Perseverance definitely pays off, and this week’s Urban Beardsman is living proof. Where some might chalk up their daily grind to “it is what it is”, 2E (pronounced just like it sounds) refused to accept his fate would be working at the local Copymax, along with several clothing stores jobs during his youth. Instead, he followed his heart and musical dreams; leading him to becoming the successful backup singer he is today: performing with everyone from K-ci & Jo-jo to Fantasia Barrino—where he was invited to perform for the queen of media Oprah Winfrey herself—on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
2E took time out of his busy schedule in-between touring along with his number one role as a family man to share how his musical roots all began. As a residing native of North Carolina, he states, “with most R&B singers, we tend to have a background in church—which is where I got my start. My grandparents are musicians as is my father—(along from being an ordained minister), so it just came with the territory.”
Throughout the years, 2E got plenty of stage time singing gospel and playing the drums—prepping him for the big stage he’d come to know so well today. Around 2000, he got a call for the opportunity of a lifetime, sharing, “I was working odd and end retail jobs to basically keep my head afloat, until one day I got a call from a church friend. He asked me how I felt about going on tour with two well established artists in Japan. It turned out to be K-ci and Jo-Jo, and I was definitely on board with that! Eventually touring with them led to doing a tour later through Europe with Jodeci, and things just continued to progress from there.”
Taking in (and loving) the experiences being on the road performing at venues all over the globe, 2E also formed solid friendships with other musicians who shared the same goals.” During the tour with Jodeci, I met Fantasia’s brother Teeny, and we became pretty close. I ended up meeting Fantasia after the Jodeci thing and sang background for her for about five years,” 2E reveals.
Fantasia ended up taking time off to raise her family, but 2E was nowhere near ready to stop doing what he loved. He synched up with Grammy Award winning, Anthony Hamilton; and has been performing with him ever since under a three-man ensemble known as “The Ham-Tones.”
With so many incredible collaborations and musical achievements under his belt, 2E remains extremely humble and notes he doesn’t’ take his success lightly, “it’s an amazing feeling to wake up and be able to do what I love—not a lot of people can’t say that. When my father was growing up, I know he had dreams of traveling and being in studios, and though he did his fair share, I’ve been able to carry the torch even further, and live out my fathers dream. And I’m sure when my child is born he’ll be able to take it to another level beyond that.”
Throughout the course of 2E mastering his musical craft, he kept close contact with a friend from his retail days. They had always spoken about collaborating on launching an apparel line, and in 2006, the time finally came for the duo to become business partners. 2E assists in submitting his designs, while his friend who has a marketing and fashion background helps execute them further—forming their online boutique HTDOGWTR. 2E, shares, “I’ve always liked to draw things here and there, but for me, learning to do the apparel designs were all self-taught. We do custom tees, dresses, jeans, accessories, and even baby wear!”
Although 2E wears many hats, and spends months at a time on the road touring; he admits even his “downtime” is spent on music, “I’m engulfed with it. I have a bucket list other artists I’d like to work with at some point, and I’m also aiming towards getting a major placement on somebody’s album, either writing, producing or singing as well. But, first and foremost I’m a family guy and I love to kick it with my fam. My cousin and I also like to travel and take trips here and there—I enjoy playing some sports gaming every now and then as well, but basically when I’m off—it’s just that—I’m off!”
One thing that is never off, is 2E’s look. Being that he spends hours performing on stage along with backing his apparel brand, he always keeps his style on point—including the beard. He’s admits he’s had it for so long he doesn’t even recall when he started growing it. “I’ve always try to be an individual in my style, but honestly I don’t remember when I began growing out the beard, it just kind of happened and I let it grow and go. It’s such a part of me now that if you were to see me without out a beard, it just wouldn’t be right. My beard is me, and if my beard is gone—then I’m not me!
Being in the music industry, 2E explains his beard (although well-received) is often stereotyped in a certain genre, and states, “people often come up to me and ask, “do you rap?’ Most people think if you got beard you must rap, and you can’t be a smooth R&B guy. The majority of the ladies love it though, but then you have some of the older people like my grandma who are always asking why I can’t shave it off.”
Regardless of the favorable opinion, 2E stays true to himself with both his look and his outlook on life, revealing, “I always like to say, regardless of what people try to say or tell you about your walk of life—they might try to discourage you, or even throw shade your way, but you have to take your stand and continue to push forward. Throughout my life I’ve had to go a different route. My mom and grandmother were not musical at all, so they just worked until they couldn’t work anymore and retired. I’ve always appreciated and respected that side, but my dad was the one that said follow your dream, and just go until you can’t go any further. My father kept pushing and pushing and now he’s at a very good situation in church, and that’s a huge inspiration and example of how to follow your dreams.”
Whether he knows it or not, 2E is also a prime example of following your dreams proper. He’s an exceptionally kind soul, and whether he’s singing, writing, performing, or designing his apparel line, he’s demonstrates that perseverance can have an immeasurable payoff.