I've been kicking rhymes for years, starting in Chicago back in the 90s and then in SF and DC over the past decade. This year, I'm getting together with my favorite DJ -- the fantabulous funkmaster Jen Woolfe -- to produce an original electro-house dance track featuring lyrics about the history of government surveillance in the US.
My next track, "NSA vs We the People," will make you groove, while dropping science you didn't hear in history class.
Songs on my debut CD, Get Outta Your Chair, addressed issues including war & militarism, consumerism & climate change, and television & intellectual apathy. This track will bring a dark tone to a funky electro-house instrumental, underneath lyrics drawn from my documentary poetry.
Here's a C-SPAN video clip of me spitting the first two verses, accompanied by drummer Kristen Arant, on stage at the Stop Watching Us rally in Washington, DC that I helped organize through my work as a public interest advocate leading the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Cable TV host Abby Martin invited us to perform on her show, "Breaking the Set," the following week.
First, Jen & I will spend a week in her music studio in Moab to produce, record, and mix the track. That'll cost $2,000, plus $500 for travel, lodging and food for the week in February we'll spend recording.
Then, I'll work with multimedia artist Robin Bell to shoot, edit and produce a music video. That'll cost $5,000, and probably take us into late March or April.
The last $250 of the project budget will go towards promoting the track over the rest of this spring.
Jen's been making dance floors sticky for years: we met in Black Rock City in 2006, and I've seen her spin DJ gigs in Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland since then. She's got a full music studio in Moab, and is working (among other things) on producing original house tracks.
Robin, like me, is based in Washington, DC. Over the years, he's worked on projects with Moby, Thievery Corporation, Occupy Monsanto, and the Stop Watching Us coalition. He knows how to visually complement music and present a whole greater than the sum of its parts. We have lots of B-roll from which to construct a narrative, and also envision shooting some dance breaks.
Jen, Robin & I are all frequent part-time residents of Black Rock City, where I've performed with the Heart Deco, Sol System, Opulent Temple, Pink Mammoth, White Ocean, and Garage Mahal sound systems.
We're bringing the funk -- with a little history -- to a dance floor near you....
Risks and challenges
-- Recording the song and producing the video could take longer than we expect, though we've budgeted plenty of time for each stage. Depending on the length of any delays, we may release the track after the current controversy about government surveillance subsides. Having said that, that's a risk more about the track's marketability and resonance with a broader debate than one confronting our execution of the project.
-- It's theoretically possible that house music -- having inspired legions of fans around the world to dance for hours and hours on end, for not just a few years but several decades -- could go out of style.
-- There is a substantial risk that if this song goes viral, a bunch of people in Washington might find themselves out of work, or at least not feel as good about their day jobs.
-- My day job is intense, which is why you may not have heard my music. While writing and performing on weekends, I've focused my career on building grassroots movements through organizing, writing & research, media outreach, impact litigation, coalition building, and direct action. But I've recently started recording my second album, after a 5 year hiatus since my first release in 2008.
-- My music production is not nearly as strong as my flow on the mic. That's why I'm teaming up with Jen Woolfe, arguably the funkiest selectah evah to grace a pair of DJ decks, to craft a piece of musical art stronger than the sum of its parts.
-- My travel calendar for my day job is complicated, and could make it challenging to find time to visit Moab when Jen is also there on the ground. That's why we originally aimed to record this track over the December 2013 holidays. Having missed that window, we're looking at early February. In the worst case, we can also manage the recording remotely, with Jen producing and engineering in Moab, me recording in DC, and the Interwebs helping us connect the dots.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)