That voice. That smile. That body. Few brothers are blessed with “the package,” but Tyrese Gibson definitely has the goods when it comes to talent and sex appeal. When the Los Angeles (Watts) native first serenaded the world about the joys of Coca-Cola on a city bus, millions of young girls percolated at the mere mention of the syrupy concoction. His new joint, 2000 Watts, dropped May 22, and its magnetic party-starter, “I Like Them Girls,” has only increased his number of disciples. (Well, that and his super-hero abs gracing Tommy Hilfiger and Guess? billboards, his gig as host of MTV Jams and that popular 1998 self-titled debut). But this month, the 22-year-old chocolate drop tackles the big screen as John Singleton’s newest artist-turned actor prodigy in Columbia Pictures’ urban drama Baby Boy.
It’s been five years since T moved us with his seductive harmony and launched his multi-faceted how-does-he-do-it-all career. “When I first met Tyrese I thought he was the busiest young guy I’d ever seen,” says Bad Boy artist Carl Thomas who penned Tyrese’s 1998 chart-topping ballad “Sweet Lady.” “He’s a perfect example for young artists who want to know how to have a real work ethic.” ESSENCE.com can vouch for how hectic T’s life is, in between promoting his new album and movie, the brother-in-demand talked career, community and what he looks for in a sweet lady.
In Baby Boy you play Jody, a 20-year-young brother in the ‘hood still living at home with mom — with two kids by two different women. That seems a far cry from your reality. Could you relate to him?
I didn’t feel like I was acting because I grew up in some of the same situations. [I believe] even though you’re born around a lot of danger and people who do bad things, you don’t have to be like that. At times we [me and my boys] didn’t feel like we were too cool because we didn’t do what everyone else was doing — I don’t drink, smoke, or run around having babies. This movie explores [issues like thirty-something-year-old] grandmothers; young men with children by different women; brothers trying to be men, but still living in their mama’s house. There are a lot of dynamics in this film that have never been seen on the screen before. It covers a lot of ground and will hopefully spark conversation.
So you’ve added the title of actor to your resume. Some may argue that you only got the role because you’re a recording artist. What do you say to that?
I told John [Singleton] before I auditioned: “Do not give this role to me if you aren’t feeling me for the character. I don’t want a handout. I’m coming in here out of respect for the acting craft and I want to make this movie right.”
Singer, model, veejay, actor and plus you run a Watts group that helps young people. How do you manage to do so much?
If it’s on the schedule, I’m there. Sure, I get tired, but I also used to get tired shaking my butt every night at the club. I used to do nothing and get exhausted. I’m also producing my first recording artist, Mr. Tan, who appears with Snoop [Dogg] and me in the video “Just A Baby Boy” on the film soundtrack. For me, it’s important to help young people in Watts because I was once one of them. That’s why I started the 2000 Watts Foundation. The goal is to build the first state-of-the-art youth center for girls and boys in Watts [by next year]. Last year we held the first “2000 Watts Festival,” and now it’s an annual Labor Day event. Now, I have a purpose and I’m progressing [in my career].
Let’s talk music. Your first single “I Like Them Girls” might have sisters wondering if they can make the cut. What do you find sexy?
That song is just a synopsis of what I like — class, elegance and uncontrived beauty. That’s what does it for me — natural and to the point. At the moment, there’s no special lady because I don’t have the time to devote to a relationship.
Your new album, 2000 Watts, has a bevy of hit-making producers including Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, Diane Warren and Babyface. What’s the vibe this time around and what’s the album title’s significance?
When you want the best songs, you get the best producers and I feel like they all delivered the goods. There’s something about R&B oldies — you can play them today and they still sound and make you feel good [years from now]. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish with this album because it includes all of my emotions and experiences for the last three years. I just hope people enjoy it for years to come. 2000 Watts is the name of my crew. There are 12 of us, born and raised in Watts and we’re all positive. We made the best of a bad situation. I even got a tattoo on my wrist, 2K Watts, to remind me how far I’ve come — we all got one.
Credit: © Eli Reed
Omar Gooding and Tyrese Gibson in Baby Boy .