Updated December 05, 2011First of all, let's clear up a few misconceptions: Urban Mystic is not a band. And nope - Urban Mystic isn't a reggae artist, either. Nor is Urban Mystic a rapper. So who or what is Urban Mystic, then?
Well, Urban Mystic was born Brandon Williams in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1984. He's the son of a minister, and the possessor of one of the most distinctive Soul singing voices in America today due to it's raspy, deeply soulful tone. So far, he's released two albums, 2004's Ghetto Revelations and 2006's Ghetto Revelations, Vol. 2.
The latter album contains the old-school love song "I Refuse," about a chance encounter with an ex lover. The song has been his biggest hit thus far and was even named one of the best R&B/Soul songs of the first half of 2006 by this very website.
The Meaning Behind the NameSo now that you know a little bit about him, one question still leaps out: how did a guy in his early 20s from South Florida get a regal name like Urban Mystic?
"The name Urban Mystic came from the CEO of my record label, Cecil Barker. He gave me the name," Mystic reveals. "The name pretty much describes me as a person. I'm very spiritual and grounded."
The choice of names does occasionally result in confusion:
"A lot of people get it twisted," he said. I have a band that I travel with and a lot of people think it's the band's name. A lot of people think it's a group. But it's just me: I'm Urban Mystic."
As for traveling with his own band when so many solo R&B and Soul artists these days just rely on computers and machinery to duplicate their studio sounds live onstage, Mystic said he simply prefers it that way.
"I grew up in the church and I love having that live feeling," he explained, also mentioning that he himself is a musician and plays the keyboard and drums.
Musical BeginningsIn fact, he comes from a musical family, as his older brother is a singer who goes by the name Po' Boy. In fact, Mystic credits his brother for getting him involved in music.
"I started singing when I was 5. I cut my first record when I was 13," he said matter-of-factly. My older brother took me into the studio. And as soon as I heard it (his first song), I knew this is what I wanted to do. Once he took me in the studio, I never came out."
Throwback to WomackAlthough Urban Mystic's released two albums, mainstream success has remained elusive, partially because his songs don't fit in with most contemporary music: many of his tracks are a throwback to old-school Soul artists like Al Green, Harold Melvin and Donny Hathaway. In fact, he bears a close vocal similarity to the legendary Bobby Womack.
"I get that a lot," he said about the Womack comparison. My mama says that. That's a compliment."
But despite the deep-Soul voice, the fact of the matter is that at the time of this interview, Mystic was still just 21 years old, plus he's a Hip-Hop fan. And that side of him comes out in some of his music as well. Although many contemporary R&B and Soul singers have voiced everything from indifference to disgust and the current state of R&B, Mystic is a fan of it.
"It's cool," he said. "I like it."
Soul Meets Hip-HopAnd he's not just blowing smoke, apparently; he's recorded songs with the likes of rappers Paul Wall and Rick Ross, among others.
The two musical sides of Urban Mystic - Soul and Hip-Hop - are exemplified by two very different songs by him. "I Refuse" is a definite doo-wop throwback to the style of Soul that was en vogue roughly four decades ago. The song "Bounce Wit Me," though is a modern Miami-style, bouncy Hip-Hop track that's as modern as any song on contemporary urban radio. The incredible thing is: despite sounding incredibly different, both songs were produced by the same person, Scott Storch.
Not 'Neo'But although he does have love for R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop alike, one thing Urban Mystic doesn't like, is being called a Neo-Soul artist.
Many artists, including India.Arie, have vocally come out against the Neo-Soul phrase, and Urban Mystic is another such artist who wishes the term would go away - permanently and forever.
"I don't know where 'neo' comes in at, but it's always been Soul. I don't agree with that label. It's just a marketing tool. I don't call myself 'Neo-Soul.' It's just straight from the soul."
The FutureAs for the future of Urban Mystic, he says he may be coming to a city near you sometime in the next few months.
"We're trying to get a tour set up with Gerald Levert," he revealed. "And another with Angela Winbush."
And a little further out: his third album.
It's in the making," he said. "Probably next year (in 2007). When my fans tell me they're ready for a new album, I'll give it to them."