You probably knew that P-Valley and Harlem star Tyler Lepley is a great actor and that he’s Fine (yes, with a capital ‘f’), but did you know he’s also a talented rapper? He’s been inspired by a few of his favorites, including 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and more.
With that in mind, and this year being the 50th birthday of hip-hop, he was the perfect person to sit down with for a chat at ESSENCE Festival of Culture’s Food and Wine event on opening day of the Fest. He had an insightful conversation about his work, his love of the genre, and even his love life with ESSENCE’s senior money and careers editor Kimberly Wilson.
She played a fun game with Lepley where he described what type of partner he is in a relationship (he’s off the market, sharing a child with actress and model Miracle Watts). For every red flag, he was supposed to take a shot, but he opted to just take one before opening up about himself.
“I think we all got red flags,” he admitted. “I’m definitely difficult to deal with at times, but I’m super romantic. It goes positive and negative. I’m very sensitive but it works as an artist because I’m able to communicate my feelings. I can be something to deal with, but on the positive side, it definitely makes me very romantic, for sure.”
As for what Tyler Lepley is like as a rapper versus who he is as Tyler Lepley the actor, he had this to say:
“I’m expressing myself as an artist through both of them, but I would say as an actor I have to find myself though the parameters of a script. There are boundaries,” he shared. “But as an artist, it’s all on me to create so it is a little different in that sense.”
He also talked about the things he does to get ready to perform, and how his efforts help him get in the zone.
“Before I really knew what I was doing, I would have a sip of wine here and there, kill the jitters. But that’s just a means to an end and it’s going to mask the hard work you have to do,” he said. “Everybody has their own process, but I always make sure I do something to warm my voice up, to articulate, do something to warm my body up and then I definitely do something to connect emotionally to what I’m about to go into.”
Lepley and Wilson did one of his exercises together to practice articulation (“She says she shall sew a sheet” for example), and when asked about ESSENCE Festival performers he was excited to see, he noted Slick Rick, who performed as part of Friday night’s celebration for 50 years of hip-hop, and Megan Thee Stallion, who is Sunday night’s headliner. He’s not only a hip-hop artist, but expressed how much of a huge fan of the genre he is.
“Hip-hop just really allowed me to be comfortable in my own skin, the way I am,” he said.
To close out the conversation, audience members were given the chance to ask Lepley a question. He shared a poignant response on being driven when asked how he stays humble with the success he’s had.
“What keeps me humble is definitely, I’m never too far from where it all started, you know. It definitely helped that I come from humble beginnings, so I remember what it’s like to have nothing — nothing like not enough money to buy sandwiches, that with a college degree. It’s a weird space to be in. I did everything I was supposed to and still ain’t got it. So I’m no too far away from that mindset,” Lepley shared. “I know that as quick as it was given to me, it can be taken away. That keeps me hungry. I’m never really satisfied. I’ve come a long way, but I’ve got a long way to go.”