Before anyone defined him, Omari Hardwick has always fancied himself as an artist first. As encompassing and lofty as the word may be, the 43-year-old has experienced much of his success as an actor starring in several high-profile roles, but most notably as James St. Patrick/Ghost on the STARZ hit drama Power.
But just because fans know one dimension of Hardwick, doesn’t mean there aren’t others developed and waiting to be expressed. In an exclusive interview with VIBE, Hardwick takes time from shooting Season Four to explain why now is the perfect time for him to showcase his musical side.
“As a poet, I would always hear emcees come up to me and say, ‘Yo, you should rap,’ and I was like, ‘No.’ You know, the label was tough for me,” Hardwick confessed. ‘I’m a poet. I was proud of that distinction between the two, not wanting to be the other. So, I think just in terms of what God’s call for me was, I think I was to pop in a world of visibility as an actor prior to audibility as a musician…People were seeing me enough that they might listen to something I had to say even if they didn’t necessarily receive it. They’d at least give it a shot.”
Titled “Bloodshed,” Hardwick teamed up with singer-songwriter Josiah Bell to release a somber recording about some of the most horrific acts domestically and abroad. While Hardwick doesn’t rap, there is a rhythm he maintains with his passionate delivery. Omari admits he cried at the end of the recording, got some weight off his chest, and helped him to mourn great loss he’s experienced.
“For a long time, I had been very secretive about a lot of the things I’d been through personally, and a lot of that is purposeful…my fan base for the large part is the younger generation. They’re like, ‘I want to know everything! I want to know it all!’ I don’t add to it as much as I could by letting certain things be known and those things are everything from having lost a son during the same time my father was shot six times, which was only a year and maybe 10 months after my brother was shot 10 times. Within two years of that–father survived, son did not, brother did not–my cousin who was 33-years-old after fighting a seven-year battle with brain cancer passed on. There’s a lot, and I don’t really know how to mourn that well, so perhaps I do it through art.”
This isn’t Hardwick’s first dance with music. In 2002, he released a 16-track album appropriately titled Return of the Poet, which didn’t merit a lot of attention. Now, 15 years later, Hardwick is trying his hand at it again and hopefully to bigger fanfare. Later this year, the Georgia native plans to release his sophomore effort Later Decatur, in homage to a man never saying goodbye to his home, but eagerly looking forward to his future.
When asked if his music will be featured on the upcoming season of the STARZ drama, he coyly turned the question on its head.
“That’s an awesome question,” Hardwick said with a laugh. “That’s such a cool-ass question and I can’t wait for you to ask Courtney [A. Kemp] and Curtis [Jackson] that question.”
Listen to Omari Hardwick debut single, featuring Josiah Bell “Bloodshed” below.