Mario is making moves.

It's been seven years since his last album, D.N.A., and a bit longer since fans first heard hit tracks like "Braid My Hair," Let Me Love You," How Do I Breathe" and "Just a Friend 2002." But now, as the 30-year-old singer is gearing up to release his fifth studio album, Paradise Cove, Mario is an entirely different place. And he's talking about his new music, working with K-pop artists and the upcoming election.

Get into it below.

The Boombox: What's it been like, transitioning to your own label? 

It's been great so far. A lot of work, definitely more challenging business wise, you know, having to be more hands on and balance out the creative versus the business and that type of stuff. But I think that's what comes with being an entrepreneur and that's what comes with being a business owner and stepping into new territory. So, I'm excited and a lot of growth will come from it, I'm sure.

How did you come up with the name New Citizen for the label?

I literally felt like a new artist when I left [J Records]. When I started the recording process again being that it was a completely different type of process, I felt like a new artist. I felt like I had to reinvent myself personally on different levels so I wanted the name of the company to represent artists who were going into a new creative phase in their career or just at a point where they're ready to express a different level. So, it's kind of like the creative god within each and every one new citizen. Like, the new creative part of yourself.

You talk about recreating yourself as an artist and your new single "I Need More" is a little faster than what you were known for.

The texture is different. The vibe is different. The context is different.

A little bit grittier...

Definitely grittier. Definitely that's something I feel is new to my fans which is kind of what I wanted to do, just surprise people and let them know that this album may not be exactly what they're used to. But, I think the record, conceptually, is more what I wanted than actually the sound of it. I could have took that same concept and did a different sound with it but that just happened to be the vibe we were in when I recorded it. But the album itself is more R&B driven. Definitely the content in it, talks about love, talks about different perspectives of love, talks about...I think that there's different metaphors that give a more creative perspective than normal traditional R&B type of approach.

You said perspectives of love...what kind of perspectives?

So I have a song called "Swim the Waters," which is lyrically one of my favorite. It goes "I'd still bite the apple even if I knew that it was poison / I'd still swim the waters even if I knew the sharks were lurking / If my wounds were bleedings, would your hands be there to help the healing? / I'll tell you the secrets, even if I don't know for certain you'd believe them." And it's really just saying this is how much I care for you, this is how much I would do to prove to you that I love you. And then the flip side of it is that sometimes we can be that brave to do all of those things but not be brave enough to love. So, it's kind of like a dual meaning to it.

Your single "I Need More" talks about "enough with the bottles, etc."  What do you need more of?

That concept came about from just kind of living in Miami and just crazy lifestyles and having fun. One night, me and my boys was chillin' you know girls everywhere s--- poppin' or whatever whatever. Like, 'Yo, is this it bro?' Like there has to be more to it than this.

I think with needing more changes daily but every day is different for me but more than anything right now, I think just the muses, you know creative muses. I'm at a point now where like because I've been moving around a lot and I'm working, then going back to the studio, then working, then going back to the studio so it's like I be looking for muses and like creative muses. Whether it be like a certain conversation, a certain person I meet or certain vibes like I just need more of that right now. Like right now, I need more creative inspiration 'cause that's what helps to put you in a different mind and different mental space energetically to pour different concepts out and do things.

What are your muses?`

Creative inspirations...a lot of it definitely comes from women for sure. Just meeting different types of girls, crazy girls, calm girls, spiritual girls, religious girls, all types of girls, you know? And the types of things and the types of conversations I have with them or like different friends I have from different walks of life. Being in different environments, like different cities. Like New York will give me a different vibe from Miami. You know, L.A., London, Australia...I love when I go on the road, traveling to different countries and seeing all the types of music they listen to, what sounds they're liking, what they're attracted to and kind of just taking that and feeding off of my own vibes.

And you directed "I Need More?"

Co-directed and created the concept for the video.

I was trying to figure out the concept...

So when you watch it, what do you feel, what do you get from it?

It seems like there's a battle going on and something building up then towards the end you have this clash with this other people.

So basically, the concept is overall that we're all fighting something, we're all fighting for more freedom or for more creative expression, for more power. Everybody has something that they fight for and the whole thing behind the video is doing it together. Fighting for a cause together and never allowing someone to trap you or something to keep you in fear from fighting from what you believe in. There's definitely different concepts in the song but it's an idea that I had and also with all of the police brutality stuff going on and just different things going on, I just felt like it was more consciously relevant than just be me in the club, poppin' bottles. I already did that.

And that makes sense for the concept of the song.


Was this your first time directing?

Yeah, it was. It was my first time. It was amazing to see it all come together and all of the amazing people. I literally pulled it together within a few weeks and it was...I love the idea of just seeing the vision come to life and having it being exactly what you envisioned. It just, it makes me more excited about my future endeavors and a lot more respect for film directors who put films together with big budgets. Whew. I understand why Kanye wants to be the new Walt Disney now.

It's addictive?

Super addictive. Cause it's like...I feel like videos and music are very subconscious. There's so much you can do with it to affect people. You can really change people's moods, you can drive them in certain ways. It's a good way also to bring yourself in to show people...cause sometimes music doesn't always tell your full story. Sometimes you need those visuals to show how creative you are or what you can do outside of music and I have so much within me that I want to do.

So are you planning on directing or co-directing again?

Definitely I would like to for sure, for sure. We'll see how it goes the next single is called "Help You." It's more of a R&B, reggae vibe. I definitely have a concept for it, it's just going to cost too much money to do so I gotta switch the concept and see what other director's come back with and whatever, whatever.

Can I know the concept?

But what if it's not the concept we use?

That's fine.

But if I explain it to you, you're not gonna get it.

I might...

Nah, I'm telling you, you're not going to see it. You have to see it. I don't know, it's going to sound crazy.

I mean, I watch Japanese anime...

Oh you do?

I do

That's cool. Yo, Asian films and Asian videos is crazy. Their video budgets can be like $900,000.

Yeah the K-pop videos are so crazy.

I went over there cause I wanted to sign a K-pop artist. I went over there and I was just blown away by it. But also how much of our American culture they put in the production as well. It's very interesting.

Which K-pop artist?

There's an artist. Her name is Uji, she's a female artist. She's in a group called Bestie right.

Cool, cool. Now back to you. (laughs) The album is called Paradise Cove which sounds pretty. How'd you come up with that name?


Is it not supposed to be pretty?

I mean, hey. It's so interesting because when I think of Paradise Cove or when I created it...I really thought about paradise--for each person, their paradise is different. For me, when I think about paradise, I think about all my goals and aspirations and dreams and the person that I see myself being at the best quality and where I am now. And cove is like the journey, it's like the place you deal with how the journey affects you. So Paradise Cove

Exactly (laughs) So you have your album coming out, Usher just dropped Hard II Love, Solange just dropped A Seat at The Table, it seems like it's a really good time for R&B. Better than it has been in awhile...

Yeah, 100%. I'm happy to be coming out with new music during this time. I think it's always a good time for R&B, I just think that it's how receptive people are to it. With Solange's project, it proves that people just are ready for something fresh and different and something that actually excites them in terms of it being unique. So, that's exciting. A lot of great artists.



Definitely not. I heard that you're vegetarian now.

Pescatarian. So, I recently just started eating fish again. Actually, I'm not going to lie to you, so I cheated for like two weeks and then I got food poisoning so then I went back. So, I was like iight cool, one day I just started eating like lamb and beef and stuff with no warm up to it, just started going in. It was bad. Then, I'm all cocky, I'm saying, 'Yo, I'm about to start working out and getting big and buff. Then, I got food poisoning and that was my body telling me, 'listen, you know this isn't what we decided on doing.' So, I went back. I try not to even eat seafood that much. I try to just stick with vegetarian, eating a lot of different types of proteins, from beans to quinoa. I eat a lot of quinoa.

So what made you decide to become vegetarian or pescatarian?

There's a few different reasons. One, just being more health conscious and being more conscious of the environment, being more conscious of how foods are prepared and understanding the supply and demand. Like, there's over 400 million people in this country and everybody eats chicken and beef -- and then we waste a lot of food. So, a lot of these animals have to be mass produced and stuffed with all types of stuff to preserve it. I think becoming more conscious of that and you can actually train yourself not to eat that way, it becomes a lifestyle. A lot of it is just spiritual for me and just knowing and understanding that in order for me to be at my optimal health, for me eating meats every day just isn't the way to go. I love animals too.

These animals share the same planet as you, these animals have feelings. They communicate, they're smart, they're intelligent. You think they don't know they about to die before they die? And then they're tensed and stressed out and you're eating that and you're taking those same vibrations and putting them in your body. Then people wonder why we have all these crazy energies and all these crazy thoughts.


Do you have any features on the album?

We're working on features now. I just ran into Kehlani down in Miami so I'm trying to put that together. I think I got a record for her already so I'm trying to put that together. Definitely want a female feature on this record, like for sure, just because I feel like there's a lot of dope female artists coming out and I want to be a part of that conversation and make a record that's for this generation that's classic.

What are your thoughts on the election?

I think overall this whole debate has been very embarrassing for us as citizens that we've allowed these types of candidates to be in 2017, to be running for president. I feel like the system isn't necessarily beneficial to all citizens and not to go too deep into the detail, it's up to us as citizens to really enforce and be a part of these lawmakers and be a part of our local governments and really fight for what we believe in. But it's also up to us to be conscious and know and understand the history and understand what's really going on.

I urge young people to read and study for themselves to become self-taught. You know, do your own research and don't depend on your president or this system to protect you and your family and to be on your side when it comes to surviving. You have to ground yourself with knowledge to really understand what's going on in this country.

We, especially in the urban community, we have to take more responsibilty for ourselves, take more responsibility for what happens in our communities and start to show the world who we are and why we deserve the respect and why we deserve to be given a certain amount of respect and leeway when it comes to our own communities. I think we have the power to do that. I think there's enough of us, there's a lot of successful black people that have a voice to be able to support communities that are coming together so I feel like we have to take back our own communities again. We have to lead by example.

When I say that I mean unconditionally loving each other, unconditionally supporting each other and treating each other like young black kings and queens. Not in like this extravagant like Egyptian pharaoh way, I'm talking about just in terms of the respect and what we were born with. The gifts that we were born with. When it comes to understanding a lot of the creativity, a lot of music, a lot of inventions, a lot of these things that we're doing today were built on our backs and our ancestors. I feel like right now, tis is the generation to actually change the future. If they don't understand that, they have the power to do so and start to explore that then I don't know where we're going to be in twenty years. That's kind of my thoughts.

No matter who wins, no ones going to be able to fix all the issues. This is a corporation at the end of the day of the United States and corporations have certain systems set in place that they're going to follow regardless of whatever.

Are you not really into any of the candidates?

Not really. I mean, obviously, I really don't want Trump to win. But I feel like in all honesty, this will force people to wake up. Like force people to wake up and start taking their lives serious.

People have so much fear of cops here, I feel like they're training people to be okay with continually to brutally murder young black men. It's no more talking, change has to happen. But I feel like it starts internally. We have to change the way we look at ourselves, the way we act towards each other. All this internet...all of the ignorant stuff that's on the internet, it's too much. I feel for everybody. The world is just in a crazy place. We just need to raise the consciousness of people and if that doesn't happen, we're all doomed..



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