At about 7:30 p.m. on a Monday evening (June 24), a self-described "Light skin brother/Smooth as butter," crept into the dark basement of Manhattan's SNAP Sports Bar, quietly taking in the scene of a sea of heads bobbing to his music.
"I'm here to launch probably my first artist in the last 20 years," began Salaam Remi, the hip hop producer responsible for hits from the likes of Miguel, Nas, Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys, and The Fugees. "His name is Mack and he's from New York." Tristan Wilds, a familiar face from The Wire, Red Tails and 90210, flashed a toothy grin and took the mic.
"You could be anywhere in the world but you're here with us. This is the homecoming for me as Mack Wilds, a full-blown artist," he said. "I hope you guys love the music as much as I love making it." Mack's debut album New York: A Love Story (slated for a September release) showcases the actor-turned-singer's smooth vocals paired with scratches, beats and lyrics from Ne-Yo, Rico Love, Method Man, Raekwon, Havoc, DJ Premier and Pete Rock, who DJed the party.
Sideline chatter in the room drew comparisons to the likes of Joe, Avant and Ne-Yo. His music has that throwback feel, and he promises to be in it for the long haul. "This is just the beginning," he promised. "We're going to take over the world and show them how New York does it."
VIBE chatted with new crooner about the album's immediate reception and what we can expect from his sound. —Stacy-Ann Ellis
VIBE: How did you feel about your work being so well received?
Mack Wilds: I didn't exactly see it, but just to hear what everybody was saying and the love that everyone was giving it, it feels good. It's beyond my wildest imagination.
Has your sound been compared to anyone? Or have you compared yourself?
No. There's people who will always try to put comparisons, but I think what we strive to do is make our own sound and establish our own unique rawness and bring that to the game. It's a part of what the game is missing right now.
What specifically are you bringing to the table?
I think it's a brand new voice, that's one thing. And another thing is that it's the void of the unique sound of New York City. I feel like a lot of music nowadays is heavily influenced from other places, but the music from New York seems to be missing from the marketplace. Or from the music industry as a whole. Our original New York artists like Jay-Z and everyone, they've evolved so much that they can make any kind of music that they need. But the original boom-bap, the feeling of the streets, the cars going by, the train stations, the taxis and not being able to catch one, that rawness in music has been missing. There hasn't been anybody who's been able to portray that. That's a big part of what I'm doing.
You have some heavy hitters popping up on there like Raekwon, Method Man, Havoc and Rico Love. What was it like working with such influential players?
It was amazing. I feel like a kid who got drafted to the NBA from JUCO! It's crazy. I'm laying down and really thinking yo, I wrote a song with Ne-Yo, I have a song written by Rico Love, I have Pete Rock on my album, I have DJ Premier on my album, Salaam Remi, Raekwon, Meth, and the list goes on. There are so many people who helped contribute to this sound. I just feel blessed.
Any favorite tracks?
I don't have one yet. It's funny because that's the game that me and Salaam constantly play in the studio. It's like, okay which one is your favorite and which one is your least favorite? And then we start messing with it until it becomes our favorite so there are no weak links.
Pitch your album in 10 seconds or less.
If you want to hear the sound of New York City, pick up this album right now. It's about love and loss in New York City.
Photo credit: VIBE Magazine