We’ve been with this young man’s movement from Day 1 and are proud to see him making moves in a whole new avenue. BOSSIP talked to Tristan “Mack” Wilds about his brand new r&b/hip-hop album due out this Fall and how the Staten Island kid made the move from the projects to Hollywood. Check out our exclusive interview when you continue.
BOSSIP: Happy Belated Birthday [Wilds turned 24 on July 15th]! Did you get into any trouble?
Mack Wilds: I definitely did. Nothing I’m willing to go on the record about. Let’s just say it was a good night.
That’s good. Well, congratulations on your new album. It’s called New York: A Love Story. How did you decide on that title?
We had a bunch of different titles. We had a bunch of different names, and thoughts and ideas. But it really just turned into what it sounds like. It sounded like New York and it sounded like a love story, so it really just kind of gave itself that name. We just let everybody know.
Now when you guys initially started working on the project, whose idea was it to use these classic beats? Mobb Deep fans, Wu-Tang fans and Nas fans should all be super excited about some of these beats.
Yes. It was a mix of both our ideas and thoughts. Salaam [Remi] came to the table and first it was moreso like a test, he wanted to see what I could do with certain songs. I think the first song I recorded was “Own It.” And he just wanted to see what I could do with that, and we did it. Then we just started talking about different beats we wanted to try and it was a real moment, us just trying to figure out different things we could flip around like “Yo, what if we flip this beat like this?” or “Yo, what if we just pull this from this and did that? Yo, that would be crazy.” I think one of the first beats that we flipped was “Hennesy” with the Mobb Deep sample. And it just really came together. He played it for Havoc, Havoc loved it, gave him the original beat for it. Havoc twisted it, fixed it up. It was dope. It really just came together from there.
Some of your fans were probably a little confused with the name change. So why did you decide to come out as Mack Wilds instead of Tristan?
I feel like a lot of people know me from different characters that I’ve played; The Wire or 90210, whatever. But I really wanted to bring people into my life with this music, especially because it’s going to be so personal. And my family name is Mack. So, because my family calls me Mack, and they call me Mack in my neighborhood, I might as well have everyone else call me that as well.
So you feel like, in terms of your passion, you’re more of a musician than you are an actor?
I would say that I was, music being my first love. But, after falling in love with acting as well, I would say that I’m just an overall artist. Who knows what I’m gonna touch next?
Keep reading for more on Mack’s music career and working with renowned producer Salaam Remi.
Now, one thing that came to mind for me is watching Drake’s career, because you know he started out as a young actor and really took over the music game. I wondered if you had thought about that parallel as well at all?
I’ve definitely seen it and I know that people are definitely going to bring it up a lot, especially since we’re cut from the same cloth in a sense. But I respect his hustle more than anything. He showed that people can do it. Not a lot of people have the strength to do everything and all the hard work that comes along with it. We’re cut from a very similar cloth.
We were definitely thinking that, between the fact that you write and sing, you rap some on the album. So when are we going to get this album in hand?
September 17th. That’s our release date right now.
That’s great. Now, working with Salaam, when you look at some of the first albums he’s done with a lot of artists, is that intimidating at all?[Editor’s note: Mack’s project is being released via Salaam Remi’s ReMiFa Music/Larger Than Life Records]
It’s not intimidating. It’s more so like an honor. One thing that I’ve learned about Salaam, and anybody who knows him can attest to this: he doesn’t really mess with everyone. It’s like, when it comes to music, either you’ve got him or you don’t. For him to be so behind me, 100%, and willing to put me in the ranks of other artists that he’s worked with like Amy Winehouse, like Lauren Hill, like Nas, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, It’s really—
Miguel, Jasmine Sullivan…
–Exactly. It’s an honor.
Do you have a favorite song?
No. Me and Salaam play that game every day, like “what’s your favorite song? What’s your least favorite song?”
*Spoiler Alert* We had a chance to preview the album and while the first single is bananas but we are placing bets right now that ladies are going to lose their minds over Mack’s lush ballad “Don’t Turn Me Down”. Mark our words now!
A lot of people probably fell in love with you first with the character of Michael on ‘The Wire.’ Do you keep in touch with your ‘Wire’ cast mates and have any plans of working with those guys?
Absolutely. I definitely keep in contact with all of them as much as I can. Like, Julito (McCullum), I love him to death. Everybody who was on the show with me like Julito, like Maestro (Harrell), Like Jermaine (Crawford), we have such a bond, like we’re brothers. We’re family. I definitely keep in contact, make sure that everybody’s good, see how Juli’s doing with his daughter, how Jermaine is doing now that he’s about to be out of school, just checking on Maestro since he’s back in LA and he has ‘Suburgatory’ now, you know, just checking on everybody and making sure everybody’s good. I guess, in a sense, kind of like a big bro.
It’s great to see so many people from the show prospering. I don’t know if you’ve seen “Fruitvale Station” yet, but Michael B. Jordan…
I haven’t. And Mike – Oh, my God. It’s funny though, that movie was shooting when I was sick, and I was actually supposed to be in the movie with Mike. But, I was sick at the time and I was still dealing with the whole Valley Fever thing. But just from reading the script, the scripts was utterly amazing. And to see what Mike has done with it. Mike is definitely one of my favorite actors right now. So for me to be able to say that that’s my big bro, it’s just dope.
With that said, what exactly is going on with the acting right now? I know this is a music interview, but is your acting career on hold? Do you plan to get back to it?
Most definitely. Like I said, I’m in love with acting, just like I’m in love with music. I can’t neglect it. But the thing right now with me, it’s hard for me to try to do two things at once. I can’t be scatterbrained. If I’m doing music, I have to do music, because if I try to take on a role, either the role is going to lack or I’m going to be so into the role that the music is not going to come out the way that I want it to. I feel like I owe it to everybody; anybody who decides to pick up some headphones and listen or decides to pay for a movie ticket or turn that TV on to my channel, I owe it to you to give you guys the best experience ever. So my main thing is to make sure that I work hard on that, just that. Whatever experience I’m trying to bring you guys , whether it’s music, whether it’s acting, hell, one day directing, and maybe even painting or something, just really to give you guys the best experience that I’m able to give you at the time.
That’s interesting that you said painting, because I know with the “Own It” lyrics video that’s out, there’s some elements of graffiti in there. Is that something that you’re actually into?
I am. I’m definitely not one of these super-duper experienced graffiti artists, but when I was young and I guess bad, I was definitely that kids running around New York City tagging my name everywhere. That was another thing that was inspired by my older brother. He was a graffiti artist. So I developed a hand style and worked that way, rather than doing the whole block letters and big burners and everything. I never really got into that. But I decided that if I do go into that, I’ll take time off to make sure that I get really good at it and then deliver to you guys the right way.
More on Mack’s wild child past and his rumored hookup with Rihanna when you continue…
When you say you were bad, how bad was it exactly? I need some type of story to back this up. I don’t know if I believe you.
Okay, I wasn’t horrible, but I guess as every young Black male in the projects can attest to, I’ve definitely been arrested a couple of times. Nothing crazy or horrible, just minor little kid stuff: breaking windows, graffiti, et cetera.
So how did you make the transition from growing up in the projects in Staten Island to the entertainment business?
It was mainly just seeing the people around me that were able to do it. Like my older brother doing a commercial, that really influenced me as a kid. Growing up around Wu Tang and seeing them in my Dad’s barber shop spitting and everything, and next thing you know, they’re the biggest fu**ing group ever, in the history of Hip Hop. To see that it’s able to be done, it gives you a certain thought process, a certain tenacity about anything that you do. Even with my dad doing local gigs, just to see him onstage and to know that it can work.
Can I ask you about the bandanna? Are you paying homage to somebody or is it just to keep your long hair under control?
It’s funny that you ask me that. When I was younger, I was a part of this clique back in Stapleton called Tre Pound Juveniles. Se we were just like young kids, running around, getting into fights, et cetera, and that was our bandanna, a black bandanna. Now I’ve worn the bandanna for the whole album process, from when I first went out there to now finishing it up. So it started off as just a reminder of where I come from while I’m making this album, just so I stay in the right mindset. It’s nostalgia. This is the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making this album.
Is your family still all out in Staten Island?
Yeah. Yes, majority of my family is still in Staten Island. And some of them are definitely still into bad things, I guess.
Now you’re super young. It’s interesting to me that you mentioned that some of your family is still kind of into the bad elements. Do you ever feel pressure from them asking for money or “help me out of the hood” or any of that?
Nah, nah. It’s crazy, growing up out there with them, this is how I know there is such a thing as God. It was them, the guys I looked up to who I grew up around who kind of raised me while I was out there running around that made sure that I was on the straight and narrow. Even the little things that I did get into when I did bad things, it was more so like they would just make sure that I didn’t get into TOO much trouble. They kept me straight and kind of like “you’re supposed to do something else. You don’t have to do this.”
I know the groupies are already there, but they’re only going to get worse. Are you ready for negative stories and the baby mama drama?
Absolutely. It’s gonna come. I’m not mad either way, and it is what it is. It’s a necessary evil in a sense. Real talk, the main thing I can do to prevent it is just stay around the people that love me and just try to stay as positive as possible without turning back into that bad kid.
Right. So now if you have Rihanna, Rita Ora, Iggy Azalea all throwing themselves at you do you think that you’re going to go that route?
You never know. I’m the type of guy that starts to like a girl based off of her mindset and what she can do. It’s weird, I’m a creative guy, so she has to be interesting to me. She can’t just be pretty, because that’s all you’re gonna be to me, just pretty. You need to be some kind of interesting to me, a creative, an intellectual, something. Who knows? You never know. I never turn my nose up or turn down any type of girl like that.
Is there anybody that you have your eye on?
Nobody at this particular time, but I’m definitely open to dates.
So you’re single and ready to mingle.
Now when you were writing these songs for “New York: A Love Story,” was there a muse involved? Was there any woman that was in mind?
No muse in particular. There’s different stories in each song, so each song probably had a different focal point, be it a different relationship, or something that never came to pass, or just my imagination taking away what could have happened, or even pulling from some of my friends’ old relationship woes, just talking to them and hearing how they deal with things and thinking “Oh, sh*t. That’s a dope song.” So I just write it down.
Now we did talk about the Rihanna thing before, did you want to clear that up on the record? There were rumors that you guys had hooked up.
Yeah. Nah, Rihanna’s hella cool, but no. Never. Not never.
But you’re not saying there’s no possible future if the opportunity ever presents itself again?
Hey, I can’t predict the future. We’ll see what happens.
So what’s the next step for you?
Next step is basically just shutting the city down. We’re gonna just turn New York City into a party and we’re gonna turn it up.
Speaking of turning up… Check out photos from Mack’s birthday celebrations at Greenhouse and The Griffin below:
What do you think? Are you excited to see what Mack can do musically?