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Tyrese on colorism, “Legendary” single, police brutality against Black Americans and more

REVOLT spoke to actor/singer Tyrese about social justice and collaborating with the families of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Trayvon Martin for the “Legendary” music video. Read here.

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Actor and R&B singer Tyrese Gibson is changing the conversation around race. The Los Angeles native collaborated with the families of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Trayvon Martin to bring us “Legendary,” a single centered around loss, confusion and fear in the Black community, as well as a music video for “8:46.”

Gibson’s recently released “8:46” visual parallels the final eight minutes and 46 seconds of Floyd’s life while Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed in his neck and suffocated him. “8:46,” directed by Deon Taylor, illuminates the disparities that Black America is facing at the hands of social injustices. “It’s shedding light on the two Americas,” Tyrese told REVOLT about the thought-provoking and passionate cinema piece.

The six-time GRAMMY nominated singer-songwriter personally deems “Legendary” as an “artist’s response” to the death of Black Americans at the hands of police officers throughout the years.

As he continues to address social and civil unrest and the continued onslaught of police brutality, Tyrese has no problem shaking tables and shifting conversations outside of the studio. On Sept. 13, Tyrese was highlighted on TV One’s “UNCENSORED” series where the hitmaker will discuss his marriage, colorism and relationship with the late director John Singleton.

REVOLT caught up with the multi-hyphenate about appearance on the show, his personal experiences with colorism, and using his platform help Black and brown people. Check out our conversation below!

How have recent events in the Black community impacted your creativity? Has this fueled your fire to work harder or are you taking a mental break?

It’s been a real gift for me, personally. I know that’s not even remotely everybody’s story. But, I’m about 7,000 flights into this life and lifestyle that I live, and God knows I was completely fried, exhausted, burnt out, and fatigued. I’m a serial entrepreneur, an A-type personality, Alpha, hustler, go-getter. I was in the middle of 46 different projects that were in various different phases and everything just came to a screeching halt. I didn’t like it at the time when it happened, but boy do I appreciate it now because sometimes when you’re too busy, you get robbed of the opportunity of spiritual growth, personal growth.

On “UNCENSORED,” you discussed the colorism that you faced growing up. Talk about that.

The light-skinned versus dark-skinned, white versus Black, versus Asian versus, Latino versus Black and brown. I got called every name in the book: Shaka Zulu, Blurple (black and purple), saying, “You’re all teeth and eyes, and nobody can see your Black ass.” I was just a very insecure, fragile person. Everyone was convinced that I was gonna be a comedian because I took all of my childhood traumas and everything I was living in and dealing with, and I was always loud, the center of attention and the class clown. When people see me cracking jokes in The Fast and the Furious and I’m like the humor of the whole movie, nobody who knows me from childhood is actually shocked because I took all of my problems and all of my stuff and I just had fun with it in any way I could.

How have you personally engaged in conversations around colorism in Hollywood? What can we do to keep the conversation going?

It all goes back to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. There were some real conversations and some real issues that needed to be addressed. How many times, how many movies, how many projects are we gonna write, produce, direct and get off the ground, and then we get nominated — or not — ...and they pass the Oscars out to everybody else but us? I’m just so proud of the Academy for being intentional about addressing it and getting in there to do their best to turn it all around. There’s still a lot more work to do, but ultimately the conversation starter has been followed up with intentions to address it, turn it all around, and change the infrastructure.

What was the inspiration behind “Legendary” and “8:46”?

The story of my life is that I haven’t done music in six years and George Floyd’s death gave me life. It was a nudge that just woke me out of my sleep. It was an assignment. See, when God sends me ideas and visions, they’re bold, they’re detailed, they’re specific and it goes far.

To have George Floyd’s entire family, Eric Garner’s mother and family, Breonna Taylor’s mother and family, and Trayvon Martin’s mother and family to fully support “8:46,” “Legendary” featuring my brother CeeLo Green, has been really humbling...

You pegged “Legendary” as an “artist’s response” to the death Black Americans at the hands of police officers. What exactly does that mean, and what responsibility do you believe artists have to speak against social injustices?

I understand why most artists don’t want to release songs or do anything that has to do with speaking up or speaking out about what’s obviously going on. It’s a lot of pressure that we can put ourselves under hoping that whatever gesture, whatever statement you want to make is 1) perceived, 2) there’s no backlash and heat that you’ll get from making the statement that you’re making, and 3) it puts you in some really dark places. Denzel Washington and Christian Bale are considered world-renowned actors, but they’re also considered method actors. They get into these really dark places when they get in character and I’m almost sure it’s compromised friendships and relationships.

I’ve never done anything like it, I’ve never carried a hot potato on this level, I’ve never had the social responsibility on this scale. I’ve always marched, I’ve always been vocal, I’ve always been outspoken, I post shit on my Facebook and my Instagram everyday speaking to social injustice.

I think right now, although I don’t look down upon anybody who has those positions in 2020, I would hope that one day someone may decide to use their voice to speak up and speak out because there’s no point in having 80 million followers if you can’t use it to influence people to affect change. Not everybody is gonna be known for being Bill Gates and being worth 80 million dollars before they live and die. Now that we got this stage and platform of influence, why don’t we use it to the benefit of others? Don’t do it my way, do it your way. Just do something.

Why was an accompanying music video so important to rely the message of “Legendary”?

The families, the victims’ families, justice that they’re continuing to seek. You got preachers that use podiums, stages and platforms on social media. You got inspirational people, you got Shaun King, D.L. Hughley, “Ebro in the Morning,” Charlamagne [Tha God]; there’s so many people who are using their stage and platform to speak up and speak out... we’re all contributing to a greater good, which is to shed light on these racial murders and injustices where no one has been brought to justice.

How will you continue to uplift these families?

I’m gonna keep posting. You’re gonna find that I’m not just gonna put up “Legendary” for the next couple of weeks, have a short attention span and then move onto the next thing. I’m gonna keep doing this, keep doing this by speaking up and speaking out, and going for it.

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