Triumphant Spirit: A Conversation with Stokley of Mint Condition [INTERVIEW] by Christopher A. Daniel @StokleyOfficial @mcondition @Journalistorian

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Stokley Williams knows what it’s like to be the last of a dying breed. For over two decades, the Grammy-nominated entertainer has been the lead vocalist, drummer and percussionist for Mint Condition, one of the few popular American bands featuring all African-American musicians.

Mint Condition has never held their abilities and songs captive, blending together funk, jazz, rock, R&B, soul, world music and hip-hop. Still a huge draw able to sell out various concert halls and venues, the gold-certified band entered the pop and R&B charts throughout the 1990s and 2000s with memorable singles like “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes),” “Forever in Your Eyes,” “U Send Me Swingin,” “What Kind of Man Would I Be?,” “If You Love Me” and “You Don’t Have to Hurt No More.”

The St. Paul/Minneapolis-based band’s upcoming ninth studio album, the Christmas-themed Healing Season, is set for release on October 16th via their own record label, Caged Bird Records. The ten-track LP includes a mix of original Mint Condition penned songs like “1st Snow Fall” and “1 Brand Name” alongside holiday classics including “Little Drummer Boy,” “A Child Is Born,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” and “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto.”

Always acknowledging how grassroots efforts are an advantage to promoting their music, Stokley, Mint Condition’s spokesperson this particular evening, is extremely grateful that the band continues to be a fan favorite. Selling millions of records and peaking on the Billboard charts are the least of Mint Condition’s concerns. “The people love what we do,” says Stokley. “We started out day one planting those seeds. We love the instant gratification for them to say they love us. We’re definitely appreciative to do the live thing and become seasoned for that in the industry.”

Along with Stokley, Mint Condition’s current lineup consists of guitarist Homer O’Dell, keyboardist/saxophonist Jeffrey Allen, bassist Ricky Kinchen and keyboardist Larry Waddell. Originally high school classmates in rival bands, the remarkably talented Midwestern outfit was discovered by veteran production duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. A very chilled Stokley revisits the moment when Mint Condition was preparing to sign their first major label deal in the late 1980s.

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Even during that time, he says black bands were endangered species in popular music. “When we first got into the game, there were solo artists and vocal groups, but there weren’t bands, people actually playing instruments” recalls Stokley after performing a duet with vocalist Chanté Moore at this year’s National Action Network Triumph Awards.

Along with his recording career with Mint Condition, Stokley has shared his musical gifts with a dynamic array of performing artists, either playing drums or contributing background vocals for Janet Jackson, Johnny Gill, New Edition, Kelly Price, Sounds of Blackness, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jordan Knight, Jon Secada, Jill Scott, Luther Vandross, Elton John, Karyn White, Yolanda Adams, Usher, Deborah Cox, Toni Braxton, Brian Culbertson, The Robert Glasper Experiment, Tech N9ne, Wale and Boney James.

Stokley, who started out playing West African instruments as a kid, attributes Mint Condition being exceptional musicians to having solid arts education. “We grew up having music in the schools, which they really don’t have anymore. This is perfect right now, just being the representation of that whole school. The arts are definitely a discipline.”

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Mint Condition is quite content these days with being independent artists. The band was once signed to a couple of major labels but still managed to become modern legends in their own right. They were profiled on TV One’s docuseries, Unsung, and another nostalgic TV One series, Way Black When, featured Mint Condition as its house band in 2011. Their fellow Minneapolis musical icon, Prince, even invited the instrumentalists to perform as part of his Welcome 2 America tour.

The release of Healing Season is right around the corner along with several tour dates in support of the project. Stokley reiterates how Mint Condition doesn’t take their success for granted. However, he hopes the band’s longevity can motivate younger, aspiring talent to pursue their goals in music or entertainment.

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“A group like us creating our own island is triumphant enough in this day and age,” Stokley proclaims. “Hopefully, we inspire some more people to wanna play or pick up an instrument. It creates so much knowledge and power. There’s so many things it helps.”

PRE-ORDER Mint Condition’s Healing Season via Amazon | iTunes

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