Omari Hardwick is who some would call a cunning linguist. At the end of 2011 Hardwick lent his seasoned spoken word talents to his friend Eric Roberson’s revealing lament, “Love’s Withdrawal” from his album Mr. Nice Guy. The song was a raw and vulnerable look into a man’s longing for a woman that transcends the flesh. Confessional couplets like, “The lines on my palms say I’m too young to be this strung/But if I don’t taste you soon, I’m done!” touch upon a pain that men only whisper, but it was something Omari felt needed to be shared.
“When we created that template of what a man goes through emotionally when he is separated from a woman, the lovers withdrawal, we created it to be of obvious entertainment,” Omari tells TheUrbanDaily.com. “But we definitely wanted to speak to brothers who were afraid to express what they felt. ”
“Love’s Withdrawal” was born during a 5 a.m. conversation at Eric Roberson’s New Jersey basement as the two men listened to everything from Marvin Winan’s “A Sinners’ Prayer” to Radio Head, Depeche Mode and Jay-Z. The National Spoken word competitor and host of TV ONe’s “Verses and Flow” is, by his own admission, a poet first. Though he was a theater minor in college and has appeared in everything from Kick Ass to Next Day Air, this performance was a homecoming for sure.
“We spoke about that moment when you know that you’re smitten the way a woman is,” Omari says of the recording session.”You’ve gotten to the place where the shoe is on the other foot. It’s more extreme when a man feels that. It’s typical or cliche for a woman to be the one to talk about a man that she likes to her girlfriends, but for a guy to be there…There’s a different kind of birthing when a King has his Queen in his head and his heart and his loins and can’t get her out…”
The theme of the song has played out in various ways in Omari’s subsequent acting roles. In this year’s remake of Sparkle, Omari played Levi, a humble young man smitten by the lovely Sister, played by Carmen Ejogo. Levi’s intentions are good, but his ambition can’t hold a candle to the flash and money of another man.
“Levi was such a great character for me to play because cuz people said they never saw me play a character where I was dissed,” says Hardwick, who has played opposite everyone from Janet Jackson to Sally Richardson-Whitfield. “And I said that’s the other part. The baddest men out there have been dogged, dismissed or thrown to the side for another dude and we want to act like that’s not the case. Levi was great to play because Mara Akil’s writing made it so I could not run from admitting ‘Yes, I want you, I want you bad.’ He had a lot of ‘Love’s withdrawal’ and I hadn’t thought about it myself.”
Now Omari has reunited with director Ava DuVernay for Middle Of Nowhere, the follow-up to 2011’s I Will Follow, which he also appeared in. In MON Omari plays Derek, a married man who has to serve eight years in prison and must cope with not being with his wife, played by the beautiful Emayatzy Corinealdi. It is a forced separation that leaves Derek in a dilemma that too many men are experiencing now.
“He wants her to be away from, in his opinion, this contaminated hand he has to offer now,” Omari says of his character’s plight. “He doesn’t feel worthy to be loved by her. Derek is thinking I’m not worthy and you’re a muse now because I can’t touch you. You’re literally a museum piece that I have to go look at. I can’t be anything of significance to you.”
Omari speaks with such conviction that you’d swear he’d been in the situation before. While he can’t directly relate to Derek’s situation he knows what it is like to fall short of a woman’s needs.
“In my real life as a man I’ve definitely wanted a girl to move on with life ‘Where it’s not you it’s me,” he shares. “But that’s often a cop out. You have to really look at yourself and ask if you were being weak and not living up to her standards or were you being honest in saying that a relationship with a woman at this time isn’t’ the smartest. There’s a responsibility [that comes with] certain gifts that God has bestowed upon us to attract the fairer gender with, a responsibility and a creed that we have all abused as men.”
Omari insists that women are simply better lovers than men, more compassionate in every way and we twist this knowledge to our advantage. Unlike Derek’s real life prison men create emotional cells and erect walls to not just keep women out, but to insulate our behavior.
“That song is more about men going through it when we haven’t necessarily been the greatest of lovers of women, creating these make-shift prisons as you pointed out,” he says bringing the conversation back to “Love’s Withdrawal.” We walk around playing the warden, guard and incarcerated person. But when we don’t play that and say we want to be with you incarcerated together, we feel this withdrawal when the woman doesn’t’ give us what we want.”
However, Omari does acknowledge that when the separation is not of his own doing, as is the case with Derek, it’s of a whole other level.
“It’s not death that separates them but he is the walking dead. He’s become a number walking the earth,” says Omari, giving new meaning to the film’s title. “That’s a love’s withdrawal that is so prevalent and forgotten about. Even if he kisses her it’s illegal. How much more withdrawal can you get than that?”
For any fans of Omari’s poetry tapping their wrists and scratching their necks, he will be giving fans more of his thoughts on life, love and everything in between on his upcoming album. Eric Roberson has signed on to produce it and he has secured commitments from and Luke James and Estelle to perform. Until then you can read more of Omari’s work at his web site HERE.
Middle Of Nowhere is in theaters now.