For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to visit the Buckeye State and pay homage to The Rude Boys. The Cleveland-based quartet consisted of Larry Marcus, Melvin Sephus, Edward Lee “Buddy” Banks, and Joe Little III. Initially breaking onto the scene in 1990 with the hits “Written All Over Your Face” and “Are You Lonely For Me” from their debut, they wasted no time returning to the studio.
Second Listen Sunday: 112, Pleasure & Pain
R&B quartet 112 was at a crossroads when their fifth album, Pleasure & Pain, hit records stores in the spring of 2005. A year prior, they officially departed longtime label Bad Boy Records for Def Soul, and the group’s fourth album, Hot & Wet, had underperformed two years earlier.
For their fifth project, 112 collaborated with a new group of people, including Mario Winans, Jermaine Dupri, and Bryan Michael Cox, who each contributed once or twice. However, the group remained self-sufficient, with Daron Jones taking on much of the production responsibilities.
R&B music had begun to shift, and groups weren’t getting as much love in the industry. Undaunted, the group kept with the times and got a little nasty on the album’s first single, “U Already Know.” Written by the group members and up-and-coming hitmakers Sean Garrett and Focus, “U Already Know” was a pseudo-sequel to the group’s earlier hit “Anywhere.”
Set to the production talents of Garret & Focus, “U Already Know” by 112 is a provocative song about physical intimacy between two people. The song depicts a passionate night between two lovers familiar and comfortable with each other’s desires. The lyrics suggest that the two are home alone, intending to satisfy their sexual desires. Group members Slim and Q share lead vocals, with Daron providing ad-libs at the end. “U Already Know” is still a favorite and holds up almost twenty years later.
The boys from the A went to a ballad for the second single, “What If.” Slim takes the lead on the song, which is a poignant reflection on regret over past mistakes and the desire for reconciliation in a broken relationship. Slow jam guru Darrell “Delite” Allamby provided the group with lyrics and production for the song.
The lyrics are centered on the singer’s introspection and self-criticism, admitting past infidelities, lying, and dominating behavior that caused his partner harm. The “what if” questions throughout the song highlight the singer’s wishful thinking about an alternate reality where he had acted differently and not lost his love.
If memory serves, “If I Hit” featuring T.I. was also a radio single but didn’t take off. Like other R&B artists at the time, 112 overloaded the project. Outside of “Damn,” the up-tempo numbers hit less than their previous bops. “My Mistakes” is straight filler, and “The Way” feat Jermaine Dupri comes off as a low-rent Jay-Z leftover. At the same time, the unlikely collaboration on “Closing The Club” with Three 6 Mafia is still perplexing. Who could’ve ever predicted that the guys who sang “Love You Like I Did” would croon the words nads in a song?
Thankfully the group kept a step when it came to ballads and interludes. “That’s How Close We Are,” “Why Can’t Get We Along,” and “God Knows” still sound fresh in 2023. Furthermore, the interlude “We Goin Be Alright” has more soul and passion in the lyrics than some R&B artists ruling the airwaves.
Pleasure & Pain would serve as the last 112 album for twelve years. After this project, 112 would focus on solo efforts and the occasional spot date. While the album is weaker than their previous releases, there are some bright spots.
Final Grade: B –
Pleasure & Pain is available on all streaming platforms.
More reviews to explorer
Valentine’s Day 2024 may have come and gone, but I still plan to use highlight songs with the V-word for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. The artist I chose is a southern gentleman by the name of Lloyd. Initially breaking onto the scene as a member of the preteen-boy band N-Toon, Lloyd’s solo career kicked off in 2004 with the hit “Southside.”
As we continue to celebrate the month of love, I chose “Valentine by Ryan Leslie as the second song with the word valentine for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. Leslie broke into the music industry in 2003, writing hits for Beyoncé and New Edition. Leslie released the singles “The Way That U Move Girl” and “Used 2 Be” featuring Fabolous. However, his debut album was never officially released due to creative differences with his record label. In late 2007, Leslie finally broke through with the bop “Diamond Girl,” and his self-titled album would finally hit record stores on February 10, 2009. Leslie also succeeded with the follow-up singles “Addiction” and “How It Was Supposed to Be.” Surprisingly, though, Leslie didn’t drop “Valentine” as the fourth single, which would have timed perfectly with the album release date.