WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because you don’t want to be late to the “Tristan Wilds is a super star” show a year from now.
By Jasmina Cuevas
Who would think that Tristan Wilds, the fresh-faced actor playing Michael Lee, the good boy gone bad on HBO’s The Wire would go on star in Fox’s reboot of the Hollywood highlife drama 90210, and after that would turn into a Grammy nominated hip-hop/R&B hybrid rapper and singer? Certainly not Tristan himself. Yet, with a new stage name persona, Mack Wilds has the talent to lead urban-flavored music in the right direction and the artistic stature to carry it all on his logo’d crown.
Representing Staten Island, New York, Wilds joins other urban music acts hailing from the Big Apple like Harlem’s ASAP Rocky and ASAP Ferg who are gaining respect and mixing up current music industry genres. Wilds recreates a sound that has been missing since the 1990s and paves a new lane for other artists to explore becoming singer/rappers.
Growing up, Wilds watched his father perform in local bands in Staten Island, and was determined to focus on his own voice. As he got older and hit his teenage years, he was able to pull inspiration from rappers like Wu-Tang Clan that hung out at his father’s barbershop, and started rapping. Though his acting career flourished first, Wilds’ love for music was always burning inside: “Considering it was my love since before acting, I wanted to go after it forever; I just needed sufficient time to dedicate to make it how I wanted to. And with 90210 ending in March for good, it felt like the perfect time to go after it.”
Many have tried to recreate this ’90s/’00s sound, but it’s Wilds and Remi who’ve succeeded in overcoming the hurdle.
The 24-year-old Wilds released his debut album, New York: A Love Story, on Sony Music this past September and received praise from music critics, fans and industry insiders alike. “I wanted to create something that gave people the same feeling the music I grew up listening to gave me back then. I wanted to introduce myself, and tell people who I am, and where I’m from,” Mack explained when we asked him about NYALS.
Salaam Remi, a staple in cross genre music who produced tracks for the Fugees, Nas and most notably the late Amy Winehouse, produced the lion’s share of NYALS. The 13-track album features beat remakes of hits by hip-hop icons DJ Premier (“Keepin’ It Real”), Jay-Z (“My Crib”) and even a cover of the king of pop, Michael Jackson (“Remember The Time”).
Mack Wilds has the talent to lead urban-flavored music in the right direction…
But the track samples aren’t the album’s standout: that honor goes to Wilds’ smooth, harmonic voice. His tone ties together the lyrics and the production, wrapping it all up in a sumptuous bow. He sings lyrics like, “I’m a fly motherf*&ker from around the way. S-I till I die and I say it brave,” on his track “Henny,” which is built on top of Mobb Deep’s classic “Burn.” This kind of blending of melodic R&B tracks with hard hitting hip-hop drums originated with DJ Ron G’s mixtapes that flooded NY streets in the early ’90s, and was even the life blood sound of Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records empire. Many have tried to recreate this ’90s/’00s sound, but it’s Wilds and Remi who’ve succeeded in overcoming the hurdle.
Just one album into his career, Wilds has been nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album at this year’s Grammys, and NYALS has been added to many media lists of top albums of 2013. “It’s the craziest feeling ever. To be nominated, especially on my first album out, it’s almost unfathomable; I catch myself still trying to wrap my head around it,” Mack says.
Skeptics may sneer at the story of another TV actor trying to transition into the music industry…
Not only has he built an amazing fan base (the young ladies love him), but the music industry has also galvanized behind him. New hitmaker ASAP Ferg and rap legend Method Man assisted the young’n at a recent sold-out show at NYC’s storied S.O.B.’s venue – rare support for a newbie on the rise. Other hitmakers are heaping on the praise, and Spin magazine called his debut confident and compelling. He’s not on tour yet, but he’s making the promotional rounds with small shows in major cities and TV appearances, like his performance on Arsenio.
Skeptics may sneer at the story of another TV actor trying to transition into the music industry, and the man himself told MTV his Grammy run is ”the epitome of a long shot” – but when you listen in, you know Mack is no joke. Line up his vocal talent with his small screen and big screen chops (he appeared in George Lucas’ war film Red Tails in 2012 and The Secret Life of Bees in 2008), and he looks more like a well-grounded triple threat. Will Smith better watch out.
- Jasmina Cuevas, OZY Author Contact Jasmina Cuevas