In 1991, A Tribe Called Quest released ‘The Low End Theory.’ Though the RIAA certified platinum album boasted standout records like “Jazz (We’ve Got)”, and “Scenario,” it was the project’s anti-label lead single “Check The Rhime” that took the LP to the next level by flagrantly calling out music executives for their unethical business practices. Unfortunately, 25 years later “record company people are still shady” and don’t show any signs of turning over a new leaf.
Looking to showcase the harsh realities of the music and entertainment industry in a creative yet captivating way, Baltimore resident DJ Tony Drake is creating a 2D animated series appropriately titled “The Indies.” The pilot episode, produced as a short, will give viewers a glimpse of what they can expect from the Anime & Hip-Hop infused cartoon ahead of its television debut, while proving to Hollywood it can be a major player alongside popular shows of the same caliber. An original Hip-Hop score, recorded at Grammy award winning House Studios DC, will accompany the short as well as all of the forthcoming episodes in the series, fueling each action sequence and setting the mood.
During a recent interview with AFROPUNK Tony shares, “I saw that there currently wasn’t an animation that spoke directly to the Hip-Hop community without trying to exploit the culture. We’ve had shows like The Boondocks and Afro Samurai, but when those went off the air they left a huge void. We’re now trying to fill that void with The Indies.”
On August 28th, Tony launched a crowdfunding campaign in efforts to raise funds to complete and present the short to networks, production companies and potential investors in Los Angeles. In less than 24 hours, they raised over $4,000. You can support the cause and help him reach his goal of $50K by making a donation on the official KICKSTARTER page HERE.
Check out our brief interview with DJ Tony Drake about the series below:
You’re a DJ producing an animated series, tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from El Paso, TX but I wound up moving to the DMV for college. I always had an interest in DJ’ing and music, but it didn’t become serious until I enrolled at the University of Maryland at College Park. While at UMD, I was the co-host of “The Blender with Miss DJ Gemz and DJ Tony Drake” for over seven years. Through that show, we were able to interview guests like Logic, Lupe Fiasco, Tech N9ne, YG, and Kevin Hart. The connections that I made through that show allowed me to pivot and get into making music. I wish I could say the jump from music to animation was some magical experience, but it was really just me tired of seeing the same old stuff on television. So instead of complaining and waiting for a show to come out, I decided I was going to make what I wanted to see. I was going to take all the elements that I love, including music, and turn it into something unique and meaningful. And now here we are 7 years later with The Indies.
What was the inspiration behind, The Indies?
A lot of inspiration came from the conversations I had with artists while I was doing my radio show (shout out to Miss DJ Gemz). We would get these big artists who you would think would be on top of the world, but then halfway through the interview, it would come out that they were miserable. They were having to do things that they wanted no part of. Some of them had to actually give up who they were and what they stood for. And then I started seeing the same parallels in people that weren’t in the entertainment industry. Just people that worked a regular 9-5. At that point, I realized there might be something to explore as far as what people will go through to make their dreams come true.
Are the characters based on anybody that you know? You, your friends, family, associates?
I drew a lot from real life and people that I’ve come across. There are probably 5-8 character traits from 5-8 real people in each character. Although this is a cartoon, I want the characters to seem real. I want the viewer to be able to make a connection with these characters and be able to say, “Hey, I know someone like that.” That being said, I also put a lot of myself into the characters.
Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign.
The Kickstarter campaign to create a 2D animated short is currently going on now at https://goo.gl/vBDivb and ends on October 2nd. We’re pushing really hard because although we’ve raised over $14K in just two weeks, we won’t receive any of that money if we don’t reach our $50K goal. We’re looking to get everyone to become a backer and share the link with a friend. I keep telling people this isn’t just about a cartoon, this is about taking control of the images we see on TV and putting the types of stories and characters we want to see actually on the screen. I’ve had conversations with executives/investors and by donating just a dollar, you’re telling Hollywood, “I’m tired of the BS you keep shoving down my throat. I want to see more dope content.” We’re doing all of this independently, so when we get this project fully funded we’ll be able to do exactly what we want to do at a really high quality.
What’s your overall goal with producing The Indies?
The overall goal of The Indies is to make a full length animated series. Along with the series, I want to create soundtracks for each of the seasons that showcase both signed and unsigned artists. I want to work with the artists and producers to create soundscapes that will shape and drive the mood and action in the show. There’s also a ton of ideas that I have for other animated series, but The Indies is the property that’s going to break the door down.
So tell us about the soundtrack that you’re producing for The Indies.
In the beginning, The Indies wasn’t actually supposed to be an animation. I started out wanting to make a mixtape which is why the music winds up being such an important part of the series. The soundtrack is going to set the mood of the whole show and push the action forward. I’ve been blessed to be able to record the soundtrack out of Grammy Award winning House Studios DC. Working with them and using the contacts that I made through radio has allowed me to create some really dope music. From the beginning, I’ve always said that the animation and music should be dope enough to stand on their own. The soundtrack definitely accomplishes this.
What makes you a Stereo Champion?
I think it’s the fact that I have a dream of bringing this animation to life and I’m actively acting on that dream. It’s taken me about 6 years to get to this point but I never stopped grinding. I can look myself in the mirror and say that every day I made an effort to do something that would get me closer to my goal. I don’t want to look up 20 years down the road and be in the same place. I at least want to be able to say I shot my shot. Who knows, maybe that shot will be a game winner.
Summary of The Indies:
Set in a futuristic dystopian society, The Indies follows an up and coming rapper named Slick. Born into a well-to-do family living on Earth’s Moon, he longs for the opportunity to pursue his dream of becoming a famous recording artist. With a burning desire to make his dreams come true by any means necessary, Slick has a chance meeting with DJ Chops, one of Hip-Hop’s biggest DJs and record executives. Slick is offered what seems to be an amazing recording contract, which Slick hastily signs without reading the fine print. Slick soon finds out that not only did he sign up to pursue his dream of being a famous artist, but he also signed up for something much more sinister. You see, what Slick failed to realize is that not only are record labels home to some of the universe’s biggest music stars; they also serve as fronts for hitmen for hire services of nefarious crime lords. In order to free himself from his contract, Slick must now work with his new label mates to release his debut album while simultaneously executing dangerous hit jobs. Through these missions, the label mates will explore morality, loyalty, human nature, and discover who they really are at their core.