life thing. I really don’t think it has anything to do with money.
What direction do you see R&B heading in?
DJ: Right now, I see a lot of R&B collaborating with house music. It’s like a pop sound. I shouldn’t say a pop sound, cause pop is whatever the public makes popular. But I’ll say it’s a house sound that is R&B and I think it’s a good look for R&B. At the same time, I wanna see that foundation of where R&B really came from. I wanna see that again.
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