He’s sweet, smooth, and addictive, kind of like ice cream with yummy chunks of sugary goodness. Then again, most critics probably wouldn’t compare Mario to mint chocolate chip even though he definitely adds flavour to R&B. Surely you’ve all heard “Just A Friend,” a cover of the original Biz Markie song, spinning on the radio and in the clubs, so you have some idea of what all the fuss is about—aside from hitting some unbelievable notes, Mario is only sixteen.
Strangely enough though, he’s not holding his breath for the day when people will stop mentioning his age. He’s not even the least bit phased by being toted again and again as “so talented and only sixteen” instead of just plain “talented.” This kind of confidence is an asset, not so much to get him through the years of teen-riddled angst, but so he can hold his own while sitting in the studio with Alicia Keys, to name just one of his producers who has taught him a thing or two. And speaking of lessons, it might be worth noting that somewhere in his hometown of Baltimore, his former classmates are probably taking notes on Shakespeare while Mario takes notes from Clive Davis. Not to say that Davis is more interesting than Shakespeare, but having founded Arista Records with artists like Pink, Monica, Usher and Dido on board he definitely scores more popularity points.
However, before you start pondering the unfairness of it all, and plotting your own escape out of English class, perhaps it would be beneficial to look at the bigger and less scintillating picture. Mario is still taking courses even though they’re not in-class, and then on top of that, he also has to sift through the tonne of information being thrown at him from a million different directions. With so many people offering advice and guidance, Mario doesn’t pull out the magic eight ball for help. He knows “something is right when all these different people say the same thing.”
Mario is determined to not let his head swell to the size of a watermelon from the fame that tails R&B stars. “I don’t want to change,” he says in his smooth voice. He’s also hoping that “people will see me for what I am…all the hard work that I put in it.” Mario has more direction than a map, so it’s not surprising that after so much hard work, he stops to have a moment while watching his own video on BET. “Sometimes I still get emotional,” he remarks in a sniffly tone, mocking himself at the end with a little laugh.
Most importantly though, Mario remembers to acknowledge not only the support he’s received in the recording studio but at home too, “I remember my mom everyday,” he says. He explains how the drive to succeed and to last in the music industry helped him stay in the game when being away from family and friends seemed really difficult at first. Mario may be only sixteen, but you won’t hear him whining about the lack of free time or his gruelling schedule. And if you ask him if there’s a special someone in his life, he’ll tell you flat out “it’s my mom.”