Artist Stokley Williams needs no introduction
His solo debut is called “Introducing Stokley,” but the artist is no rookie.
Stokley is Stokley Williams, frontman for the R&B group Mint Condition, a Grammy nominee for the song “Not My Daddy” with Kelly Price and a drummer / percussionist who has recorded with such artists as Janet Jackson, New Edition, Luther Vandross, Elton John, Usher and Wale.
“Introducing Stokley” was released 26 years after Mint Condition’s debut, and in a telephone interview from his home in Minnesota, Williams said he and the other members of the group wanted time to pursue other projects and he enjoyed being in total control compared to the more democratic process of making an album with a band.
“It’s all me, from the bottom to the top, from left to right,” he said. “There are some collaborates on here as well, but the direction is all me. It’s a dive deeper into my interests and my sound.”
“Art in Motion” features experimental jazz pianist Robert Glasper, “U & I” is a duet with British singer Estelle and Wale adds some rhymes to “Way Up.”
“I feel like it’s a hybrid of old and new, digital and analog,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough, digital technology wasn’t there when I started. I still love that spiritual organic approach, but I also love the convenience and the dynamics of the new culture.”
Opening for The Whispers tonight at Powers Auditorium, Williams said he will emphasize the songs from his solo album, but he’ll also include some Mint Condition favorites and some of the music that influenced him.
“I try to entertain them so they don’t realize, ‘I was listening to all this new material,'” he said.
He believes his experience as a drummer makes him a better frontman, even if he isn’t behind the kit.
“The drummer controls the time, that’s his job … He understands the whole stage, how it works. He understands where the holes are musically and where things need to go to fill them. “
Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis discovered and signed Mint Condition, and working with them on Mint Condition recordings as well as sessions the duo produced for others influenced Williams’ approach to his own music, but he said he’s drawn from everyone he’s worked with, including Prince.
While focused on his solo career, Williams also has been working with Prince’s The Revolution, which has been playing tribute shows to the artist since Prince died in 2016. Growing up in the Twin Cities, Williams watched Prince’s ascent up close. When Mint Condition started making hits in the ’90s, the two acts even traded friendly barbs before finally meeting face to face. Mint Condition eventually ended up opening for Prince on tour.
“He was very generous to us, to me,” Williams said. “He took us under his wing and we started doing shows with him. He had a tremendous impact and his legacy will live on. I’ll always celebrate that man.”
He’s still doing the occasional show with The Revolution and has enjoyed performing Prince’s music with the players who backed him on such albums as “Purple Rain” and “Sign of the Times.”
“They’re amazing musicians. I’m honored to play with them.”