Photography: Sean Murphy
Story: Adell Hendersen
Tyrese Gibson has drive. It’s what gives him the gall to attempt to fit into the muscle tank of America’s most prominent, self-absorbed, jacked action hero, Vin Diesel. John Singleton, another study in extreme confidence, picked up on the chocolate boy wonder’s no-fear aura and cast him in Baby Boy, 2001’s Boyz ’N the Hood remix. In traditional Ghetto, USA hood flick form, Gibson played the ultimate lazybones slouch, pushing his girl’s rimmed-up, factory-laced Honda Accord to no end. In 2 Fast 2 Furious, the follow-up to Diesel’s box office behemoth The Fast and the Furious, Tyrese will be issued a serious automobile upgrade. From slow and low to speeding in his stylish purple and silver bullet, this go-round finds the kid looking rather sporty in his sleek customized Mitsubishi Spyder. Hell, he even talked the studio into letting him keep it once the promotional campaign for the movie is caput. However, as far as this popular singer/actor is concerned, replacing Diesel and shouldering the weight of a $500 million franchise is the least of his worries.
RIDES: Word on the Universal block is you’re kinda vain. We heard that when you first got on the set of 2 Fast 2 Furious you didn’t feel that the car they had for you fit your personality.
TYRESE: The car that they wanted me to drive was a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, which I still ended up driving. There was a very ugly purple paint job on the car and it had a big ol’ ugly spider web on the hood. It was just out-of-control ugly. The whole interior was all suede but it was bright yellow, almost neon yellow. So I told them: You are not going to have me make my debut in this film and be laughed at.
That’s real. For the most part, Universal Studios was very accommodating with your requests. But you ended up breaking bread to get the car up to your standards.
I had to pay $27,000 out of my own pocket to get the Lowenhart BR5 rims that are on my car ’cause I had to buy four sets for all four replicas of the Mitsubishi. The masses don’t know what I went through to get the car looking the way it looks.
Don’t trip. That’s a tax write-off. You appear to be serious when it comes to cars.
I would say I’ve probably been through about 27 cars, and I’m only 23 years old.
Damn, your insurance premium must be bananas.
Me going through 27 cars doesn’t mean that I’ve actually driven every one of them. You know, sometimes I might go buy one and then keep it for about a month and then just give it away as a gift. ’Cause I’ve got a big heart like that.
Do you even remember your first car?
My first car was a black 1983 Cutlass, which I still have. But the first car I actually craved is the car I’m in now: a Mercedes CL 600. I’ve had it for about two years. I’ve always dreamed of everything that I couldn’t afford. Now I have five cars—this one, my Range Rover, my Escalade, Excursion and an Audi TT.
Why do you think people are so attracted to automobiles?
I think that cars give everyone a feeling of being an individual. We all have the same type of cars but it’s the way you flip it. You can be gaudy and over-the-top, or you can be classy, clean and tasteful, which is what I like to think of myself as.
Is that why you mostly push white whips?
My spirit is a little more open and happy and I felt like I wanted to drive a car that represents how my spirit feels right now at this stage in my life. So that’s why I’m in white cars.
How familiar were you with the car culture before coming onto the project?
There’s a lot of different levels of car culture, and I really got a whole other taste of it from doing this movie. People are very passionate, very determined to do a lot of very specific detailed things to their cars that cost a lot of money.
Yeah, you damn near need a six-figure salary to keep up with the Earnhardts.
There are a lot of really young people [involved in the culture]. You ask yourself, “Where are they getting all this money to do stuff like this, and they’re still in high school or college?” We’re talking $40,000 dumped into a Honda Accord. The whole engine custom and chromed.
PELL Grants must be recession-proof. Do you feel as if you guys captured the true essence of that lifestyle?
I don’t wanna sound like I’m discrediting myself or even [co-star] Paul [Walker] and our performances in the film, but the true stars of the film are the lifestyle and the culture. Paul and I are considered icing on the cake.
Although street racing is considered underground, The Fast and the Furious attracted a huge audience.
It’s a film that crosses all barriers. That’s why the first was so successful, because it’s about the cars. That’s why they can go and do a car show at the convention centers and two to three levels are full of cars and it’s jam-packed with people taking pictures. People are attracted to seeing how someone else detailed the same car that they own.
Talk about being the new kid on what was essentially Vin’s block.
Well, basically Vin ended up not being on the same page as the people over at Universal, and it created an opportunity for me. I came into the situation not being aware of the numbers or the success of the first one because I never went to see it.
Did you watch it after you got the part?
I still haven’t seen the first one. I’m aware that they are technically saying that I replaced Vin Diesel, but in my eyes he replaced himself.
You’re two for two in landing huge parts in this acting game. Are you beginning to lean more towards movies now or is your music career still your top priority?
I’m here to do my job and accept my blessing but at the same time the emphasis of acting is not there for me compared to music. I’d rather win a Grammy over an Oscar any day.
-SUMMER 2003 premier issue of RIDES Magazine