Regardless of the genre, one thing that will almost certainly strike fear in any musician’s heart is the dreaded sophomore jinx.
After spending the summer on the road with Wiz Khalifa, Jeezy and others as part of the Under the Influence of Music Tour, actor-turned-musician Mack Wilds is ready to follow up his Grammy-nominated debut album, New York: A Love Story.
In an exclusive interview, the multi-faceted entertainer opened up to BET.com about what fans can expect from his next album, how staying humble has helped him stay hungry and why he feels celebrities (himself included) could have contributed more to the situation in Ferguson, Mo.
BET: With you and Ty Dolla $ign being the only R&B representatives on this mostly hip hop tour, have you had to change up your style or your live show at all?
Mack Wilds: There may be a few where I’ve been the young man on the totem pole or it’s really, really R&B, but for me I feel like I’m the kid that hip hop birthed. I just know how to sing. So I’m kind of in that space. I do very well R&B-wise and when the time comes I can hold my own with people like Trey Songz and all of them but when it comes to the hip hop [audience], I feel like this is my comfort zone.
You’ve had so much success at such a young age. When was the last time you honestly felt insecure?
Honestly, it’s all the time. And it’s not even a "me being insecure" thing, it’s about stepping out on the unknown. Not knowing your full potential because you haven’t tried something out yet. Even when I first started to do music it was like, “OK, this is completely different than what everybody else is listening to right now. Where the f--k am I gonna fit in in a Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Usher world? Where am I gonna fit in hip hop-wise in a Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Jay Z world? Where am I gonna fit in?” But I guess the music resonated enough that people listened.
Now that this tour is over it’s time to get to work on the dreaded sophomore album. Are you nervous about following up New York: A Love Story?
I think keeping in mind what you just said is probably going to be the biggest thing for me going forward. Not trying to adapt to anything that anybody’s doing right now or trying to switch anything up like, “Oh, that sounds like it’s poppin’ right now, let me try that.” The only competition that I have to beat is myself and as long as I stay true to myself and stay real, the people will love it.
A lot of artists are delving into the EDM world. Sonically have you thought about experimenting with any new types of sounds like that?
I’m a fan of so many different genres and I think with this first album I was able to touch on the old-school hip hop side of myself. But seeing where hip hop is now and even seeing things that some of my idols like Kanye West have done or Jay Z has done with hip hop. They’ve been really exploring the different ways that you can incorporate another genre into hip hop. That’s gonna be the fun part. Playing with EDM a little bit or even playing with more rock-influenced sounds or even some trap beats, because I love to party and that stuff bangs, so I would love to see how that sounds making a real dope melodic song over a beat like that.
You covered Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time,” which is always a daring move. Did you ever get any feedback from any of the family members?
I had a conversation with one of my friends from LA who’s in contact with his mom and she said that she loved it. Everything in the world was calm at that moment. She likes it, I’m cool. I don’t give a f--k what anybody thinks. His mom liked it. I’m good.
Hip hop was criticized by many for not doing enough when the protests in Ferguson were happening. Do you feel like hip hop and celebrities in general could have done more?
I think we could all do more to be involved, myself included. I feel like, even when we did the tour in St. Louis, it was literally right there right after it happened and the feeling in the city was like something out of a movie. It was the most eerie feeling ever and to think that this is going on right now because of somebody’s negligence, somebody’s ability to not be the bigger man. You’re the one with the badge you’re supposed to be the bigger man. I think there’s a lot of things that we could all do to be more involved and to see the different communities coming together and rallying together and doing the peaceful protesting. I don’t think we need to be violent but the peaceful protesting I’m all about. I definitely think that we all need to be doing more.
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(Photo: Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET)