As a testament to his many talents, the 27-year-old artist released his latest album, After Hours, this month while on the heels of starring in two new shows — but it was his music that (literally) kept him up at night.
“When I was working on both television shows, the only time I had to myself was at night,” he tells PEOPLE of how he created the album. “From that, I started to gather inspiration from the nighttime and all of the feelings that you get around that time.”
He continues: “It’s a weird time — nighttime — because the hormones are raging, there’s different feelings that start to resurface, whether it’s heartbreak or love lost. There’s a lot of things that happen, and I used that as a basis for my inspiration.”
Out of the 12 sultry R&B tracks on the projects, Wilds’ favorite is one called “Choose” — which he describes as an “unabashed look at what a guy goes through when he wants his girl back.”
He claims his sophomore album has a greater sense of maturity than his debut, New York: A Love Story.
“If you’re not changing and not growing, you’re dying,” he says. “I think that’s one of the biggest things that’s different between this project and my last project — just using the things that I’ve been through.”
In addition to the album, Wilds is releasing a six-part mini-series as a visual interpretation to the tracks on Jay Z’s music service Tidal. Wilds’ relationship with Jay Z dates back years, and he even appeared in the rapper’s 2007 music video for “Roc Boys.”
“Jay Z is a constant support system and inspiration because of everything that he has done in his career and everything that he allows me to do creatively,” he shares.
“Adele was a class act,” he says of the experience. “Having an opportunity to be able to be in the room with these people and play with them and to create something that was as phenomenal as that video was, it meant a lot. I’m glad that they chose me to do it.”
Though the video premiered a year and a half ago, Wilds still keeps in touch with the songstress.
“I reach out, make sure that she’s good, and say, ‘What’s up?’ every now and then,” he says.
Aside from his music, Wilds can currently be seen on Fox’s Shots Fired, a 10-hour event series that examines the aftermath of two racially charged shootings in a small Southern town.
“This show gives everyone a good look at what we see go on in our society so many times,” he says. “Hopefully afterwards it will start the conversation on how to look at each other’s humanity rather than judging people off of the way they look, their line of work or their social status.”
In the show, his character, sheriff’s deputy Joshua Beck, kills an unarmed white college student in a small town in North Carolina.
“It was great just being able to see things from a different point of view — especially me being a young black man. Automatically I’m on the opposite side of the citizen versus police debacle that we constantly see,” he says. “It was amazing to not only learn as an actor but to learn and grow as a man.”
Wilds’ other project, VH1’s The Breaks, recently aired it’s season finale. While working on the show, Wilds got the opportunity to once again shoot with his former cast mates on The Wire, Wood Harris and Method Man. Another member of his Wire family Wilds still keeps in touch with is Michael B. Jordan, who is like a “big brother” to him.
As to whether he’d ever consider doing a remake of the HBO hit, Wilds says: “If [creator] David Simon comes back around and is ready to rally up the troops, I’m with it. I think we all are.”
Of the TV-music crossover stars that came before him, Wilds lists Drake, Lauryn Hill, Jennifer Lopez, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy — though he’s more inspired by artists like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams.
Between a new album, new shows and plenty more “up his sleeves,” the Staten Island native is able to handle it all through “time management” and the people that keep him most grounded — his mom, family and team.
“I’m one of those guys who likes to undersell and overachieve,” he says. “As long as the people who are receiving the music love it and appreciate all of the emotions that we put into it, all of the vulnerability, and the growth, the maturity, then it’s a job well done for me.”