Renaissance man: From rap to stand-up comedy, FWB's Hollywood Mechee was born for the stage
FORT WALTON BEACH — When it comes to performing, there are no small parts — not when Hollywood Mechee is around.
Demetrius Robinson, who goes by his stage name "Hollywood Mechee", or just "Hollywood", was overlooked for a speaking role in his fifth-grade play honoring Martin Luther King Jr. When it came time to silently portray a gunman; he had his own ideas of what exactly silent meant.
“When it was my turn, I got up and I was acting all crazy and I ended up saying stuff like, ‘Put your hands in the air,’” Hollywood said. “People was laughing and the drama teacher was like, ‘That is not what you're supposed to do,’ but it was too late. And I planned it out to do that. I remember telling my homeboy at the time, ‘She didn’t give me a part, but I’m gonna say something.’ Everybody was laughing because they knew it wasn’t part of the play.”
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He hasn’t missed an opportunity to entertain since.
Hollywood has performed as a well-known local rap artist, key member of the hip-collective The Strangers of the Elevated Underground, stand-up comedian and an event host for anything and everything from ‘90s-themed parties to male revues. Oh, and he’s sponsored by Puma he noted rather casually, tugging his black Puma-stamped hoodie and sliding out his black Puma kicks from under the table.
His next comedy show is “Fly & Silly with Meech & Wil’e” at 9 p.m. Jan. 14 at Enlightened Studios in downtown Fort Walton Beach. Admission is $20.
Hollywood was a shy kid, he said.
Skinny. Goofy. Big eyes. Big head.
“I wasn’t this handsome person they see right now,” he said. “I looked like a lil alien.”
But he was also smart, a secret he wasn’t eager to share.
He surmises he started coming out of his shell while he attended middle school in Detroit, Michigan, and he knows exactly what precipitated the change: Girls. His sense of humor, though, was already well-established.
“(Where) I come from, my family, that's all we do is clown, talk crap to each other,” Hollywood said. “That's how we show love — still to this day. The homies, that's how we show love to each other. We wouldn't really necessarily hug and stuff, but you clown on somebody, so you get good at that.
“You had to learn to clown if you was gonna be around.”
That was a rhyme in case you didn’t catch it, he hinted.
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Hollywood was the class clown then and now, cracking jokes and getting in trouble for doing it (he gets in less trouble now). He will never forget the moment when he finally had permission to do it consequence-free. His 10th grade English teacher, Miss Buxton, let him tell stories in front of the class at the end of the school year, giving him his first taste of what stand-up comedy might feel like.
Entertainers run in Hollywood Mechee's family
His talent naturally sprouted from his surroundings. Hollywood's mother, Dorothy Robinson, was a back-up singer for Aretha Franklin, and his uncle was a musician.
He learned early on that music would be his first love.
He originally wanted to be an R&B singer, but he abandoned the idea as an 8-year-old after he sang and his older brother laughed at him.
“He always kept it real with me,” Hollywood said.
Over time, his voice got deeper and he realized singing wasn’t the move, anyhow. Instead, he started spending time with his cousins while they rapped.
“We (were) just freestyling and I never really did it in front of them, but I was really good,” Hollywood said. “I would always be practicing at home, and once I rapped for them, they were just like, ‘Yo, you're really good.’ The bar was set, and (my cousin) was like, ‘OK, we're doing it for fun, but you can do this for real.’ ”
Hollywood came to Florida as a freshman at Fort Walton Beach High School. But at 15, he and his mother couldn't hack it, both realizing they were ready for him to leave.
After being homeless for a few days, Hollywood's close friend, Daniel Chauffers, offered him a place to crash. His mother, Melanie Cook, said he could stay – something she did for many teenagers in the area, he said.
“She was just like my safe haven, and to be honest, she's one of the reasons I go so hard for Fort Walton, because she made sure I was fed,” Hollywood said. “She made sure I went to school. When I needed to go to the recording studio as a teenager, she let me use her car. I wasn't her son. I loved that lady with all my heart.”
Hollywood became involved with The Strangers of the Elevated Underground around 2016, he said. He later came back from a rap show in Mobile, Alabama, to a text saying Cook had died.
“It hurt me so bad, but it also fueled me to go and do what I do now, because that woman believed in me when nobody else did, when I was getting in trouble. When I was younger, I was a terror. But she never wavered from me. She was still the driving force of positivity for me.”
The first time he felt great about performing was at a high school party. The moment he started rapping; his friends stopped partying and gathered around him.
“That's when I really knew, ‘I'm supposed to be doing this,’ ” Hollywood said.
He has since rapped on many of his own tracks and collaborated on others. His most recent collaboration was, "What Beast Do," with C-Free and Obliq the Architect.
As a rapper, he has never been hyper-focused on the writing part, he said. He has always loved performing; he had to learn to love the process.
“Say you wanna be a beast, well come with me into the jungle,” Hollywood spits in “What Beast Do.” “Imma show you how to grind; you can maximize your hustle.”
Rapper, stand-up comedian and host
Hollywood’s first comedy gig was in May 2019 at Karma, a former nightclub on Ferry Road in Fort Walton Beach.
A promoter caught Hollywood hosting a rap show one night and thought he was funny, so he gave him a shot. And — there’s no other way to put it — he killed it.
Unbeknownst to the promoter, Hollywood had been studying comedy for a year and a half prior. His all-time favorite comedian is Bernie Mac.
“He invited me back to do another one and I was like, ‘What you paying?’ ” Hollywood said.
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Hollywood stepped back from comedy to make money from his music, but the opportunity re-presented itself when the world reopened post pandemic. At the time he was down and out, coming off the breakup of a seven-year relationship and a hiatus from normalcy.
This is the “super dope part,” he said.
“That year, I really honed in on comedy because I had nothing really to do. I was working on my jokes, working on my craft and little venues started opening up — not big enough for us to do rap shows, but to get hosting gigs.”
That’s when he starting making “real money” hosting, he said, going from $50 a gig to $500.
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He hosted gigs at Enlightened Studios, Downtown Music Hall and Upscale Café & Lounge in Fort Walton Beach, along the way meeting local comedian Naked Truth — who he chops it up with regularly — and Leebone, the headliner when he hosted at Karma.
“She just poured a lot of life into me, and she's very seasoned, very good,” Hollywood said. “She had me dying laughing. She was so hilarious. I'm a student to the game, so I was picking her brain and she was telling me what I needed. She was a breath of fresh air when it came to the comedy thing.”
Hollywood got his big break in comedy the winter of 2021, although he was still hesitant to take it. Still reeling from his break-up and scared of being boxed into the comedian category and losing his musical identity, he was unsure whether to pursue comedy.
His best friend, who he calls a brother, Obliq the Architect (aka Marcus Leslie), stepped in to put conviction behind Hollywood’s desire. The two met in 2013 when Hollywood made him rap on the spot, Obliq said.
“I said, ‘Do you love doing comedy?’ (Hollywood) was like, ‘Yeah,’ ” Obliq said. “I said, ‘Why would you stop? You love doing it and you're good at it. There's nothing to say that you can't be a comedian and a great artist and be a great artist and be a great comedian.’”
Obliq knew Hollywood had talent, because he passed the truest test of comedy. He is funny in real life, Obliq said.
And he makes the audience feel included.
“He can make fun of you and still make you feel like you're part of the joke and not make you feel like you are the joke, and that's a special ability,” Obliq said. “When he walks into the room, the room is brighter. When he walks into any occasion, the energy of the host's face changes, whether it's a comedy show, us kicking it at the studio, we're at a party. It doesn't matter where it is. I can already be there, but when he walks in, the whole energy of the room changes. And that's God-given.”
Obliq's words pulled Hollywood out of his rut. He affirmed it for himself further after watching the Pixar movie “Souls." It was Dec. 26 – a date he will never forget it.
“The movie just spoke to me like crazy,” he said. “It was like an awakening in me.”
The Jan. 19 show sold out at The Palms in Fort Walton Beach. Hollywood was “in his bag” that night, he said. To be more specific, it was a seven-outfit-change kind of night.
“Every joke was hitting; Everything was landing, It was like, I couldn't do no wrong that night. I was in the crowd, bringing out the other comedians; they were killing it. Everything went the way that it was supposed to. And it was so good for me because I was coming out of this dark place and I didn't know where my future in comedy was gonna be. People knew me for music, but they didn't know me for comedy.
"It was just a blowout and that catapulted my comedy career,” he added.
After that show, everyone was calling him to perform. It’s how he ended up hosting male revues in Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola. He recalled a conversation with one promoter who convinced him to undertake the challenge, telling him to "get over the dudes" because Hollywood "could do it" and make good money doing it.
He did it, and went on to host five male revues since. To this day, the revues are some of his best paying gigs.
“It was real fun. You’re really just catering to the women; you don’t even notice the guys dancing.”
He has done more than 30 local comedy shows and hosted more than 30 events.
But that was 2021. He’s just getting started.
From Hollywood Boulevard, Fort Walton Beach
Hollywood doesn’t know what the future has in store for him, but it will always be rooted in Fort Walton Beach.
He wouldn’t have a name without it.
“I was Mechee,” Hollywood said. “How it started, I’d be like, ‘I ain’t taking no picture.’ (DJ) Deezy was like ‘Oh all right, Hollywood,’ so everybody in the group started calling me Hollywood Mechee. But then I realized, Hollywood Boulevard is right there. That's cool because I rep Fort Walton; I rep 850.”
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Hollywood’s childhood home was on Deluna Road Southwest near Hollywood Boulevard. When he moved in with Cook, his second mom, he lived in a house on Bryn Mawr, right off of Hollywood of Boulevard.
“I say this in this song (‘Way It Go’), ‘They call me Hollywood, but I've never been to Cali,’” Hollywood said. “Hollywood is a connecting street to Beal and other main streets, so you have to get on it if you’re wanting to get somewhere.”
Hollywood is getting somewhere. His latest endeavor is stepping into a promoter role to boost comedy in the area. He wants Fort Walton Beach to be seen as more than a tourist town, he said.
“We can bring in comics, we can bring in artists and make it about something and give Fort Walton a culture. It’s a melting pot. A lot of people are ashamed to say they’re from Fort Walton. I want to make it where that kid that's trying to rap or trying to be a comic or he's trying to be a writer, he could say, ‘I’m from Fort Walton. if Hollywood could do it, I definitely could do it.’ As cliché as that sounds, that’s real for me.”
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Fort Walton Beach rapper, comedian, host Hollywood Mechee shares story