Stokley Williams: My Idol and Friend

Meandering down the jail-like, obnoxiously yellow halls of Providence Academy, I heard the ring of my phone in my pocket. I wondered who could be on the other end of the mysterious number. Somewhat worried that it would be a Jahova’s witness or another political call, I picked up. “H-Hello?” I asked.

He responded, “Hey, is this Austin Robertson?”

“Yes? Who is this?”

“It’s Stokley Williams… of Mint Condition.”

“No way,” I chuckled. “Is this a prank call?”

All I heard was laughing on the other side of the line. Then he said, “Nah Austin. This is actually Stokley bruh.”

His voice was unmistakable. It had to be him. I was stunned. This was my idol calling me. I never expected to be on the receiving end of a phone call from him. For me, this was the equivalent of being called by the president of the United States. We talked for what seemed like an eternity. We talked about how he was looking forward to record some songs with me. This was a huge deal to me because Stokley Williams and his R&B group was one of the most famous and influential black music groups of the mid 90s. Since their inception, he has been nominated for 2 soul train awards, one Grammy, recorded and performed with the likes of Wale, Cee-Lo Green and Prince. Little did I know that I would become close friends with him for years to come.

After I got off the phone with Stokley, I bragged to all of my friends about what had just happened. Needless to say, no one believed me.

“You sure it wasn’t a prank call?” Kids would snicker.

“No way you will actually record with him. You can’t even sing.” Others would say.

After school, I ran to my dad’s car. “Dad! You’ll never guess who called me after school.

To my utter surprise, he guessed right. “Stokley Williams from Mint Condition?”

“Um… Yes. How’d you…”

“He called me today too. I built his house for him before and we’re pretty good friends. He said that he wants to record a song or two with you.” My dad interrupted, laughing at the excitement in my eyes.

How could my dad not tell me that he was friends with the “King of R&B” and my idol? That’s like hiding the fact that you are secretly a professional football player. I mean really dad?! Anyway, I thanked my dad repeatedly and urged him to plan a day that I could get into the studio with Stokley and start recording. He told me that Stokley is ready to record whenever I am as long as he is not on tour. Merely days later we were driving down the freeway leading to his house on Curry Street, that my dad had built for him years prior.

We pulled up to his whitish-gray house and walked up the driveway to his doorway. When we approached the doorway, all I could hear was the ear-piercing blast of the bass of the music coming from his studio within the basement. We rang the doorbell, however, there was no plausible way he could hear the faint tones of his doorbell over the music that was playing. Finally he answered the door. “My bad cuz. I couldn’t hear you over the bass.” I didn’t respond. Instead, I just sat there and took in the moment. This was THE Stokley Williams, the lead singer of Mint Condition, and I was about to go in his house to make a song. However, something did strike me as odd. The figure that came to the door was not what I expected. He answered the door in a ratty wife-beater tank top and some khaki shorts. His dew rag covered his shaved head and a hat perched itself on top of the dew rag and was ever so slightly tilted to the side. This is not what I had imagined. I was so used to seeing this man on TV, dressed in a ton of over the top, designer brand clothes with his trademarked fedora, that seeing him dressed in regular clothes was a major shock to me. Welcoming us with a warm greeting, he led us down the winding steps of his house to his in-house studio. As we enter the basement, I notice stacks of old CDs accompanied by instruments scattered throughout the basement and countless awards and original albums filling every available space on the walls. We sit down next to his recording equipment, and after some quick conversation and introductions to the equipment we began our first song. After 2 12+hour days, we completed the first project. This song came to be known as “Can’t Stop Us.” Stokley asked my dad when we could start the second song. Soon we were back in the studio recording a song that I titled, “Victorious”. After finishing this song, he told me with a serious tone in his voice that I had major potential and that if I keep progressing in my music the way that I have I could have my songs on the radio and maybe even have a future in the music industry.

This dream became a reality just this summer. We completed three more works titled, “Beautiful Girl”, “Pages”, and “Red Knight District”. Stokley, my father, and I contacted the DJ of the radio station KMOJ and got the songs approved. I thanked him for the opportunity and advice.

Whether it be recording with him (including making a walk-out song for the BSM football team), having him support me at all of my football games, letting me stay in the studio past 3 AM, our sense of camaraderie, or his advice on recording or life in general, Stokley has influenced my life immensely. He has always been there for me and always will be. He has been a mentor, a fan, and a best friend and I appreciate every second I get to spend with him.