When Prince’s legendary band The Revolution reunited in 2017 to pay tribute to the late genius with a full tour, everyone was there: Wendy, Lisa, Bobby Z, Brown Mark and keyboard wiz Dr. Fink. But there was also a new face in the mix lending a hand — or a voice, actually — on some of the funkier falsetto jams. That was a young cat who was both inspired by and friends with Prince, and he too only goes by one name: Stokley.
At the same time he was touring, the man who already logged a decadeslong career as lead singer of Mint Condition was about to drop his first ever solo CD called, correctly enough, “Introducing.”
I caught up with Stokley the night before The Revolution tour wrapped up to discuss the future of Mint Condition, how he ended up in his famous friend’s former band and why he’s weeping on his solo CD.
Question: Does your first ever solo album signal the end of Mint Condition?
Answer: This is just where I’m at right now. All of us are doing different things, exploring different avenues of our life — some musical, some personal. [Mint Condition] has been in existence for 31 years. Why not explore and go as far as you can go?
Q: Do you check in with your bandmates before you do a solo CD?
A: It just happens organically. I speak to the guys every couple of weeks about this and that. We still have business. Other than that everybody is just kind of doing their lives. At some point I hope we will come together and compare notes.
Q: Why is it called “Introducing”?
A: Even though people know my voice, they have only gotten portions of me. Now it’s me from the very beginning. The genesis of everything.
Q: I know you are deeply influenced by Prince, but there are some straight-up Michael Jackson moments on the CD.
A: It’s what came out, man. Part of the DNA. Everything you’ve heard since you were in your mother’ womb pretty much comes out at some point whether you know it or not. You just gotta let it flow out. If it ends up sounding like them, you just have to call it an “ode” to them.
I’m not, or could never be, Michael or Prince. It’s just my offering.
Q: Why are you crying on the song “Victoria”?
A: Because I’ve done lost some love. (Laughs) There is a book called “Men Cry in the Dark,” and it’s so true. That was just a moment of fun. I wanted to interject a little humor into it.
These days people are so serious. I wanted to be like Cameo. Or like Ludacriss.
Q: How did you end up touring with The Revolution?
A: They called me. I think it came about because I know Bobby Z. The only people I didn’t know from the tour were Wendy and Lisa because they live in L.A. But I knew Doctor Fink. Brown Mark said he saw Mint Condition a couple times, and we always did Prince covers live.
I was friends with Prince. He was a mentor of mine and ours. He took the band under his wing. The Revolution knew of my relationship with Prince. As it was told to me [that] Brown Mark and Bobby Z championed me being involved. From there we started building a bond on- and off-stage.
Q: Was it tough coming into an established group?
A: It was relatively easy because we have the same sensibilities. I knew the politics of being in a band. I came from a band. I understand there are certain things I need to do and other moments I need to fall back.
I wasn’t trying to be Prince. Nobody can. All I can do is be me and insert my sensibilities, be in the spirit of this great legacy he created, which I stand on the shoulders of. And keep it moving. I think people appreciate that.
Q: Did you get to pick which Prince songs you would sing?
A: They had a list. I did sing the ones Mint Condition used to do in our set. Most of the set they know what to do.
Q: Now that The Revolution shows are done, will there be some Stokley solo tour dates?
A: We got some dates with Mary J. Blige coming, plus a big tour rolling out in November. I’m just getting started on the live thing.
Q: What do you miss most about Prince?
A: I miss his late-night calls calling to rap about whatever. Life. Throwing some gems on you. Life gems. About music and the world. He was one of the coolest geniuses to every do this. And a regular dude.
No one would ever think that, but he was. Very cool. I’m definitely gonna miss him, but he left a wealth of energy here for us to keep feeding off of. [He was a] special human being. He fired on ever level. I’m real grateful to have had that relationship.
Q: Did he collaborate with you on this CD?
A: My solo album to me is the greatest collaboration with Prince that never happened. He was a champion for that. A year and half before he left us, we were at Paisley [Park studios] and he was asking me about the group. He then said, “When are you gonna do something?” I said, “I’m working on it now.” Prince said, “Can I be a part of it?” What?! Then he said, “I’ll tell you what, do your thing and then bring it to me afterwards.”
I was cool with that because I wanted to make it something mine, then have him put his energy on my vibe. I didn’t want to make it a Prince production. He was absolutely for this and really helped me mentally finish this thing. His energy is all in there.