He first got famous singing the praises of Coca Cola on a commercial, and he later followed that up by serenading a “Sweet Lady” on a bus. His acting career is slowly gaining momentum with a starring role in John Singleton’s upcoming feature film Baby Boy, but it doesn’t take long to figure out that there’s more on Tyrese’s mind than his music or his good looks!
When I caught up with Tyrese, he was promoting his album but what transpired was a conversation that had more to do with his philosophy on life than his music. He has become extremely successful in a very short period of time and it would be easy for him to lose sight of things that really matter. What I learned was that Tyrese was a confident and self-assured young man who has huge plans in sharing his success with his community.
2000 Watts is the sophomore effort to his self-titled debut album, which spawned the hits “Sweet Lady” and “Lately” in 1998. But with the help of Babyface, Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jenkins and Diane Warren among others, Tyrese is expected to repeat the same success. You’d think a 22-year-old might be star struck? Not Tyrese. He explains the one expectation he had of his collaborators was that they forget about their current position in the music industry and focus on what got them there in the first place. He told me he wanted them to create hits and feel like they had a personal stake in the album. The end result is what Tyrese calls a creative “mixed bag” of music.
Universally “relatable,” there are aspects of Tyrese’s real life included in the lyrical content of 2000 Watts, a fact he has no qualms embracing. “I’m saying exactly what I want to say on this album. Basically, if you want to know who I am and what I was going through at the time I was making this album, you’ll hear me sing about it. But what’s more important is for people who listen to feel they’ve been through some of the same situations.”
Tyrese wants people to feel what he feels. “You see, I don’t just go in the studio and sing. I give it my all. I go for blood and sing like I’m making my last record. Hopefully, that’s what people will hear when they listen to my new album. Unlike myself, some people stop their feelings and emotions from coming from within because they’re so concerned about their outer looks. But me? I’ll be in the studio making a million thousand ugly faces because the only thing that matters is that I let the feeling out,” says Tyrese, without missing a beat.
With this album Tyrese showcases his artistic range – a range inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Jodeci and Donny Hathaway.
“I’m trying to get back in touch with the oldies mindset, he says explaining the overall vibe of the album. “Anything that comes out on the radio now is hot for the moment, sells a bunch of records, then it’s over and you never want to hear it again. But there’s something about r&b oldies that you can play ’em today and they still sound good and make you feel good. That’s what I’m trying to get back in touch with on this album, and I just hope people are going to enjoy it not just for the moment, but for many years to come.”
I asked him if he thought his looks helped him sell records, he admits, “there are benefits to looking good” but he adds “if you love music give me a chance because I should make you proud. I worked really hard on this album. I feel everybody at the label is proud and I think they have a vested interest in the album.”
A portion of the proceeds of 2000 Watts is going to the 2000 Watts Foundation. This will be the first ever 2000 Watts Boys & Girls Youth Centre of Watts the tough neighbourhood where Tyrese came from. One of the unique features of the centre is that students will hire the teachers. A map of the world stretching across an eight-feet long wall called the “Map of Reality” will be part of the programming. When students are doing well academically, they get to point to any location on the map and go there. Tyrese believes “your reality shouldn’t consist of two corners when your mind is bigger than the house you live in.”
As for Tyrese’s own immediate plans he has started up a multi-media company called zovektion.com – a name that he made up. The meaning behind the name is simple. As a child the person he has aspired to be – he has become. Some initiatives he will oversee under the banner of the new company include film, a club, web design and artist management which will in his in words “allow him to take the backseat, so I can orchestrate everyone else’s career.”
As for his own career, his first love is music but he’s quick to add “none of these things going on in my life were expected. These are blessings from God. I’m just a puppet and I’m letting God do his thing. Anything is liable to happen.” But he does offer some words of advice, ” The secret to my success is that I’ve been able to be myself and the stress comes in when you try to be something you’re not… Be you.”
Cover photo courtesy of: BET