Mista is four mega-talented teens from the R&B world’s brightest hot corner, Atlanta Georgia, whose masterful vocal chops and unabashed emotion belie their young ages. Whether soulfully spilling over with an exotic groove like the soon-to-be smash “Blackberry Molasses,” or giving it up on the heart wrenching “Tears, Scars, and Lies,” or laying down the funky gauntlet of “What About Us,” Mista is letting it be known right from the start that they’re a group to be reckoned with.
Darryl Allen, Bobby Wilson, Brandon Brown, and Byron Reeder, represent Mista in all their glowing harmonies. The group is already drawing comparisons to R&B legends such as Boyz II Men and New Edition. Formed and managed by “09 Lives” production wizard Eric Johnston and EEG A&R director Ian Burke, the self-titled debut album was executive produced by the renowned production team, Organized Noize, ( which includes Patrick Brown, Raymond Murray and Rico Wade) producers of TLC’s classic “Waterfall”. Speaking for the talented team, Rico raves about Mista’s potential: ” Mista has all the elements to take off like a TLC. They have an earnestness and an innocence in their style that comes across so effectively it immediately makes the kids out there want to call them their own.”
Not surprising, when you realize all of the boys had been involved in music since grade school. “I’ve been singing since 4th grade,” says 16 year old Bobby. “I was born in Mississippi but moved to
Atlanta at a young age. My parents were a little skeptical about the music industry at first, but when I got hooked up with Eric and Organized Noize I knew I’d be working with people serious about getting a record deal.” Bobby says preparing for the album was hard work. “We not only practiced musically but we have been working with a choreographer for our live show, as well.” Byron, who has known Bobby since the 4th grade, seconds the notion that Mista’s training was grueling but rewarding. “We have been working together for almost two years now,” he says. “Our sessions together get longer and longer. When we first started our rehearsals would be like under an hour, now they are four hours long.” Brandon, now 13, originally hails from Philadelphia. He feels he was a little more versed in what a young singer’s day-to-day routine might be like. “My mom was a singer when she was young and she also modeled,” he says. “I’ve been very influenced by her and a lot of the R&B she listened to.” Brandon points out that one of the dreams of all four of the boys is to hopefully write a couple of the songs on their next album. “All of us would like to write or maybe produce one day. We paid real close attention to how this record was made, from start to finish.”
Darryl, a laid-back 15, handles his fair share of the vocal chores on the debut LP with cool demeanor. It might be due to the fact that he is also a self-taught drummer, and wouldn’t mind banging a few skins for the next one. “I was already in a group,” he says. “We were called Legacy, it was an R&B group based here in Atlanta. I have two other brothers who are also involved in music, one is a promoter and one raps, so I’m ready for anything. Being in Mista has made us all feel like brothers, I mean we have our ups and downs once in awhile, but for the most part this has been the greatest experience of my life, just being in a group with these guys.”
Working so closely together has also made each of the boys match up their musical tastes. They all cite Jodeci and Boyz II Men as influences, with an obvious affection for TLC coming through as well. Bobby and Darryl cite Outkast and Goodie Mob as their two favorite hip hop idols. Brandon, who had sang with Darryl for a time before joining Mista, says the mixture of influences has added to the diverse singing styles that make up the precocious harmonies of Mista. In order to capture the complex call and response of a song like “What About Me,” the timing of such a rich blend of young voices has got to be right on. “There is a lot of talent in this group,” he says. “Since the first day we got together at Bobby’s house we just seemed to click. The hard work was in making the material suit us.” Bobby echoes the sentiment: “We had input into a lot of the songs, helping with certain words or finding the right phrasing for our style.” Bobby also admits to having acting aspirations, and says the emotion that Mista puts into each song is something that is very evident during their live show. “One song we do, “I Think That I Should Be,” is very popular with the ladies when we perform. It’s not a jumpy one or anything, but it is about women, and how they’re often abused, and by the end of the song the moms and daughters and sisters in the audience are slowly swooning and swaying to the music.”
Another inspiring tune is “Tears, Scars, And Lies.” “Tears” is one of my favorites,” says Brandon. “It’s a beautiful song. The song basically captures how you feel when someone or somebody you love does you wrong, and how the experience just changes your whole world. It just leaves you torn up,” He pauses. It’s obvious that even at such a young age these four singers fully identify with their material. “Sometimes it’s hard at school,” Brandon muses. “A lot of the kids just assume that I think I’m all it’ because I’m in a group. I don’t think they realize everything you put into it.”
The little spare time they do have is filled with sports and listening to music, just what you’d expect from any average teenagers. “I’m a Chicago bulls fan, bigtime,” laughs Darryl. “Bobby is an Orlando fan.” One thing all four agree on is their favorite cut on the album, the one track that literally oozes with Mista’s mysterious ambiance, “Blackberry Molasses.” “We all loved it from the first time we heard it,” says Byron. “It’s sophisticated but at the same time really hits you emotionally.” Producer Rico Wade agrees with Byron’s appraisal. “It’s innovative. It starts out with almost a medieval feel. It’s one of the most visual songs on the album with strong harmonies and a great melody.” Darryl, who is out front on a lot of the vocals, including the hip-hop/disco tinged “Fresh Groove,” “Things You Do,” “If My Baby Won’t Take,” and “What About You,” conjures up a young Stevie vibe on some of the tracks. “We love him,” he says. “We’re definitely conscious of a lot of the pioneers.” Byron is quick to jump in on this subject. “Marvin Gaye, The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway, they all paved the way for groups like us.” The boys quiet down for a minute. Finally, Bobby offers up a wish list it seems they all have been sharing. “One of our dreams is to open up for Michael or R. Kelly,” he says quietly. “If that ever happened, we just want to be ready.”
A quick spin of their brilliant debut album tells you Mista is way past ready.