HELLO WORLD: MEET JUKEBOXX
The following is an interview between JUKEBOXX and Jermaine Fletcher (Co-Founder of COHH) about the concept and creation of The Assault Mixtape. This musical project was released as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Please Read, Share & most importantly Listen!
The influence for this project and purpose are clearly stated in your introduction. At what point did you decide to make this project a reality and how long did it take for you to turn the idea into the powerful reality it is now?
Actually, I decided to do this project in January 2015. I recorded The Anti-Rape Freestyle around December. The goal was to have the album ready for April – Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. So, it took about 2 months to complete.
Being that this project is personal, was any of the process difficult for you to execute?
September 2014 was when I really began processing all the rapes and abuse in my life–meaning I had to stop everything and enter into a kind of personal mental institution– at home. I moved and began processing the gang rape that happened in my mother’s house. I had to in order to move back into the house to begin healing. This was the first time I returned home longer than 2 days over the past 11 years since I went to college. I give this background so you know the mental environment that conjured the work. Rape and sexual assault has resulted in my development of amnesia –losing my memory, the ability to retain information– among many, many more issues. Just recently my memory began returning. Bombarded by my own memory, I wrote down everything–names, dates, places and times of people who had assaulted me back to middle school.
Every time I worked on the writing or listened to a reading it exacerbated my PTSD symptoms. Just two months before I was diagnosed with severe depression. This added to the painful experience of reciting the rape accounts. Then, there was recording the accounts. Then, the issue of reading aloud in front of someone. Fortunately, my producer was very supportive of my healing process and made the space I created in safe. No one was allowed in the studio when I read the accounts — back to back — in silence.
In total, it was about 15 readings I had chosen to tell. Then, as I was listening to the rough draft, I couldn’t handle hearing so much of my personal life exposed; thinking of what the abusers may do if they find out. So we narrowed it down. The mere idea of releasing the album came with an entirely different set of fears. Most abusers live in our communities unpunished while victims live in great fear of retaliation. So, I had to do extra therapeutic work to combat the return of nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks. I did one full listen to the album before it was released online. This was the first and the last time I listened without skipping over the accounts. I still skip over them now.
Before and during the process I was very afraid. Though, I don’t fear them any longer. I just kept reminding myself that this is what I have to do and there is no such thing as fear and doubt when you have a duty.
Who exactly are the producers on this project and how did you choose the beats that made it on Assault Mixtape?
I worked with six different producers on the album. The executive producer of the album is Ed Speights aka DownWitEdLover with Gutta Fam Musik from my hometown Augusta, Georgia. He produced all the music for the accounts/readings as well as the music for Education, Anti-Rape Freestyle, Stalker, 5Star Road to Hell and Taxi. Education was particularly special. I came to him with the idea that we create a song from scratch with the topic of girls being denied education. I knew I wanted to use samples from Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech with her excerpts being the hooks. I wanted to do 4-5 verses, all 4 bars long just to play around. This was close to my heart because that is what I know the attacks were meant for –to deny me of my autonomy, dignity and well-being. The result was unbelievable.
The second producer of the album was Ko Wong-Horiuchi aka KO! Beats from Oakland, California. Ko and I worked together last year in an initiative between the US State Department and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill called Next Level. The Next Level Hip Hop Ambassador program sends teams of four (deejays, beat-makers, emcees and dancers) to different countries around the world to spread peace and conflict resolution through Hip Hop culture. Ko was accepted into the Team India program for beat-making and I for dance so it is interesting that our collaboration since has been hip hop music. Ko is one of my favorite producers because he utilizes sounds from the environment and is innovative in the way he crafts his music. For example, in India he recorded various sounds and created beats out of them, some that are on this album. Ko produced Verbal Festival, Body Language Show, Dime and Triggers. I sent Ko the track You Ain’t Shit. He said “I didn’t know you were that good, let me send you some beats.” So he sent me like 10 beats and I just went through and brainstormed; fell asleep to the music, woke up to it. JaciCaprice aka “That Producer Chick” is the third producer on the album from Detroit and another amazing Hip Hop ambassador for Next Level’s Team Zimbabwe program. We had already collaborated on a dance project together. Through this collaboration I heard her beat Wiggle Room. It really was an effortless connection and I was delighted to work with a female producer. Kristopher Barnett aka Big Kris from Tallahassee, Florida and I collaborated on Duck, Duck You. I heard the song before this project was in a brain cell. I would wake up and begin my yoga practice to his music. I thought of it for the project because I knew I wanted to write a song that dealt with women being called “birds.” His track Let the Birds Sing was the best fit. Colvin Scott aka BlueBoma Beats from Tallahassee, Florida and I collaborated on You Ain’t Shit. I asked for this beat like 11 months before the project was a thought. I remember having the beat and thinking, “What am I going to do with this and why did I ask for this?” Now I know why. The last producer I worked with on this project was WeatherM from South Korea. I had been listening to music for my daily meditations and his song came up on my soundcloud feed. I told him how beautiful it was and asked if he was open to having a rapper over his music. He quickly said yes along with “Let me know if you need me to do anything to it.” I bought the song on itunes. He produced Soul Prayer, one of the most important tracks of the CD. It was very important to me for all the producers to be on board with and supportive of the theme of the album and the issue of rape and sexual assault.
We know you like to volunteer and do positive work for various communities. Have you shared this project with any of the people you work with and if so, what has been their response?
Yes I have shared this project with all of the places I volunteer; PACE School for Girls and The Oasis Center for Women and Girls. I shared the project in the Sociology of Hip Hop Class at Florida State University along with my thesis presentation for the class. I shared this project with every rape crisis center I know and spoke about it at the “Take Back the Night” event in my hometown. I also participated in the “Rape Culture Art Show” produced by Maize Arendesee of MANDEM. I performed a contemporary dance piece about rape entitled “Phases of Recovery” and sold the Assault Mixtape afterwards there. I have been sending this out to numerous feminist blog sites as well. I haven’t gotten feedback from organizations yet; still waiting on the response.
You mentioned you released this project for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Has there been organizations or supporters directly attached to the month’s awareness?
Yes there are so many organizations putting in work for this much needed cause. RAINN is one of the most well known and recognized organizations fighting Rape and sexual assault in our country. Also I have been sending it out to local, national and international rape crisis centers and non-profits. Also, the campaign Mariska Hargitay from “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” began entitled “No More.” This is a global issue that millions have taken on around the world.
For someone who isn’t aware of this project, what would you like to convey the average listener would walk away with in terms of the main theme?
We must open our eyes and look at what is really going on. It took me about a month to realize that I had to do this project — to speak out against the evil and hatred directed towards women, especially in the culture of hip hop. To speak out against my abusers, both known and unknown, and for other victims who are afraid to speak out because of victim blaming. To make a difference so that no one ever has to go through what I have gone through. I hope that the information and testimony offered in this album is enough to make the listener think about what they say and do that is harmful and contributes evil world’s legacy of rape culture. To understand that rape is not about lust,sexual pleasure or the absence of a man “getting some.” It is a crime of power and control. And that the rapist is rarely the man in the bushes, he is the man at Florida State University on the drum line, your ex on the football and basketball teams at Savannah State University; he may even be your own relative. I want the listener to gain an understanding of what it is to be a rape survivor, survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence. What is life like as a woman. As a black woman, as a dark skinned black woman. I want to help inspire some action towards ending the atrocities rapped on the tape as well as giving advice for those to recognize the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. For both men and women, but especially women. We are raised with such low self esteem and with no love for who we are and constantly told that being treated badly is acceptable. I want people to understand and really listen and do something about what’s happening in our community. And to begin to put an end to the personal actions and thoughts towards self and others that is ultimately deadly for us all. If the listener grasps any part or all of this, I feel it a success.
Any other points you want to add?
There is a bonus track on the album. It is a freestyle over Jay-Z’s Who You Wit. This track didn’t make it on the album but is a part of the making of the tape nevertheless. The night I recorded this song I almost got in a fight with two men in the studio over disrespecting me. It was here where I screamed at these two men that “I am willing to die to defend my right to be respected as a human being.” Please listen. It is online for download as well. We will be coming out with a video for every song to show the scenario of what we as women face in the world and in hip hop culture. Look out for the videos coming soon! This album is not only a personal testimony but also an album to launch my major project “The Jukeboxx Movement: Hip Hop Feminism.” What is Hip Hop Feminism? It’s me, it’s you, it’s equality. I was first introduced to this concept in grad school while researching for my thesis concerning the language of women in hip hop dance from the 1970s-2015. Hip Hop feminism was coined by Joan Morgan in March 1999 and together we can build off of this legacy. “The Jukeboxx Movement: Hip Hop Feminism,” is a movement which aims to refocus Hip Hop Culture back to its original mission created by the Universal Zulu Nation- “Knowledge, wisdom, understanding, freedom, justice, peace, unity, love, respect, work, fun, overcoming the negative to the positive” to name a few. This is one in the same of feminist thought. The Jukeboxx Movement is committed to spreading awareness while eradicating misogyny, misogynoir, sexism and gender discrimination in the art form. Here, the top ten will not include Biggie Tupac or Jay-Z because the title “great” or “all-time greatest” should never be given to an artist that glorifies rape and violence in their music. And I know many “feel some type of way” about what I say concerning the “greats,” but I declare that you are not a visionary, revolutionary or any other title if you don’t coincide with the above beliefs. Look at the past of all the so-called leaders and greats of this world; they are ALL given their titles with the public knowing of their exploitation and hatred exercised against the spirit encased in the female body. And as far as I am concerned, as a woman whose culture is hip hop, no one has met this goal but women. And no one’s even recognizing that. Listen to Hip Hop music (underground, mainstream, so-called “conscious” and other labels) and it ALL includes sexism, misogyny and more specifically misogynoir. If one follows hip hop you will see the absence of women and the absence of a woman’s voice and perspective. The only woman you will see is a woman that fits the male gaze– this idea that women are on earth for the pleasure and convenience of men and that we are here to serve. The globalization of hip hop only made it worse for women. It looks like a men’s club — and it’s not. These are only a few of the many issues Hip Hop Feminism seeks to change. I launch this movement with The Assault Mixtape – An ode to survivors around the universe. Join me would you? I would love to see you in the movement. After all, it is for all of our freedom.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME.
WE’LL BE IN TOUCH WITH YOU, YOUR MUSIC AND YOUR MOVEMENT!