New teen-age R&B group, Mista, releases first record

By Eugene Bowen
Daily Arts Writer

It could just as easily have been a phone conversation with my younger, teen-aged cousin, Brandon. Only the Brandon I was talking to wasn't my cousin. He looks nothing like my cousin. He's a native of Atlanta, not Little Rock. And he - unlike my cousin - is a member of Mista, the newest teen R&B quartet out right now.

At 13, Brandon Brown is the youngest member of Mista; the other members, Bobby Wilson, Darryl Allen,and Byron Reeder, are 16, 16 and 17 respectively. Yet reviewing the contents of his entertainment career thus far, one quickly notices that Brandon has already come farther than many ever will.

And things are only beginning.

"I've been in a couple of commercials," Brandon said. "I was in some TBS KidsBeat TV advertisements, and I did a public service commercial on healthy eating."

And now Mista has an album out. The debut, self-titled release was released June 11, and Brandon was more than willing to talk about it.

"It's exciting to finally finish our first album," he began. "And you know, this album is like our first musical impression. This is the album that'll leave an imprint in everyone's mind when the next album comes out.

"One of the best things about our music is that it's not like just, 'Baby I miss you, and I want you back.' It's more like songs about life and what people go through. Like take the first single from our album, 'Blackberry Molasses.' It's basically talking about the struggles that people go through everyday; it's saying that there's no such thing as paradise. But you gotta keep pushin' on, because even though you have problems, you need faith in God, you know? And hopefully, things will turn out for the best. You have to take the bad along with the good, because life isn't always happy.

"But 'Tears, Scars & Lies' is the song that's gonna blow us up, hopefully, 'cause it's like the song we all (in Mista) love. This song is so deep. It's basically saying that in a relationship you did me wrong, and now you're trying to get back with me and pretend like nothing ever happened. But it's not that easy 'cause you really hurt me the first time."

Brandon admits that many would scoff at his performing songs about love, yearning and hurt. They would question what personal experiences qualify him (and his fellow Mista performers) to sing about such sensitive topics.

"I've had girlfriends; I've broken up and stuff like that," he contended. "I've had crushes on girls, but I admit I don't think I've ever been in love. I've been happy and sad, too. Anyone can feel those ways. Besides, we're not just writing from our own experiences. I've seen what other people in my life have gone through over time."

However, questions of Mista group members' ages don't just end with what they sing about. Some go on to question why these "children" should even be allowed to sing professionally. There are people who graduate from college not knowing what they want to do with their lives. So how can a 13-year-old be so certain?

"Every time I hear music or sing or perform, there's this feeling inside that reassures me and makes me happy," Brandon said. "All of us in Mista love performing. There's nothing like it. I wouldn't trade it for anything else."

But of course, getting tired is far from an impossibility. Brandon explained: "Our voices have gotten stronger by performing so much. But it is kind of tiring. Performing takes a lot more out of you than most people think. I mean, it doesn't take so much out of you that you can't live or anything like that, but it sort of wears you out."

Brandon used the group's first tour - this past summer's 26-city EarthJam tour - as an example. "We would wake up as early as six, perform two shows, visit a couple of radio stations and interview with a couple of magazines in one day. We'd be lucky to get to bed by midnight. It does wear you out, but that's the sacrifice we have to make for the life we've chosen."

Besides, Brandon does have a life outside of his music, and he plans on doing more with his life than simply performing. "I mean, we're regular kids," he said. "We trip out. We play basketball. I like to swim, and drawing is a good hobby of mine. I might have a comic strip or something like that one of these days. Maybe I'll have a TV show or something. I want to act and produce, maybe even be in the movies. But right now, Mista is just concentrating on coming out. We're working so hard on trying to be in the public eye. that just seems like the greatest thing in the world."

Eventually, though, I plan to go to college and get either an engineering degree, so I can master the equipment we use, or a business degree, so I can manage my money and make sure nobody's cheating me. That's important, 'cause if you get cheated then you won't have any money to go to college with," he said laughing. "You'll be broke; better hope for a scholarship or something.

"I look at it like this. If I'm doing what I want to do and I'm having fun and everyone's happy with what I'm doing, then I have received my greatest rewards. Money would be good, but that's really not the thing to me. Also when we perform and girls get crazy we try not to let it get to our heads, 'cause that's how you lose your friends, your money and all those who truly care about you. We like girls, and we kick it to 'em.

"But we try and handle business first, 'cause that's what's most important. Thinking you have everything is okay, but not if it's to the point where you think you don't need anybody else. Like my group members. They're my friends. We need each other because there are a lot of people out there who act like they're your friends where they're really not."

When all is said and done, Brandon wants to be known and remembered, not as Brandon the singer or Brandon the performer, but as Brandon the good guy.

"We're like everybody else. We just want to bring out a single and sell some records. Me personally, I'm talkative, and when it's time to work, I work. I try to give a good impression to those who may look up to me. I listen to adults, and I try to do my job which is to sing.

"But I'm not into just blindly doing what everyone tells me too, 'cause I'm an independent person."


The youngsters are Byron Reeder, Brandon Brown, Bobby Wilson and Darryl Allen.

10-10-96

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