In this life we are constantly searching for something: understanding, love, peace, or purpose. Whatever it is, if you don't respond to it when it calls, that thing—the voice that speaks to your soul—you will lose.
We are living in a world driven by the desire and the constant promotion of superficial things or things that are shiny and visually beautiful. Whether they are tangible or intangible.
Redefining The Power Of Beauty
Beauty is defined in so many ways by so many. What if the beauty that some have goes beyond the surface of what has been taught to us are simply basics? What if beauty is a force: our words, our gift of healing, ability to motivate, inspire to seek truth? What if I told you I met that one who is preparing us to be a weapon? A weapon of strength, power that will shape our thinking to see the world differently--not as a black man or a white man. But as a higher love.
Mehcad Brooks is the complexion of deep caramel chocolate that was baked in the sun. His physical body is that of what I would envision the first man could have looked like when God created Adam and blew into his nostrils and created this perfect specimen he later called man. The folks at Calvin Klein evidently thought so, because it landed him a campaign in 2010.
My call with Mehcad Brooks would last more than one hour, even though it was scheduled to be maybe 15 minutes tops by his publicist. Prior to our conversation, I had already sent over the questions and spent some time indulging in any TV show, movie, interview I could find about him to prepare me for this call. As I expected, they were good, engaging and asked the standard question: light and fun.
What struck a cord were the last seconds of an interview he did where he expressed so eloquently how he felt about the horrors of this earth that were taking place...not weather conditions, but the storm mankind was raging against each other in the form of racism, sexism, and intolerance of all sorts. He expressed his disappointment in those sorts of behavior and the personal experience he too faced.
Why should these things matter to him? He is good looking, successful, and has benefitted from those assets. Our troubles don't affect him, right? Why should he feel responsible for the struggles of others?
Mehcad confesses in his near-death experience his last thoughts were. "Did I do what I was supposed to do here?" as he simply puts it.
While Jay Z's new album carried the numbers 444. Brooks's calling numbers are 520. These three numbers have marked some of the most tragic periods of his life. For me, they add up to 7, in spiritual terms: completion.
Having several life threatening incidents, by all accounts he should have been dead. Life, God had other plans for him or should I say has other plans for him. Because he has been given a new beginning.
Granted another term on earth Mehcad Brooks decided he is going to listen to the quiet whisper that has been speaking to him for far too long and demanding a response from him. What is that other calling—singing, which can be described as being a form of storytelling to music, or tunes.
Since the beginning of time great men, warriors, and kings have poetically expressed their feelings in songs, and poetry. King Solomon, King David and Edgar Allen Poe, to name a few greats with a spiritual hunger from something greater than themselves.
Yeah, yeah, I know: another good-looking man trying to be another Tyrese, Marvin Gaye ,Tupac... but I tell you there's something different about him. I can't describe it yet.
I can hear the gift of words that have been bestowed upon him-- just by his choice of words describing the epic tragedies that nearly erased his existence from this earth, not once but twice. No, I promise you--he didn't put a spell on me. His powers are not yet fully developed; it was the way he expressed his thoughts. The hunger he feels to be connected to the higher being--God.
His voice is already alluring and enchanting; I agree-- to add music to it can only make him more magical. Yes, his voice already had me at hello. But the gift of wisdom he credits it to his parents and life experiences such as the death of his brother—they only add more depth to his old soul. I listen to his ability to tell his story and the passion that can be felt through the phone lines. The description was not about women or tangible things. But about his quest for solace. Through song.
I was sent a link. I listened intently. I was captivated by his voice that seemed to be a mix of Darius Rucker, Tupac Shakur, and Isaac Hayes...but the depth of his expression seemed to pierce my soul like Nina Simone. The song—Tears Away.
I found a video of him performing another of his songs: Stars. The video yet being incomplete, because it was the making of the music video itself, seemed too complex to be just another pop love song. It seemed to be a film-short of a remake of a poetic love story that each viewer is going to be left thinking, questioning their interpretation of what they just saw.
Who in God's name trained this young man to hone in on his gift? His life just began, he hasn't experienced the struggles that would earn him the right to enter into someone's life and take up space in their private thoughts. Or has he? Was he sent by all those who are no longer here with us in physical form to convey a message through his music? Did they have unfinished business and sent him to complete it?
Well it's too early to tell. But if his singing, or storytelling ability is deeper than his voice, he is going to be a force to reckon with.
Mehcad Brooks maybe visually eye candy to many...but his soul and his message is far more complex than some will want to believe. He is Black Boy Magic!
In his own words:
Is Mehcad Brooks your birth name?
Yes. It’s been my name since I was born. Ha.
What was it like growing up in Austin, Texas?
It was a pleasure. Even as a kid you’re aware of that. It’s a special place. With year-round live music, theater, great food, lakes and rivers, it’s safe and it had four seasons before climate change. It’s a perfect blend of Texas pride, hippie hearts, yuppies and Latino culture, and it makes you appreciate people’s differences. I’m proud to be from Austin. It shaped me into who I am today.
What is your family background (middle-class, career path, family - brother and sister)?
I kind of went through all the processes. I was born to an NFL athlete and journalist who was a former Miss New York and runner up for Miss America. Then my parents split and my mom took full custody of me and my brother. Those were tough days. I’m talking Nana’s basement in Long Island on welfare tough days. But my mother is a superhero. That’s hardly a euphemism. She went to school full time and worked part-time and carved out a successful career before meeting my step-father in Austin six years later.
I have one older brother, Billy, who inspired me to go into the arts. He’s a comedian in Austin. I have a younger half-sister who was born and raised in Berlin. We had only met once when she was a baby. And 16 years later I went to Germany and I found her. It’s actually an amazing story. My biological father had lost touch with them, and her mother remarried so I didn’t have their last names. And this was before Facebook was prevalent. My former girlfriend, the concierge, even random people I called in the phone book were willing to help. Took us all of 3 days to find each other. She’s amazing and I love German culture. She’s turned me onto a lot of new concepts of how Germans think. I’ve been back several times and she’s been to the US as well.
I had a younger brother but he was shot when he was 17. I was 19. I miss him every day. He was the kindest and gentlest soul I’ve ever met. He played cello. He was a great kid. And funny. It crushed me for a while. But life continues and it made me stronger. This loss made all of us stronger, I guess.
What sort of student were you growing up?
Honor roll. But I was the resident class clown.
When did the arts become your path of self-expression?
I think I was always into them. But the first time I set out to do it I was 15. I wrote and acted in a play in Austin.
What do you have to do to prepare for a role?
Study my ass off. It’s never come easy.
What was the transition like from film, movies to television?
TV is tougher schedule wise, but it begins to feel more like an extended family. I love films. I love being able to dive into the skin of completely different characters but there’s something really alluring about a great show especially if the cast is dope. Supergirl’s cast is the most amazing group of people I’ve ever encountered as a whole. Truly special.
What were some of the challenges you faced as an actor in the Hollywood industry?
Many of the same challenges all actors face. Questioning yourself, being broke as hell for a while, getting to know yourself and trusting that you’re interesting enough to be yourself and be watched. All the while having to face an array of challenges actors of color face. There’s an opportunity deficit. Many of the roles I want simply aren’t written with me in mind and some minds are hard to change.
Who were your greatest influences in the action world?
Will Smith. Eddie Murphy. Clooney. Robert Redford. Tom Hanks. Julianne Moore. Alfre Woodard. Charlize Theron. Idris Elba. Steve McQueen. Jack Nicholson. Warren Beatty. Edward James Olmos. David Harewood. All the greats. But I also love many artists from this generation, like Channing Tatum, Melissa Benoist, Michael B Jordan, Donald Glover, The Rock, Chadwick Boseman and Ryan Gosling.
You have recently endured, survived a tragedy that could have killed you. What is your take on life now? Why the transition to music?
May 20th. I’ve had a few tough May 20ths. We are mixing a song now called May 20th. I got sick years ago while on True Blood. It was bad. Really bad. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I lost over 30lbs in one month. Everywhere blood would flow I was in unbearable pain. I mean my eyelashes hurt. I don’t know how to explain that kind of pain. I had been in and out of the hospital for over a month and by May 20th, 2009 the latest stint was 10 days straight. They found out I had a liver abscess caused by a rare parasite I got 18 months before. I should have been dead within 6 months. No way I should have lasted 18. I was only the third case in 12 years in the US and the other two weren’t so lucky. There’s no easy way to say this so — I just will — I died that day. I flatlined. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I do know there were a lot of drugs administered that night and parasite medication I had an allergic reaction to and it crushed my vitals. I crossed over. Which is an entirely different interview. It’s a book really.
But I saw “Life flashing before my eyes” which it doesn’t. It’s more like being on the edge of an orb of your own existence with all the moments of your life accessible to you.
You lose your humanity. You lose the idea of who you thought you were and all the shit that you thought mattered. And at the end of your life you’re left with one question. Did I do what I know I was supposed to do? And even with all the success, happiness, sex, adventure and traveling I had achieved, engaged in or been surrounded by my answer was no. I didn’t. And that was the worst feeling I ever felt. But this stalwart voice that had always been said to me “music.” I asked myself why I hadn’t attempted a career in music and the answer I got was fear. And fear is not a good enough reason to die unhappy. I knew if there was a chance that I would get out of that hospital bed then I would not allow that to happen again. And I did. And life happens. And my PTSD from this experience happened. And I procrastinated on the music and sure enough May 20th, 2011 two years later to the day I was hit by a car head on and went in and out of a coma for three days. It was tough. I had a very similar experience and it let me know loud and clear to do the music. So I listened.
My take on life has completely changed. I’m grateful for everything. Even the shitty moments because I know I’m going to be stronger and it’s an opportunity for growth and they’ll be over soon and I’ll be left with a lesson of how to evolve into a better human, a better brother to mankind and child of the earth.
I wake up knowing every day I’m going to die and what that feels like and it makes me so #$#%&# grateful for the air I breath, the ground I walk on, the sky I am under. I’m just grateful and humbled for the experience of life.
Although, I’ll say this. Your definition of life changes. In my case, I realized my soul is the being that’s living and I’m just borrowing this body and my actions as my songs are meant to reflect my soul more than my mind. I’m a spiritual being having a human experience and I believe if you dig deep enough you’ll remember what I’m saying.
What do you feel music is going to do for your soul that acting didn't do for you? Or is it just a continuation of your self exploration of the greater you?
Being an actor is a beautiful profession because you get to explore yourself and then express yourself through your emotional availability. But you are still expressing yourself through the specific instrument of your role. Making someone else’s words yours. It’s cathartic yet can feel hindering depending on your role.
My music is my music. I write it. I sing it. I co-compose and co-produce it. In fact I freestyle everything. That kind of trust in yourself feels more liberating than pretty much any experience in the world. To walk into the booth with an idea and leave with something you’ve poured your heart, soul, emotional state into. You have to bring forth your entire being to be able to do that. And that feels so damn good.
With all the division happening in our country world with white against blacks, men against women, sex, religion and the horrors committed to the earth itself, will you use your music to help heal us?
We are all doing the best we can with the gifts we recognize we have. I believe we have a division of consciousness and self which creates all the other divisions. I don’t believe in hate. I believe in an absence of love. I don’t believe in racism. I think that should be called bullying. Same as sexism and homophobia. It’s all just bullying. And once you start to break down the specific divisions you begin to see the common thread is one side it’s bullying the other side because they have an absence of love for themselves. People who love themselves don’t have the energy to hate others. It’s just not in the same thought process. Mother Earth loves us but she doesn’t need us and that’s something we all have to take into consideration. If we divide ourselves from this planet by mistreating her where do we think we are going to go to practice this luxury of division or this necessity of unity? I don’t know if I can help heal the world but I know I can write songs that will inspire minds to change how they see self love, love for others and love for the planet. I have to. I’m holding that space forever.
Who writes your music?
I freestyle all of it. I consider myself a Singer-Song Rapper. Ha. Tears Away included. Sometimes I’ll have a song come to me while I’m driving or coming out the gym or anywhere at anytime and it’ll be in my consciousness for weeks, months, sometimes years and I have to wait until I help compose the music that accompanies it.
What motivates/inspires your music?
I bring the entirety of my life to every song I freestyle. Sometimes the entirety of my life is about everything I’ve been through and who it’s made me. Sometimes the entirety of my life has led up to one moment that I can’t get past. Good or bad. Love or sexuality. Heart or Ego. If I’m feeling that I’ll sing it.
Do you feel you have a social responsibility to your community and if so how do you intend to use your music to do that?
Yea, I do. Although I have a broad sense of that word community. What if all the tribes of the world united? What if we stopped specifying all of our intricate differences and accepted our colossal similarities? That’s the world I want to live in.
I also do feel like I have a responsibility to the black community not just as a black man but as a man. As Americans I feel like we all do. Never has a group of people in the modern era been so devastated by focused sociological bullying, legislation, targeted incarceration and slow forms of genocide, yet has still been able to bounce back and teach the world about forgiveness, love, peace and non-violence and I come from this tradition of transcendent beauty. But it’s time to move our consciousness higher. We all know it. It’s time to be beyond the old ideas of who we are and what that means. It’s time as a global community we question everything.
Who are your music heros and influences?
Bob Marley. Bill Withers. Michael Jackson. Seal. Lenny Kravitz. Curtis Mayfield. Gary Clark Jr. Drake. Kanye. John Legend. Bob Seger. Richie Havens. Jay-Z. Eminem. OutKast. Blackbear. Ani DiFfanco. Mos Def. Jacob Banks. Gotye. Really too many to count.