The most visible Winans family member outside the world of gospel, Mario Winans gravitated toward percussion at an early age and eventually learned piano. Immediately after graduating from high school, he began a production career.
In addition to working on several family-related recordings, Winans piled up credits for other gospel artists, including Fred Hammond, the Anointed, and the Clark Sisters; with his reputation as a drum programmer, percussionist, producer, and composer already considerable, he made the full transition into secular music to assist in sessions for R. Kelly and Pebbles. Though he hadn’t originally planned to step into the spotlight as a solo artist, he signed to Motown and released Story of My Heart in 1997. The album was not a success, with only “Don’t Know” scraping the Top 50 of the R&B/hip-hop singles chart.
Instrumental, programming, and production duties nonetheless continued, including regular work for P. Diddy’s Bad Boy roster. This tight association led to a new solo contract. In 2004, Winans released his second album and his first for Bad Boy, Hurt No More. Lead single “I Don’t Wanna Know” blew up almost immediately after it was issued, crossing over to the Top Five of Billboard’s Hot 100.