“Strike while the iron’s hot. A scorpion would not wait to strike, why the f**k would you?”
– Christopher D. Gilbert, the symbolism behind his scorpion shaped lapel pin.
It’s that go-for-it mentality that has Christopher Gilbert in the right position to make the right moves at the right time. The creative, suavely quirky force that is his existence, is why those around him thrive and in essence, shine.
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88Nine Radio Milwaukee has partnered with the Milwaukee urban magazine CopyWrite. Founded by Lexi Brunson and Carsyn Taylor, CopyWrite takes a unique look at Milwaukee’s culture, art, fashion, and music. We will be sharing their stories here on radiomilwaukee.org. We also invite you to visit their website and read their magazines. Read their feature story on Milwaukee’s Christopher Gilbert below.
CW: “Dude! What have you been doing that you have been so damn busy?”
It’s a question we already knew the answer to. His daily grind is no public mystery. His contribution to multiple facets of local creativity and of course dapper appearance cannot be missed. It’s like the man has superhuman abilities. He can be three places at once and still look his best.
CG: “You’ve seen what I been on. You ain’t seen me?” (He looked around playfully as though checking for the paparazzi.) “Nah, I’m just playing… We were getting ready for Summerfest (where his band NAN – New Age Narcissism opened for The Roots), the tour, and I started teaching theater… I’m basically teaching that all summer so from six in the morning till five, Monday through Friday. Then I’m either in practice or we have a show and then I teach dance after that. Summertime Grind Time, basically.”
Chris holds the titles of Teacher, Choreographer, Musician, Visual Artist (Bet you didn’t know! That’s OK, though, that’s why CopyWrite is here to get those exclusives LOL), and Life Coach (which is the most important title in Chris’ opinion).
Just listening to his schedule made us tired.
CW: “When do you sleep?”
CG: “I don’t. And that’s really f**ked up…But Friday I did. I turned my phone off, which I never do, and was like you know what? Nope! I’m not going to be an enabler because I’m enabling people to be able to come get me like ‘Can you do this? Can you do that?’ Because I’m a yes man.” (Hold up don’t jump to conclusions. Let him explain!) “I’m always like, ‘got you, don’t even worry’. But I was like ‘Nope! Not today!’ I went to sleep for like 7 hours and when I woke up my phone was blowing up! (People were like) ’What the f**k? What’s wrong with you? Are you dead?’…I’m like ‘Damn, can I get some space?”
Well, clearly not.
Though he needed his (very limited) time alone, in the next breath, Chris assured us that he doesn’t mind being the one people call on because of his giving nature. He simply said:
“It’s a way of life for me.”
Being a full-time creative, in many collaborative realms, Chris just doesn’t get much time to himself.
With air quotes he emphasized that these days he is a “team player” in comparison to his past solo career where he didn’t have to give so much of himself.
CW: “Do you prefer it that way? Or do you want it to be just you?”
He looked around facetiously and laughed, but said: “No I don’t mind being the team player. When I used to work retail I played every position. I was at the bottom. I was floor manager. I was a regular sales associate. I was a display captain. I did all of that. So it kind of reminds me of that again, but it’s different because I’m doing what I want… It’s not retail where I was like, I’m doing this because I gotta get by and I like fashion, some what.”
People tend to assume that he likes fashion a lot more then what is true. Chris suggests it’s really not about that but actually about dressing in a way that makes you feel the best about yourself.
CG: “It’s not like I’m in here looking at labels or I’m like ‘Awww I know what they wearing in Paris and sh*t. Naw!”
“If I like that & it looks good on me, B***h I’m wearing that sh*t! It’s that simple.”
Ayeee, we like that! Note: He said, “…and it looks good on me…”. Everybody is not meant to wear everything…Stay in your lane! LOL
CG: “I know some days I be having some little risky ones…”
CW: “You be wearing jeans and sh*t!”
Yup! You heard it here first. CopyWrite has seen images of, Theeeeee Christopher Gilbert, wearing casual attire. We are selling the pictures to the buyer with the best offer or we will use them for blackmail. Either way works for us.
CW: “We’ve seen you! You got caught!”
CW: “It was on somebody’s Snapchat. Yup, we’ve seen you with the jeans and a hoodie.”
CG: “That’s probably why they snapped that…They was like ‘Look at this, he in here. He owned a pair of jeans and he out here in those’…And I was like ‘Yeah but do you ever see me in jeans? No, because that ain’t for everybody to see. I realized that everything that I have is not for everybody. It’s ok, you might think that sh*t, like ‘oh it’s great, I’m benefiting other people’, but somebody down the street is going to be like ‘Hell naw, I don’t want that. I don’t want nothing to do with that because it’s too much for me’…I found that out recently at my job. This girl was like ‘They put me with you because they said you were a bit much.’ I was like ‘What I do?’ ‘You’re just…. *puts the hand to the face motion, *’ I was like ‘ooooweeee, what the f**k does that mean?’ Like B***h bring it back!”
LMAO! Here is where Chris got a bit turnt up. He is definitely a character.
CG: “But I’m comfortable with myself now. I used to be the type that would over think what I was wearing before I went out, but now it’s like I’m comfortable with everything that I am.”
He suggested that now that he is a teacher and a role model he has to be that way because their are people watching and noticing everything he does. You know what they say; teach by example.
CG: “That’s why I allow them to follow me on everything that I do; social media wise. I’m the same person that is talking to you in the classroom, that is instilling those beliefs in you that you have something that’s going to benefit the world. What good am I to you if I’m not going to be true to that? Not to be preaching or nothing to y’all.”
CG: “You’re walking that life but are you really living it? That’s two different things.”
You can follow Chris too @bmadboss on Instagram and Snapchat. He hasn’t converted to the Twitter religion yet, mind you 140 characters might not be enough for him and his soap box. —-> This is the random moment in all interviews we wait for…
CG: “I thought that was somebody waving. But it was a butterfly. Haha, I’m borderline A.D.D. I get distracted very easily…it’s really bad. I’m like the little dog that be like, ‘…Squirrel!’ But ummm hmmm…”
Chris distracted us all with that bit.
CW: “Anyways, back to you leading by example…”
CG: “About being a stand-up guy?”
CW: “Yes. Where did you get those morals?”
CG: “My household. I grew up in a family where I was fortunate enough to have both of my parents.”
He further explained how his reality at a young age contrasted with those of his peers in positive and negative ways. Attending a predominantly Black middle school he was treated like his persona was too “White” for the Black kids and his goal-oriented, structured life was an oddity. There he would hide his talents, like dancing, in fear of judgment. Though he was hesitant about his attendance at a predominantly White High School, Wisconsin Lutheran, it showed to be a more supportive environment. Even coming from different walks of life, his peers commended his individuality and admired him for his craft. We note true confidence comes from experiencing adversity. Maybe high school was just Chris’ moment to break open?
CG: “So I model myself as being a stand-up guy but most importantly as a Day One, kind of dude. However you met me on day one that’s how it should always be, it should never alter. You should never have to question my character because the minute that you do, that means I wasn’t true.”
The way he acts, dresses, and treats others can all be pointed back to his experiences and his biggest influencer, his mother. (Who is also a dancer.)
CG: “My mom was like ‘The minute you leave my house, you’re not only a representation of me but a representation of my whole family.’ And I have a pretty big family so that means I have to go all out every single time. So not saying that jeans are not acceptable but for me, if this is what I feel my best in and if this is me going all out then this is the only acceptable image that I can put out there. For me, it’s the only option.”
So let’s back up. If you haven’t caught on by now, Chris is always formally dressed in public. Button up, Blazer, dress shoes, complemented by a snazzy bow tie and some expressive bling. But please believe, he is not trying to impress you. That’s doing too much; it’s bigger than him.
But people do take notice…
CG: “It was Locust Street Fest, I wrote a status about it. This dude in his fifties, an older Black male. I never seen him before, not a day in my life, he was like ‘Yo’ man I’ve been following you for the past two years. I see everything that you do.’ We are not friends on Facebook or any social media. That means he has to have seen me out. He said ‘I keep up with you. I see what you’re about. We need more people like you. Just keep doing what you’re doing.’ I was like damn where you been at? I haven’t seen you not once. But still I know nothing about him, but from what he sees from me is that I’m about something. So I will take that, for whatever that is.”
Motivational speeches from strangers can definitely be insightful. We guess you never really know who’s watching.
CW: “You have been a few places, you have even been on tour. What’s one of the most memorable?”
CG: “Honestly, I can say it was the very first time I went to LA… I went to go visit and it was kind of this moment of like ‘this is what it feels like to be in the midst of greatness’. You know they call it the land of dreams. Everywhere you go there you can feel how people live. You can tell everybody is working on something so it’s like everyone looks back at you like ‘what you doing?’, because if you’re here you’re not just here to visit, you’re here to work. It was like this is what I have to work for. This is the level of competition I’m going to have to deal with… There are other places I liked but I think just the magnitude of what LA was for me, and what it did for my career, I can say makes it memorable. But Milwaukee is like that place too. There is nothing like it because it’s everything that I know.”
CW: “There is no place like home.”
CG: “True, except for when people don’t know how to act. It’s crazy… but I will forever claim Milwaukee. I’m never above that. But just know that I made a choice. I didn’t settle.”
“Complacency has never been in my vocabulary. Besides right now because I just said it. (HA! CORNY.) But outside of that.”
He laughed. But we get it.
Chris is self-motivated and an overachiever. Where the outsider may see his talents and delivery admirable, he sees it as an opportunity to go beyond.
CG: “The more compliments I hear in life, that’s the more I need to work. Because who ever said it, in their mind, that’s as good as I am to them. But to me, I know I’m always more.”
Refusing to be stagnant, Chris takes all compliments as fuel to his fire.
CG: “Prime Example, Summerfest show. Cool, on to the next show though. It was cool. The Roots were like ‘Yo’, you’re dope. Keep doing what y’all doin.’ Cool, but I know there were so many different moments of that show I could have did better, or I could have did this different. Cool, I’ll take that but next time it needs to be something else or it needs to be something more.”
There is always room for improvement, it seems like in Mr. Gilbert’s book. Generally, we find those traits in creative forces ideal. It’s the “Kanye always trying to outdo Kanye” syndrome.
CG: “I want more for myself, but more so I want more for the people around me and my city.”
Chris grew up on the Northside of Milwaukee where like many artists from the city say, there is a lot of adversity to overcome. Some even live with the mentality that they never will.
CG: “I had this dude who grew up on the same block as me, tell me the hood is a jail with no bars. He said ‘You’ll get out but I won’t.’ I asked why that is and he said ‘You just got it. For some people, it’s just meant for them to do something and get out of here. But for some of us, we’re just stuck’.”
That mindset is definitely not for Chris. He took the talk and categorized it as unacceptable to be trapped. He lives his life trying to speak up for what he truly believes in. He admits that in his youth, nobody really listened to him. Then, he would just sit back and observe but times have changed.
CG: “I told myself when the opportunity ever comes for me to speak up and people to listen, I’m going to make sure it’s worth it. I have waited for the chance and now that it’s here, I will never let it go because I now understand that, that is power.”
With that power comes great responsibility. (No cliché …even if it’s cliché. Because it’s tooooooooo true.)
Chris is the real MVP. Throughout his interview with CopyWrite, his thoughts were free-flowing and his message was guided. His aura being a constant light of wandering around him… (OK, maybe it was the sun, but you get the idea). He believes in a greater good and how you accomplish that is up to you. His “team” mentality, makes his journey to greatness all the more hopeful. He understands something that the “Movement” has been prophesizing since the beginning.
We can’t do it alone.
“I may be the middle man but I make sure that everyone else around me is getting their shine.”
CW: “You haven’t reached your full potential, we know this, and from what it sounds like you are saying you’re always going to be striving for more. So what’s next and where do you want to take it?”
CG: “For me, I’m 27, so I got that. Everyday my kids (students) remind me like, ‘You’re almost 30.’ I’m like Shut Up! Obviously, I’m still young, (But are you really, though? LOL) But for me it would be to do what I am doing but going internationally with it. As I was saying before, I realize that if I speak most people will listen and they will actually hear what I’m about. So I need to do that but on a more global level. I did it in a sense with Yo Gabba Gabba, (Where he was Muno, the red one), but I was behind a suit. You couldn’t see my face.”
Eventually, he plans on returning to LA, but he has work in MKE that he has to finish out first. Staying true to his roots and contributing to the guidance of its next generation, equally important.
CG: “I tell my kids, individuality is all I pride myself on. Who are you and why are you that way?… because when they get older, they can at least say he was a part of my journey at this point and that put into perspective exactly who I am right now. That’s bigger than me, I’m not just a temporary teacher I’m thinking long-term… Like how can we sustain those teachings.”
Christopher Gilbert is naturally inspiring no matter what role he is filling at the moment. His position of making a difference stays the same. Consistency is hard to come by and is often underappreciated.
So just know…
#WeSeeYou Chris. You do make an everlasting impression.
CW: “If you could leave us with a final thought, what would it be?”
CG: “Boss Mode all day!” (Face! He plays too much but it is relevant).
“Too many people give others the liberty to tell them how to live their lives. If you let that happen you’re handing over the keys to your own car and last time I checked, it’s in your name. So why let somebody else drive it for you?”