Mario Dewar Barrett (born August 27, 1986), known mononymously as Mario, is an American R&B singer-songwriter, actor, dancer and model. He is known for his singles "Just a Friend 2002" (2002) and "Let Me Love You" (2004), which won him two Billboard awards, as well as for appearing in the films Step Up and Freedom Writers. He has released four studio albums: Mario (2002), Turning Point (2004), Go (2007), and D.N.A. (2009). At the end of the 2000s decade, Mario was ranked by Billboard #98 on their "Artist of the Decade" list.
Mario grew up in Baltimore and other working-class neighborhoods in Baltimore County, Maryland. He lived with his grandmother, who raised him while his single mother struggled with a drug addiction. Mario said at the age of four that he wanted to become a singer. His mother supported his dream and bought him a karaoke machine. Mario joined a musical group in Milford Mill Academy with the oldest son of comedienne Mo'Nique and best friend Jaye Brebnor and also his younger god sister Chea Tyler. Barrett learned to play the piano and used that skill as the basis for his melodies and songs. He was discovered at age eleven and signed by producer Troy Patterson, after singing "I'll Make Love to You" at a Coppin State College talent show. Mario attended Milford Mill Academy up until the tenth grade where he was inspired by his music teacher, during his early teen years, and was offered a record deal at the age of fourteen, signing with Clive Davis' J Records. His musical influences include Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, Usher, and Joe. His first introduction to the music industry was the Dr. Dolittle 2 movie soundtrack in 2001. He sang a captivating performance of the Stevie Wonder classic "You and I" at Clive's Grammy party in 2002, and began recording an album.