Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tyrese Gibson (Part 1): The Next Pop Prophet

I am impressed by R&B singer/ actor/ model/ author Tyrese Gibson.

Physical beauty aside, I am impressed by the role he is claiming in pop culture, and the effort he is making to share his wisdom, carve his niche, and maintain his abilities across the entertainment spectrum.

He is a pop prophet on the rise: speaking by divine inspiration; a spokesman for a movement; gifted with moral insight and powers of expression.

There haven't been many lately. I think with the hype and excitment of Barack Obama entering the United States presidency, there was a huge void filled in pop culture discourse and "urban" cultural leadership. Obama represented the voice of reason, the voice of hope, and the voice of self-identity for many.

I've always felt that since the highly visible and highly vocal fraternity of the Civil Rights Movement, that there has been a lack of dominant leadership. Black male leadership, specifically. Rather than looking to ministers and politicians, businessmen and radicals to lead movements and suggest ideologies...young people and urban society-at-large did not necessarily have any organized movements to follow.

"The people" were lost, and I believe it was evident in the cultural products that were being created and disseminated. Hope was gone, the superficial was infiltrating big time, and there was a lack of upward mobility...or at least the public perception of this mobility.

Between the Martin Luther King Jr. / Jesse Jackson era and the recent Obama movement (which has argueably lost some steam), I truly believe that pop cultural icons have stepped up their game as of late, stepped away from their microphones and movie sets, and made great efforts to expand their reach.

We are seeing a new level of intelligence emerging. Lyrical content is improving. Creativity is expanding. And by no means am I judging society entirely on pop culture's contribution...but I do believe that the "prophets" of pop culture do have a great deal to do with social perceptions, and even the thought processes of those growing and developing within their era.

But there have been changes. A rapper is no longer just a rapper. An actor is no longer just an actor. Those who have been given a consistent fan base, considerable cash flow, fan-induced power, and an acute understanding of their demographic, along with the wisdom of transition...have indeed become the modern day prophets.

And rightfully so.

Now those engulfed in their world of science, religion, literature, dance, medicine, agriculture, or other fields will have their own trendsetters and their own voices of wisdom, leadership, and reason. When I speak of pop prophets, I am referring to mainstream mass media, popular culture, and those in the public eye...in North America.

I believe the church/religious organizations, political representatives, and others in positions of leadership no longer carry the same widespread influence...particularly when it comes to this generation of young folks. While every generation has it's griots and role models, I find that the "hip hop" generation of the past few decades has managed to skilfully create and sustain urban idols.

People who speak their language. People who understand their struggles. And most importantly...people who are a product of similar environments, yet who have obtained status and success as a result of their discipline and talents.

We've seen it happen with Tupac, with Will Smith, Jay-Z, and Russell Simmons. We see Kanye and 50 Cent stepping into their business shoes. Oprah. Some are extremely visible in their ventures, their best-selling books, and their philanthropic activities. Others move low-key, and make moves behind-the-scenes, undetected by E! News and TMZ.

As a self-professed entertainment junkie, I enjoy observing the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Yes, I keep up with the Kardashians, tune in to Ryan Seacrest, and frequently research the "who's who" of Hollywood and beyond because I truly believe a lot can be learned from our modern day "celebrities."

While history and politics are also excellent subjects for character studies and human understanding, my interests have always remained with the here and now. What's hot. What's new. What's popular...and why.

Particularly because these individuals obtain such a high level of financial success and such extreme visibility that I am often fascinated by their perspectives on life....after getting what most of us are striving to get, to a certain extent.

After you get the money, the cars, the power, the influence...for the well-adjusted, I believe this is prime opportunity for you to reflect on what is REALLY important in life. Some of us can realize this without obtaining ridiculous riches...some of us will never be satisfied until the level is reached, and the goals are met.

But it's always interesting to listen to the words from those who have struggled, and who have "made it"...and then to heed their lessons and learn from their experiences, and hopefully walk away realizing that all that glitters is not platinum...and that they too continue to strive for basic wisdom and understanding.



Enter Tyrese Darnell Gibson. He just turned 33 years old, born in Los Angeles, been on the scene for just over 15 years, and still staying visible. Discovered while riding a bus in 1994, he began his career modelling, but that soon transitioned into a lucrative acting career when he was cast as "Jody" in 2001's Baby Boy, followed by roles in movies like Four Brothers, Annapolis, and the Transformers and Fast and the Furious sagas.

I've watched many of his interviews, I'm one of his 2,261,233 Twitter followers, I'm a fan of his movies, and I distinctly remember how his 3rd studio album "I Wanna Go There" got me through a challenging and inspirational part of my life. It soothed and comforted me when I was at a pivotal point in my growth as a woman, and remains a special album in my collection for what it represents.

Did I mention that I have a steady rotation of his photos as my BlackBerry wallpaper? But I digress.

So I'm an admirer of his talents, and my interest in his intelligence has been piqued. I'm finally going to review his 5th album, "Open Invitation" (released in November of 2011), and read his book "How To Get Out Of Your Own Way" (released in April of last year).

And then I'll continue my thoughts with "Part 2" of why I believe Mr. Gibson will indeed by one of the great thinkers of our generation in pop culture...



Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog...

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