You Better Work
Tell me about the project.
The project is a single video called 'Do The Work' and it’s from the perspective of a character that I created. I originally started writing it because I was fed up with a lot of the things I was seeing from friends online. I was also fed up with my experiences talking with people about politics, about the progress and change that we want to see in the world, knowing, deep down, that it was all empty talk, talk lacking in inward reflection and contradictory to the actions we take every day. So I started writing this thing like, ‘You don’t want to do the work...you don’t want to do the work…’ and I immediately realized that no, this has to be ‘I’ if anyone is going to hear me.
There’s a lot of myself in the character, and the song reiterates this phrase 'I don’t want to do the work,' and it’s satirical. It’s like, 'I could turn off my cable, stop the fables, but I don’t want to do the work. I could give away my clothes and pick the five shirts but that’ll change the way I view my worth and I don’t want to do the work.' You know? So it’s like all these little actions that we could take in an effort to be the change that we want to see in the world, but don't because it's difficult. That internal reflection is tough, so I made this single and the musid video.
But you don’t want to do that!
I was like, let's try to do something that's manageable for us, we have to start somewhere. We reached out to three nonprofits that are doing really dope work in areas that I care about in New York, and we all collaborated to create WORKWEEK. Basically, it’s Sad Girls Club, which is a mental health nonprofit started by Elyse Fox that originally targeted young women but is now expanding to men. Then we’ve got New York Legal Assistance Group that provides free legal aid to 75,000 New Yorkers annually that can't afford it for crucial issues such as immigration, domestic violence, among others. Then we’ve got Building Beats, a NY-based public afterschool porgram that teaches beat making and production classes. Our main priotity when collaborating with these nonprofits was figuring out a way to compliment the curriculum each program already offered. As a rapper, I'm tapped into the cutlture in a certain way, so I wanted to figure out how I could raise awareness for these causes using my own audience.
These three events are just a starting point. I don’t think I’m changing the world, this isn't going to be some dramatic thing where we solve the issues surrounding mental health, education, and justice, but you have to start somewhere. I think a lot times we’re so daunted by the macro that we don’t think about what we can on the micro, the short term. The response so far has been great. I’ve had fans tell me ‘Yo, your song put a fire under my ass.' People were genuinely inspired to start working towards their goals, those things that they kept putting off.
Now you’ve been working as a musician for a while?
And do you have like an album out? Or how does that work these days?
Yea so I have some projects out but my debut album is coming out probably in June.
So you’re still in the beginning of your come up.
It depends on who you ask, you know? I’ve had fans that have been rocking with me for a while now. My first headline was a little over two years ago, so that kind of was a marker I guess.
Would this be a new direction for you? This kind of shift towards social issues?
Nah. I mean, anybody that knows me and has been following me knows I’ve always, both in my art and just how I use my platform, I’ve always been passionate about speaking on issues I care about. I think part of the ‘Do the Work’ thing is I’ve had to look inward and say, ‘Alright, well, you do a lot of talking about these issues, and you make art about these issues, and sometimes speaking can be an action in a certain way - but what have you really done?' Like what have I done? I think we tell ourselves things, especially as artists, we’re like, ‘Well, when I’m famous and rich I’ll be able to do all this community engagement and give back because then I’ll have money, and then I’ll have all this clout,’ and I just looked inward and I was like, I think it’s important to try and start doing whatever it is that I can on whatever small scale with the things that I’m passionate about. So it's new in the sense of the WORKWEEK and taking this really to the ground, but it's consistent with the messaging that I’ve had over the past few years.
Right, so essentially it’s like a critique of the complacency that happens on social media. These ‘facebook rants’ or just even the idea of activism these days is so annoying. Because it’s like ‘oh activism/advocacy.’ Like what do you mean ‘advocacy’? What does that even mean?
And this idea of like, what does it look like to use your voice in an age where everybody has a voice because of social media? And you can say anything at any time, it really cheapens what that means. And you can make a status or you can say a thing and you can feel like you’re a part of the cause, but I think it’s really about understanding and discovering that using your voice in 2019 has to look like some form of action. Whether it’s literally as simple as reading more about these things to become more informed, or giving certain things up in your life, or whether it's reaching out to a non-profit and engaging. Whatever your platform is, whatever you have time to do, but we do make decisions every day, whether we think we are or not. It's like clothing, almost like you can't opt out. Even if you walked around naked, you’d be making a statement. So it's the things that you purchase every day, or the conversations you engage with, these all contribute to the progression and the direction of the world.
It’s interesting that you had this moment where you had to say it was ‘I’. I think that's where the power of the video comes from. Do you ever feel that way? The way that's expressed in the song?
Totally! First of all, I mean there's a lot of me in it. A lot of the things that I list as things that I could do but I’m not doing, a lot of them do apply to me. But then, second of all, yeah, I think there is the honesty of that feeling. I’ve seen the responses where a lot of people relate to that, like ‘I just really don’t want to this, this feels so overwhelming,’ and everyone's got their own problems and their own issues. So I think that's why the song resonates with people, in the sense of that it meets them first from a place of empathy. It’s empathy through critique.