Abu Dhabi: Stevie Wonder just called this morning to say he loves Tyrese Gibson.
The Fast and Furious actor and hit musician may have been in Abu Dhabi this week, checking in with his beloved city (and posting social media pictures of himself in a kandoura), but that didn’t stop one of the world’s most respected artists from putting in a congratulatory phone call from across the globe.
“Out the blue. I had just laid down this morning and something told me, ‘don’t put your phone on silent’. He said to me, ‘Tyrese, I love your Black Rose album. I’ve listened to it from top to bottom, I love every song, you did a great job.’
“He said that he loved my song Shame. It was the most life-changing phone call.”
It’s not just Wonder that loves Black Rose. Gibson’s album went straight in at No 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart this week, and is at No 1 in at least 15 countries around the world.
Well known for his love of the Emirates, he attributed the Wonder call to the good vibes he always gets while here.
“I feel like once again, this great land has blessed me. I love the UAE. The energy of Abu Dhabi, the culture, the tribe.”
Gibson was the star draw of an international press junket by F7 studio Universal Studios, supported by twofour54 Abu Dhabi, that saw around 30 international media — from Europe, Asia, Australia and the US — visiting the location for the hit 7th installment of the car movie franchise as it gears up for its DVD release next month.
Exhausted from days of interviews — plus nearly a thousand fans showing up at Yas Mall on Thursday night for a signing session — the 36-year-old requested interviews with local media be pushed back a day. When we did meet on Saturday morning, the good-natured star was welcoming and apologetic as he munched on a box of Ritz crackers and gave us an impromptu rendition of his music.
Sitting in the chairman’s suite of the Jumeirah Etihad Towers — the setting for one of the most outrageous stunts in Furious 7, in which a car “jumps” from one tower to the next — Gibson was at once effusive and deeply serious, whether remembering his “brother”, the late Paul Walker, or discussing his plan for changing perceptions of the Middle East.
“I want the world to know, when I come here, although it may seem that I’m consumed and caught up in the royals and the shaikhs and the cars and the money, I know plenty of people and that’s not the motivation. “
“When I first came here, it was the first time I had smiled, or felt joy, since my brother Paul Walker died [in November 2013].
“God said to me, go to the UAE, there’s blessing on the other side. I am on a mission now to change the perception of the Middle East. God gave me a vision and, Inshallah, this will all come to pass.”
His vision is Voltron Studios “on the level of Universal Studios”.
He says he’s had meetings to bring this about, and is ready to go with a team in place as soon as he gets the go-ahead locally.
“I also want to do a film slate, at around $700 million (Dh2.57 billion), so when Avatar, Mission: Impossible, Fast and Furious, when these movies are being made, instead of us coming to shoot for three-four days, we’re going to shoot in Abu Dhabi for the whole movie. We’re going to co-finance these movies, instead of just coming here, shooting and leaving.”
Furious 7 releases on DVD in the UAE on August 12.