The last time Mario saw the pinnacle of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart was in 2005. That's when "Let Me Love You"-from his 2004 second album, "Turning Point"-reached No. 1. Four years and two albums later, the Baltimore crooner finds himself close to reclaiming that zenith.
This week, "Break Up" logs its 11th week at No. 2 on the tally. Featuring Sean Garrett and Gucci Mane, it's the lead single from Mario's fourth album, "D.N.A." Debuting this week at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, the J Records/RCA Music Group set was released Oct. 13. "Break Up" also gives Mario his fourth top five R&B hit, joining predecessors "Just a Friend," which reached No. 4 in 2002, and the Ne-Yo-penned "Let Me Love You" and "Crying Out for Me," which peaked at No. 5 in 2008.
" 'Break Up' was originally created for someone else, but I beat it out of Sean [who co-wrote and co-produced the track] until he eventually gave it to me," Mario jokes. "A lot of this album is about letting females know that I know what it is they go through sometimes in relationships. So this song was like a conversation that I had to have with my fans."
Picking up where the singer's 2007 album "Go" left off, "D.N.A." finds an introspective and maturing Mario shedding even more light on heart-related matters. "This is a very important album for me-a lot of it was about finding myself and figuring out the makeup of who I am now as opposed to who I was when I started," he says. "Throughout the recording process, I learned so much about myself. Thus the songs became more in-depth-digging out much more of myself. The fans know who I've been up to this point, but now I want them to know who the changed Mario is."
Currently making its ascent on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs is the second single, "Thinkin' About You." Produced by the Runners and Rico Love, the song is No. 53 this week. In addition, Mario guests on another sultry track that's climbing up the chart: Hurricane Chris' "Headboard." The song, which also features Plies, is No. 71 on the list.
Now hitting the road in support of "D.N.A.," Mario is co-headlining a "106 & Park" tour with Trey Songz. With a lineup that includes Garrett and Day 26, the tour is the first of a recently announced partnership between Live Nation and BET. It kicked off Sept. 29 at the House of Blues in Los Angeles and wraps Nov. 25 in Las Vegas. Mario will also perform at the Powerhouse '09 concert presented by New York radio station WWPR (Power 105.1). The Oct. 27 lineup includes Chris Brown, the-Dream and Keri Hilson. A live mixtape by Mario-recorded with a live band-is also in the works.
Selling 32,000 copies its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, "D.N.A." didn't receive the same warm welcome that greeted "Break Up." However, Mario remains confident of the album's long-term success.
"I can't say why I don't get my just due, but it only makes me hungrier," he says. "I want to continue challenging myself and making incredible music that will connect with fans around the world. I plan to keep creating a distinctive lane for myself. 'D.N.A.,' with the help of 'Break Up,' does just that."