As you get older, your priorities change. A couple of years ago, all Mario wanted was for somebody to braid his hair. Now 18 and with both Air Force Ones officially planted into adulthood, he says just hand him a hairbrush.
"One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do it is that I did want to stand out from everybody," Mario said about the beginning of his new video, "Let Me Love You," in which he's shown right after getting a haircut. In real life, it took him about five years to grow his hair long (see "Mario Needs Comb, Hair Grease To Escape"), and he cut it two months ago.
"I just wanted to do something different," the Baltimore native said. "So many young artists out there have braids. It was hard for me to cut it. I was debating before we shot the video, then I was like, 'I don't think I'mma cut my hair.' One day I'm in the barbershop, getting a shape-up, and I say, 'I'm about to cut my braids. Let's lose it.' "
Mario's new set, Turning Point, came out on Tuesday. Although we haven't heard too much from him in the last couple of years, he says he's not shying away from growing up in public.
"I get to share it with the world," he said. "It's good for me. I been blessed to be in this situation. Everything's been going great. I just been pacing myself, working real hard on this album. That's what my life is about right now: my transition into manhood."
On wax, he's experiencing what most men spend their lives trying to figure out: how to deal with women. Singing about treating one young lady right has paid off. Turning Point's lead cut, "Let Me Love You," is exploding.
" 'Let Me Love You' is just a universal record," he explained. "Anybody can listen to the record and relate. I'm talking for the fellas and the ladies. More so for the fellas because I'm sure you been in a situation where a girl you was digging was going through something with a dude. You're like, 'I know I can treat shorty better.' It's timeless."
If you look at the production credits for the mid-tempo record, you may be surprised to discover that the song was produced by Scott Storch, who's been making noise with club bangers like "Baby Boy" and "Lean Back" the last couple of years.
"He did a lot of stuff back in the day, you'd be surprised," Mario said of the producer's talents and versatility. "He played me some stuff he did for Erykah Badu, for Lauryn Hill, for Eminem and 50 Cent. When I went to Scott, we went in the studio and freestyled and came up with some great records."
Storch also produced "Call the Cops" and the "Let Me Love You" remix with Jadakiss and T.I. Mario called on Lil Jon and Juvenile for "Boom."
"It's a straight club banger," Mario said. "There's another record called 'How Could You.' I did that with the Underdogs. It's a ballad about me being in a relationship with some shorty. She was doing some things behind my back. I'm telling her, 'Yo, how can you teach somebody the ghetto Kama Sutra?' It's a timeless record, real strong and powerful. Then there's a record called 'Nikes Fresh Out the Box.' I'm talking about a girl, but I'm comparing her to my Nikes."
For the record, Mario's favorite kicks of all time are the Air Force Ones. He has a weakness for the tennis shoes, but he doesn't have it as bad for them as he does for the honeys.
"Another one's called 'Couldn't Say No,' " the singer continued. "It's about me and my girl having some problems. The time we were broken up, her girlfriend came and took her place. I say, 'I couldn't say no. It's a shame when a man can't say no. I gotta tell you the truth, and this is the truth.'
"Some of it is real life," he added about his songs. "Some of it is your imagination — what could have taken place. That's how some of the songs are done."