It seems odd that singer Charlie Wilson is still trying to “win.” He is, after all, a founding member of the Gap Band, one of the most influential funk bands of the 70s and 80s — just ask Bruno Mars, a successful solo artist and he’s overcome addiction, homelessness and prostate cancer. It seems that all Wilson has done is “win.”
But winning is still a theme with Wilson — his latest album is called “In It to Win It.”
“Man, I’ve been in this game a very long time, and I’ve done a lot of things a lot of people haven’t been able to do, like be in a successful band and watch it burn out and have a solo career — I cleaned myself up and for a few years no one wanted anything to do with me,” Wilson said in an interview with the Sun Herald. “I am in it to win it — I’ve been in the game a long time and I’m in to inspire and win at whatever I do.”
The album features appearances from the likes of Pitbull, T.I., and Whiz Khalifa. It also gave Wilson something he’s never had — a No. 1 gospel song with “I’m Blessed.”
“I’ve never had too many features except for Snoop — Snoop has been there for me at every turn,” he said. “But to have T.I., Pitbull, Wiz Khalifa, Robin Thicke, Lalah Hathaway and Snoop, that’s the dream team.”
Wilson returns to South Mississippi on Friday with an 8 p.m. show at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. Tickets start at $69.95 and a limited amount are available at Ticketmaster.com.
I’m still doing my thing. If you’re using my vocal style, it’s all good. But when I come to you and ask you to do something with me, you better put me on or I’m going to shout you out for real and let the world know that you ain’t trying to give a brother nothing back.
Q: How did you lock down all of the guests for “In it To Win It?”
A: No one said no. The people that are on this album are the people that I’ve always talked about doing a record with. Lalah asked me if we could sing together and I was like, “Yeah.” It happened like that with everybody. I couldn’t believe Pitbull got on it. My wife was always saying, “You need to get Pitbull.” I was like, “We can’t get Pitbull, he’s probably too busy, and he doesn’t even know who I am.” But he came on like everybody else.
Q: You’re a very humble man and I appreciate that. But Justin Timberlake, Pharell, 2Pac — I could go on and on of all the people that claim Charlie Wilson has an influence. Is it cool to get the respect from this caliber of musicians?
A: Oh man, it’s cool. I’m quite aware of all of the accolades and of all of the people who say I’ve influenced them. It’s great, man. I feel real good — sometimes people say, “Charlie, you need to be a little cocky.” I say, “What for.” I’m still doing my thing. If you’re using my vocal style, it’s all good. But when I come to you and ask you to do something with me, you better put me on or I’m going to shout you out for real and let the world know that you ain’t trying to give a brother nothing back.
Q: And the influence of the Gap Band is still being felt. The first time you heard “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, did you think, “This guy needs to send me a check?”
A: And they did — quietly. It’s all good. Bruno is very hot right now. We are working on a record together. I haven’t had a chance to finish it. He wanted me to go on tour with him. We’ll see what happens.
Q: Any idea how many times someone has sampled the drum break in “Early in The Morning?”
A: A bunch. Everybody uses that song.
Q: You just had your first hit gospel record with “I’m Blessed.”
A: I’ve never had a No. 1 gospel record. I’ve put some gospel-type things on my records before hoping someone would pick it up and start spinning it. I got a chance to please my maker and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and I thank Him for that opportunity. The record debuted at No. 1. I’m really happy that I got to make a record that appealed to not only fans of urban and hip hop music but gospel fans, as well. I always wanted to do that.
Q: Are you looking forward to coming back to Biloxi?
A: Man, I can’t wait to get to Biloxi. How hot is it?
Q: Do you still enjoy the one-on-one touring allows you with your fans?
A: It’s what I live for. It’s so much fun and I’m raising the bar in R&B performing. I’m going to give you a pop show in R&B form. I spent a lot of money on my show with lights and costumes and stuff. After the show, I usually look at the check and go, “Well, everybody else was happy so let’s go to the next one, man.”
Q: Aside from your success as a musician, you’ve beaten addiction, homelessness and cancer. What’s next for Charlie Wilson?
A: I feel wealthy in my heart, man. I want to do a movie on my life story. I keep telling everybody I don’t want the movie to come out and Charlie passes away a week later. Things are changing with technology in the music world. I want to stay connected in this new way of doing things — it’s a kids world, but I’ve been accepted into it. But hey man, I guess I’m the blessed one. I have it on 100 right now.
If you go
Beau Rivage Resort & Casino at 875 Beach Blvd. in Biloxi
8 p.m. on Friday, June 23
Tickets start at $69.95 and are available at Ticketmaster.com.