If RCA artist Tyrese had had his way, three years wouldn't have elapsed between his 1998 self-titled debut and his second album. <br CLEAR="NONE"/>

If RCA artist Tyrese had had his way, three years wouldn't have elapsed between his 1998 self-titled debut and his second album.

But thanks to three major R&B single spinoffs/pop crossovers -- "Nobody Else," "Sweet Lady," and "Lately" -- the singer/songwriter became a hot commodity, one who has parlayed his debut platinum success into a busy schedule that includes modeling for Guess, hosting "MT"Moesha," the MTV movie "Love Song," and director John Singleton's upcoming "Boyz N the Hood" sequel, "Baby Boy"). But Tyrese (whose last name is Gibson) isn't complaining.

"It wasn't my choice to wait that long," says the L.A. native, who first came to national attention by way of a Coca-Cola TV commercial in the late '90s. "But God had a much bigger plan. So what can I complain about?"

Titled "2000 Watts" in homage to his Watts (Los Angeles) stomping grounds and his children's foundation of the same name, Tyrese's follow-up album is due May 22. Fronted by bouncy lead single and potential summer anthem "I Like Them Girls" (which currently stands at No. 33 with a bullet on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hip Singles & Tracks chart), the album knocks the sophomore-jinx concept on its ear. Chock-full of strong, radio-friendly tracks, it showcases a multifaceted Tyrese: party guy ("Off the Heazy," produced by Jermaine Dupri, who also reels off a guest rap), R&B groove man ("Fling"), balladeer ("I'm Sorry," "For Always"), romantic crooner ("What Am I Gonna Do"), and pop soulster (the Babyface-produced "There for Me [Baby]").

Tyrese co-wrote most of the album, enlisting the collaborative efforts of such producers, songwriters, and artists as Rodney Jerkins, Diane Warren, Damon Thomas, Harvey Mason Jr. (who produced " . . . Them Girls"), and DreamWorks artist SolÉ (who appears on the track "Get Up on It").

"I told everyone involved, 'Let's get back to what got you where you're at now,' " says Tyrese about the songs on "2000 Watts." "I wanted to forget the hype and get back to the music.

"This is what I have to offer the world," adds the artist. "I believe in being me, and whatever people feel I am, I am. You'll hear the biography of my life at that particular point in time when you hear this album."

RCA believes strongly in his potential, according to VP of marketing and artist development Angela Thomas, who says of Tyrese, "It's his time."

The artist's own Web site (tyrese.com) went live April 3, and a promotional tour kicks off today (April 20).

Tyrese first performed the "I Like Them Girls" -- the video for which was directed by Dave Meyers -- on MTV's "Spring Break" in late March and BET's Spring Bling earlier this month. A Soul Train appearance is scheduled for May 19, while on May 20 a Coke/Target department store tie-in gets under way. An enhanced CD complemented by a screen saver, photos, and a hidden track will also be issued.

Squeezed in between: a Triumph motorcycle giveaway (the same model used in the photo shoot for the album and in the video), Tyrese's spring Guess campaign (April to June), a promotional trip to Europe in June, and a cross-promotion with Universal and Columbia for the June 29 bow of "Baby Boy."

In the movie, Tyrese plays central character Jody, an unemployed 20-year-old who still lives at home with his mom and has two babies by two different women. He also appears on the Universal soundtrack's title cut. To be shipped this month, that single also features Snoop Dogg and will appear on "2000 Watts," with an accompanying video slated to shoot soon.

One of the first stations to embrace Tyrese in 1998 was WBLS New York, which is also playing his new single. PD Vinny Brown has previewed "2000 Watts" and says he's impressed by what he's heard. "This album will do as well as, if not better than, the first," he says. "Tyrese is a genuine person who has great onstage presence and audience rapport. He has the ability to take it to the next level, which all good artists do."

Tyrese's concern for his audience is evident in his founding of the 2000 Watts Foundation, which staged its first annual 2000 Watts Day festival last Labor Day weekend. A portion of the proceeds from his new album's sales will go toward building a state-of-the-art Watts youth center. "I have a vested interest in my community to give back. I have a Watts fetish," says Tyrese, laughing. "I love my city and respect the struggle. Since I'm living out my dream, I also want to create that for the kids in Watts."

Eyeing the possibility of a national August tour, another Coke commercial, plus plans to create his own label, Tyrese shows no signs of slowing down. But despite his various roles as singer, MTV, VJ, actor, and model, Tyrese says music will remain closest to his heart. "It's been a very long bus ride," he says. "But I'll never put anything over music. It's still my first love.