In Puerto Rico people have a saying that goes something on the lines of: “Just ask, ’cause we have it.” Or so says Félix Castro, a buddy of Shouts and member of the rap-rock, protest fusion that is Yuca Brava. The saying refers in this case to the music scene in Puerto Rico which is vibrant, powerful and colorful, to say the least.
One of the first interviews I did for the Shouts project was with Félix about his political rapcore group. This was when hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico was in very recent stages. In that interview Félix voiced his concerns about the recovery and USA’s involvement. As he explains in the interview below that is still on his mind and part of his upcoming music.
The band is due to release a new EP and Félix himself is about to drop his debut solo album as well. So I rang him up and asked him how he’s been doing since our last interview and what we can expect from the two upcoming albums which are due soon.
“1 out of every 6 women in America has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.”
This is the quote that starts Drea’s new music video.
The visuals follow Drea, with blackest of backgrounds, as she sings her way through a terrifyingly personal song. The piece is Drea’s way of using her voice in solidarity with other survivors of sexual assault.
I contacted Drea online and asked her about her new single, her work with WiMN (Women’s International Music Network), as well as a handful of other projects she has either started or is part of, and learned where she finds the time to dance, teach, create and sing.
First off, can you tell me a little bit about your background and how and when you started making music?
Music has been a part of my life since I was small. I grew up in a musical family, but was never encouraged to pursue music as a career. I started writing music and performing when I was 7, and continued through high school and college. After I graduated, I decided to try my hand at a full-fledged music career, and one thing led to another until I was making the big move to Los Angeles.
You just released “Monster”, a new single and your part of the #MeToo conversation. Can you tell us about that song and what drove you to create it?
This is a song that has been with me for many years now. I think I’ve always been waiting for the right moment, the right production team, the right time for me personally to release it. I really took my time on this one, because this is the song I wrote about my terrifying experience with rape. I know that I may never have legal justice for what I’ve experienced, so I wanted to be sure to give the song the artistic justice it deserves. I also wanted to release it specifically during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (which lasts all of April) in order to stand in solidarity with other survivors and to hopefully continue the #MeToo conversations that are still so important to be having in our society.
Has your music always been political, made in protest or socially conscious?
You know, it hasn’t. I think I’ve always tried to have a deeper meaning to my music, but with some of my earlier songs, I was really grasping to find a socially conscious explanation that fit. However, in the last year or so, I have been much more intentional about what I’ve been putting out, partially because I’ve had complete creative control over these last several singles. My last two songs in particular center around my experience with rape and the PTSD that followed that trauma, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to release them and therefore create a platform to discuss the importance of consent, mental health awareness, and healing after trauma.
I read you have worked with WiMN (Women’s International Music Network), can you tell us about that connection and cooperation?
I first connected with the Women’s International Music Network when I won the “She Rocks So I Can Walk” contest, where contestants were asked to describe a woman or women who inspire them in order to win a chance to walk on the red carpet for the She Rocks Awards in Anaheim, CA. At the award show, I connected with many of the operators of the WiMN, and since then I have partnered with the organization for several of my music premieres, and have also been a guest writer for their blog.
Besides the music you are part of different projects, some of which you have created, such as Reclaim Movement and the For Her Concert Series. Can you tell us a bit about these projects and also, I must ask, where do you find the time to make music?
Reclaim Movement is an open level dance class for women who have survived sexual assault and trauma. I run the class out of North Hollywood, a suburb of Los Angeles, every other Wednesday. I created this class because dance had been such an important part of my healing after my experience with rape. Dance and positive, uplifting music by female artists helped me to reconnect with my body after this traumatic event. I knew I was far from the only woman who had experienced this disconnect with her body, and that many women from all walks of life would be able to benefit from a safe dance environment and supportive community of women.
I started the For Her Concert Series after seeing so many songwriter nights in Los Angeles being run by, and therefore heavily featuring, men. I wanted to create an event that not only featured all female performers, but that also had a female crew, which is incredibly rare. I hosted the event at a female-owned business, and ran the concert to raise money for homeless women in Los Angeles. The event is “women supporting women” to the core, and that’s what I love about it.
Over the years, I’ve cultivated many skills that have allowed me to produce these kinds of projects on my own fairly quickly. I also have a flexible job that allows me to pay the bills but also devote time to music. Organization and a lot of early mornings have been huge contributing factors to my being able to accomplish all the projects I have brewing in my head. Also, taking things one step at a time. It’s about conserving the mental energy to devote oneself to the present project, and then move on to the next thing only when it’s time.
…I am actually heading to graduate school to study public policy in the fall… After that I will be focused on working in my community to make the world a more safe and equal place for women and other marginalized groups.
Finally, are you working on a new album?
I am not. First of all, we are moving out of an album-selling industry. Singles are more the name of the game for new artists, especially independent artists. Even record labels are doing EP deals now for newly signed artists instead of album deals. The market just doesn’t care as much about albums in our streaming society; artists typically put them out because they are either under a major label contract to do so, or they want to achieve the milestone for themselves.
That being said, I am actually heading to graduate school to study public policy in the fall, so I will be moving out of Los Angeles at the end of the summer. I plan to continue music for the rest of my life, and can do so from anywhere, but my focus will primarily be on my studies for the next few years. After that I will be focused on working in my community to make the world a more safe and equal place for women and other marginalized groups.
A few months back Shouts premiered a rough (but beautiful) demo of a new single from Josh Gray’s upcoming album. The song, Darkest Before The Dawn, is a captivating protest anthem that is ensured to survive generations to come.
Now it is time to premiere the final version of the song, exclusively on Shouts.
Josh has a way with words and his lyrics flow with such ease that the poetry packs a great deal of information into each sentence. The song touches upon many pending issues that Josh has witnessed failing for a long time in his home country of United States of America.
“Can we care about our neighbors Instead of asking for their papers And think about what we do to this world?
‘Cause human life’s more precious Than a blood diamond necklace Or any flag that’s ever been unfurled”
Josh goes on pointing out that hippocrisy of calling the USA the land of the free for it is quite clear that millions of people living in that country right now are everything but free. Slavery still exists and flourishes today through the incredibly corrupt private prison system. Which, as Josh points out, is very much directed at people of color.
Every orientation and gender deserves equality You ain’t savin’ souls trying to control The lives of those you’ve never seen
Let’s stop arrestin’ For minor possession If this is the land of the free Ban private prisons That enslave millions Because they don’t look like me
We hit Josh up on Skype for a short interview and asked him about the song, the album and the upcoming tour. Check out both the video interview below and the Shouts premiere of ‘Darkest Before The Dawn’ below and follow Josh’s music and touring news by visiting his homepage.