This article appears in July/August 2015 The Encounter.
It takes a bold man to admit when he’s super. It takes an even bolder man to admit when he’s Superstar.
But singer-songwriter Neville Lawrence knows who he is. And whether he’s on stage, on camera, or, say, resting on his living room couch after a grueling graveyard shift, he’ll be the first one to say it:
“I am extraordinary—I’m super at everything,” Lawrence explains in a charming Caribbean accent while pantomiming boxing combinations. “I can do gymnastics and stuff—I’m just Super…star, that’s who I am.”
For almost a decade, the 51-year-old has amassed tens of thousands of YouTube hits for his lo-fi, VHS-style music videos, which capture him dancing to the beats of his own electronic drums. Bedecked in what could only be described as a sequined space suit— which, like everything else, Lawrence made himself—Superstar lip syncs like he doesn’t know the words and moves on camera like he doesn’t know he’s standing in his own front yard. It’s high art for the ironically inclined and Adult Swim for anyone left.
“I put myself out there, let people know I love them, I’m here for them, I exist, and I am who I am,” he says. “I’m for real: Who I am and what I do is not artificial, it’s me…I’m the real thing.”
As for the music itself, Lawrence, who is originally from Trinidad, says his hypnotic blend of Afro-Caribbean R&B is inspired by the “divinity of God,” Michael Jackson, and Tina Turner. His underlying message of discipline, tolerance, love, and peace, he says, bleeds out of his songs’ soulful combinations of electronic loops and reverberated incantations.
“It takes wisdom and understanding to be wise and super and harmless as a dove—to be the best you can be,” he notes almost cryptically about the importance of his music’s positive messages.
Lawrence says he participated in dance groups on his home island at a young age, but his music career didn’t really begin until he moved to Brooklyn in the late ‘80s. It was there where he says he shared stages with budding hip-hop artists Snoop Dogg and Biggie Smalls. And it was there where he says he met Star, or Ann Lawrence, the Cher to his Sonny, the woman who would eventually bring him to Omaha with their only daughter.
“I was bugging him to go on a date, but he said he only liked ladies who wore dresses,” Star recalls in a separate phone interview about their first Manhattan subway encounter. “We got to be good friends first.”
The star-crossed lovers would eventually rely heavily on that foundation of friendship, she says, for the future had only heartache in store for their then-blossoming relationship. But not before the two would light up Omaha’s late-night television screens in the ‘90s and ‘00s with tawdry commercials for multiple self-titled albums.
Superstar and Star have since divorced. But that’s a story for another time, another place, or, perhaps, another one of Lawrence’s YouTube rants. In the meantime, he says he’d rather stay positive and keep making music.
“We never let anything offend us and get us down,” Lawrence speaks for both he and Star. “We’re still excited, we’re still making our fans happy, we’re still making people happy. We’re not going to give up.”