He’s an award-winning actor, a playwright and a published author. He composes and performs original music and is a gifted singer, lyricist and poet. He’s a sex symbol. A motivational speaker. He’s a philanthropist and a father. It is an impressive list of titles, adjectives and accolades that describe this man, which makes it even more praiseworthy that in a line of work where there is so much focus on success and celebrity, Malik Yoba sees himself first and foremost as “a servant.”
That actually makes perfect sense when you know his backstory. Named Abdul at birth, which means “servant” in Arabic, Yoba was raised in a strict Muslim household by a fiercely religious and activist father. Malik’s father was a black nationalist who rejected his own birth name, Milton Myers, and instead called himself Erutan Yob—a name he created by spelling backwards the title of the popular Nat King Cole song, “Nature Boy.” Erutan Yob then added an “a” to his new surname and defined the word Yoba as “wrath of the slaves, a new generation.”
I recently spoke one-on-one with Malik Yoba and learned many interesting things about this brilliant and intriguing brother:
“My parents named me Abdul Malik which means ‘servant of the King.’ Growing up in Harlem, people never said my name correctly. I was called Adoobee, Abdoobuhlee, Aboo. Ab. I remember consciously deciding at seventeen that no one was going to call me servant anymore—If you’re going to call me anything, call me Malik; call me ‘king.’ The irony is, today, in terms of my life and my purpose, I see myself as a servant, and I’ve come back to embrace the name I was born with.”
Yoba has found that one of the many ways he is able to be of service to others is in the entertainment industry, where he can stand up for and reach out to young people who very often don’t have a healthy or accurate representation of manhood in their lives.
“I know what my presence in popular culture has meant to many many men and boys. And to women as well. I’ve been in this game 20 years and I know what my impact has been with the roles that I’ve played, and I know who comes up and talks to me about that. I believe in the power of film and television and music and art to communicate ideas. Not to preach, but to communicate.”
Hollywood is a place that has chewed up and spit out many an aspiring actor, yet Malik‘s longevity is as impressive as his filmography is diverse. Among the many roles Yoba has played, there has been an Olympic bobsledder, a beat cop, an astronaut, a judge, and most recently, a uniquely gifted FBI agent on the new series Alphas, which airs on the SyFy Channel Mondays at 10pm.
“I haven’t had this much fun doing anything, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of the projects I’ve worked on. There’s action, there’s comedy, there’s the human element, the sci-fi element and it’s a thriller. I just read the episode we’re shooting next week and I’ve never had this experience where I’m reading the script and I’m shook. It’s scary.”
As pleased as he is to be connected to the Alphas project, ironically, when Malik was first approached to do the series, he declined. His manager and agents pressed him to read the script and he found the project too unique to resist. But, the fact that he’s in Toronto filming Alphas for months at a time hasn’t distracted Malik from pursuing the next phase of his career—the one in which he produces and directs his own projects.
“The first film I’m going to direct is called “What’s On the Hearts of Men. One of the central themes is fatherhood and manhood and different perspectives of what fatherhood means to different men. So many young men don’t have men in their lives.”
The impression Malik’s own father left on his life stands as a testament to what the film’s intention is—to explore how manhood and fatherhood are acted out on the real stage of life.
“I honor my father in the film even though there are many things about him I did not like and I definitely won’t pass on to my kids. The way I got beat as a kid would absolutely put him in jail today. I got beat with extension cords like a slave until I bled. Butt naked extension cord abuse. And, my father was tied to a chair and beaten by his father, and his grandfather was a slave. So, when you think about all of that legacy-wise and what your parents leave you with…I will not pass that on to my children. I am super affectionate with my kids.”
Malik and his children, Josiah, 9, dena, 10, Pria, 13
Malik has three children by two women he did not marry, which contradicts his long-held desire to create and maintain a solid family.
“I had been wanting to get married since I was a little kid. Like how little girls dream about their wedding, I was the little boy who did that,” Malik admits. “I would pull out maps of the world and, literally, I was living in the Bronx and wondering where my wife was…I always thought she was somewhere else on the planet. And then my life and career happened and you see the world for what it really is. I was disillusioned about marriage because I saw so much infidelity around me, particularly in my 20s. But, after having children and having relationships that didn’t work out, I felt it would be nice to finally get that part right.”
Malik married the beautiful actress Cat Wilson in 2003, but the marriage didn’t survive. They separated in 2010 just as Malik’s appearance in “Why Did Why Did I Get Married 2” was on its way to theaters.
“Now I don’t feel the need to get married…I have my children, and after everything I’ve experienced I don’t have regrets. I definitely love women and I’ve been loved. I date now, but I won’t commit.”
Malik’s own answer to Tyler Perry’s cinematically explored question, “Why Did I Get Married?” is not a simple one. He says his observations of his own and other men’s actions have just led him to ask more questions.
“There is a different conversation to be had to really, really get into why we get married. What’s really going on in the emotional lives of men? Men are liars. Priests lie. Politicians. Business men. Sportsmen. F***ing Liars. What are we going to do about that? I think we need to have honest conversations about that. No one’s honest about all this abuse of women. Where is the outrage from men? Men are not outraged. Men are not outspoken against the abuse of women or children.”
These are themes Malik Yoba will continue to explore as he tackles future film projects, and pursues his music and singing career—a career only his most devoted fans (or those who happen upon one of his live performances) are aware of.
“Music is my little bastard child. My acting career has eclipsed my music, but the goal is to do more. I would love to have a music career that is on par with my acting career. I’m a 43 year old black dude who plays and sings soulful acoustic music and the labels are like ‘If we put you out, how are we going to market you?’”
Acoustic soul from the ever sexy and sincere Malik Yoba sounds good to this fan. Hello, record labels. I’d definitely buy that.
Follow Malik on Twitter @MalikYoba and Facebook