INTERVIEW: Tyrese Gibson Is Giving Hope To The Hopeless With His New Documentary Film

Last weekend, singer/actor/author and all-around entertainment dynamo Tyrese Gibson released the documentary film based on his life, A Black Rose That Grew Through Concrete, on his personal website I scratch my head in ponderment (yes that is a word y'all, look it up) just thinking about how the 34-year-old, Watts born-and-bred phenom found the time to make a documentary with everything else that he has going on in his life.

In addition to this doc, he's promoting a new book (Manology with Rev Run), working his independently released album (Open Invitation, which has spawned the chart-topping singles "Stay" and "Best of Me"), and getting ready to walk the red carpet for Fast & Furious 6 and Black Nativity (with Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson). Even with all of those commitments, and all the success, Tyrese is focused on inspiring and motivating the masses. A Black Rose That Grew Through Concrete —the title for which was inspired by the late Tupac Shakur's 2000 album The Rose That Grew from Concrete— is a mere part of Gibson's grand plan to do just that. And to get his very own VH1 Behind the Music episode. And he just might, because after all, they don't call him the "Vision Implementer" for nothing.

VH1 TUNER: Tell us about your documentary and your reason for making it.

It’s not a fully blown-out life story, I think I’m going to save that—I specifically was talking about VH1. And I’m not even just saying it because I’m on the phone with you guys. We’ve been asking for awhile now to do a VH1 Behind the Music, because that’s my favorite show. And for whatever reason y’all are booked always like a year and a half in advance or whatever, so I’m like I’m just gonna go head and do a lightweight version of the TV show, I’m not gonna go all the way but I am gonna touch on the right things and really paint this picture and make people understand that me being where I am in my life and my career didn’t come easy. The main thing for me is everybody being more privy and understanding.

I’m black, and I’m definitely not a white rose, I’m not a pink rose—I’m a black rose, that grew through concrete. And that’s how I feel. It’s a metaphor for really starting from the bottom and working your ass off to break through the concrete and getting to the top. This is what inspired me to do [the documentary]. A lot of people have created who they think you are in their minds, but they don’t know your story, they don’t know you "on that level." We went all the way in, and it’s like man, we’re about to hopefully inspire the world. At this point in my life I feel like I don’t wake up every day trying to figure out how can I be more famous. That’s not my goal here. At this point, I never claimed to be the biggest star in the world, I just been out here grinding for years doing my thing. And that’s the truth. And so if you love me, if you’re inspired by me, if you’re motivated, at this point it’s about giving hope to the hopeless.

And how did you know this was the time to put such a project out into the world?

I feel like the timing couldn't be any better. I just think right now everybody’s selling something, and then most people just don’t give a F, you know? And so it’s kind of like, you have to figure out a way to make people care about your journey, care about your challenges, your struggles, the things that you’ve been through. And then the outcome is you do smell the roses. The outcome is through it all, you’ve worked your ass off, you’ve grinded, nobody gave you anything, you didn’t jeopardize your spirituality or your sexuality in order to get to the next level, you kept it real. You just went and did it the right way. I just want people to be able to connect to that. It’s about giving hope to the hopeless. It’s about motivating the unmotivated. It’s about inspiring the uninspired. It’s about saying get off the f*&kin’ pitty potty, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and let’s go get it. Take your pain, take your conflicts, take your domestic physical, emotional and spiritual abuse and make a decision to do something. Become a giant within. Get to the next level. We’re in America, goddammit. Stop complaining and take advantage of our America. There is no such thing as being broke in America when you’re in America. There are people who would cut off their left arm to come to America to take advantage of all of the things that we take for granted.

Do you intend to show the film to your daughter Shayla?

My daughter actually has seen it, and she loved it. My daughter’s five years old but she’s very mature. She’s very in tune with what’s happening. My daughter was born into a different reality. My life and lifestyle right now for her is normal. She doesn’t know about starting from the bottom. If she did a remix of that Drake record she’d be like. "Starting from the top, I’m still here!" And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But she’s also still a kid so I have to remind her that this is not normal to live this type of life, and you should always say please and thank you, and just stay humble and don’t ever be mean to anybody. [I tell her] I wasn’t born into this, you were, but it doesn’t mean that you can take any of this for granted. And at the same time, you gotta allow her to be five and not overwhelm her with too much stuff, because she’s not supposed to feel bad about how blessed she is, she’s just supposed to understand that she is blessed. She’s supposed to have all of this because daddy worked his ass off so [she] can have it, so it’s all good, enjoy and celebrate it.

Do you ever reconnect with the woman you credit in the documentary with discovering you, Gayle Atkins, and what do those moments feel like?

Oh absolutely, she’s coming to my house tomorrow! Our daughters play with each other. She doesn’t manage me anymore, she went and had a child and was like, I’m raising a child on my own, I gotta get some more time in, I can’t be managing Tyrese's crazy-ass career, so she kind of gracefully bowed out, which is beautiful, and I’m now managed by Isabella—I went from a woman to a woman. When I was homeless for that one period I ended up moving in with Gayle around age 16, so I just think about all of those precious moments that Gayle and myself had. Gayle introduced me to new concepts of love. She became like a big sister, my mom, a foster mother – it went to a lot of different levels because she just loved and cared for me so much. Our history and our energy is just so beautiful.

She was very young when she first started taking me around to meet people and trying to get me a deal, and I was the little engine that could. She saw the value of me beyond my circumstances and all of the childhood drama and dysfunction never strayed her from caring and loving for me, because she saw the potential in me. And so here I am now, 17 years later, with number one movies and number one albums, and it’s just like man, this is all by faith and how God works. When I started making all my phone calls to every freakin’ record label, all the people who answered the phone were like, “I’m so sorry sir. We don’t take any solicitations over the phone. You can send us a demo, but we don’t do this over the phone,” and I was like OK, little ass kid, “I’m a singer, I’m very talented, is there anybody I can talk to about getting a record deal?" I was just the most green and inexperienced little kid ever, but I was broke and hungry and I was like f&*k it. I ain’t got nothing to lose, I’ve already heard no my whole life, so let’s do it. Gayle was doing stand-in work for her friend who normally answers the phones, who was out sick that day. She worked at Priority Records in the promotions department, so the fact that she was answering the phones at the front desk while her friend was out sick is the reason why she didn’t give me the normal schpeel that everybody else gave me. I was like, “Hi my name is Tyrese, I’m 15, and I want to be a singer.” And she’s like,”AWWWWW!!!!! So what is your name and where are you from? And I was like damn! Somebody’s actually talking to me and they’re not telling me to send in a demo and we don’t do this over the phone. And so she gave me her address and I started writing her letters andsinging in the bathroom and sending her recordings of me, and it was crazy. Her heart went out to me and my life just changed forever. It was God’s engineering.

If you could go back in time and whisper anything into the ear of that little you in the documentary with the brown bomber jacket and the big smile, what would it be?

You have no idea what’s on the way. Just stay on your path and never question God.

You've mastered the art of dreaming big in spite of your circumstances — what's the next big dream in the making for you?

There’s a four-part component to this Black Rose energy. I call it the Black Rose Universe I’ve created. So Black Rose is the name of my new album that’s coming in 2014. Black Rose is a double album—one side is going to be me singing, one side is going to be me rapping again with the Black Ty thing. We worked on this double album for 32 days and it was the most powerful thing I’ve ever done in my life. I captured it all on tape and we’re going to turn it into a seven-part making of the album type of deal, and this is going to happen right before the album is released.

And then I’m also doing a book called Black Rose. So that will be my third book. It’s going to be motivational/inspirational—kind of like what I’ve done with my first book, for everybody to be able to pick up and get detailed insight on life and challenges. The motivational and inspirational—this is who I am—I do this all day everyday and so now I’ve created a fan base between Twitter and social media and the way I write my books. People look forward to the motivation and inspiration that I bring because it’s not politically correct, it’s not safe, I just say exactly what it is and give people the raw insight, and then they just make whatever decisions they’re gonna make after.

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Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

I don’t really think that far ahead to be honest. The only thing I wish for is financial stability. I pray for financial stability and that way I get to operate and move in my truth. My truth is, if I ever get tired and I don’t want to do it anymore, I don’t want the fact that I need to keep making money be the reason that I keep busy. I pray for financial stability all the time because even though money can’t make you happy, I just don’t want to feel like I gotta keep doing shows, I gotta keep doing movies or I’m gonna fall apart. I don’t want that to be even factored in, I just want to say if I’m tired, if I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to go do what they’re offering then I don’t have to do it.

If you could make a promise to yourself, it would be to be more…

Humble. I always pray for humility...

With this documentary you hope there will be more…

Of an in-depth look into my life's journey done by VH1 Behind the Music.

By the time your birthday rolls around in December, you want more…

Of these big ideas and visions to come to life. The world is an empty canvas waiting on NEW thoughts to THINK and I wanna create those thoughts.

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