TRU recently caught up with former Procussions member and Rawkus recording artist Mr. J Medeiros via e-mail to discuss his new Saudade album, issues-driven hip hop, and funding an independent record via crowd-sourcing instead of corporate label cash.
Sketch: Your new album Saudade was funded by crowd-sourcing your fanbase. How was that experience for you compared to the recording and release process on Rawkus or other labels?
Mr. J: It was a more transparent process for us and the fans. We were able to base what we could do on what we had sold. The pre-funding required us to think a lot more about specific goals and put pressure on us to secure effective marketing within our financial
boundaries and held us accountable. On a label you can agree on an overall price to market an album and it’s usually higher, which sounds good, however, you don’t know exactly what is going where and you always end up owing money in the end. This is more of a “pay-as-you-go” situation.
Sketch: According to the Indigogo.com site, your campaign raised more than twice the $5,000 budget goal you initially set. Was that surprising to you and did it provide enough to get the record launched the way you wanted?
Mr. J: Our goal was to raise $5,000 in two months. We hit our goal in two days and by the end of the funding period gathered almost $13,000. It was completely surprising.
I wrestled with the initial price goal [number] for a week. I was sure that I would not reach it and thought to only ask for $3,000. The only reason I used Indiegogo was because they still allow you to take the funding even if you don’t reach your goal, which is different then other funding sites. For me, this was a safety net.
I am very grateful I was able to gather the support needed to put out this album- very. It’s a good thing we went over our goal though because shipping is NO JOKE! We made enough money to market for two months, manufacture the record, print T-shirts, pay for shipping, and fund the music video for “Neon Signs.” I do want to be clear that this was not a charity or donation process – fans were able to pre-purchase the album along with some very exclusive material. I don’t think I would feel the same way about the success of the campaign if I asked people to give something for nothing in return.
Sketch: On Twitter you’ve been pretty vocal about illegal downloaders and even offered a “Forgiveness Point” contribution level for supporters who would like to pay you back for music they’ve previously stolen. How much of an impact does that sort of thing have on artist like yourself?
Mr. J: I don’t know really. For me it comes down to one thing: if you like the record and would buy the album if you had to – then do it. I don’t think the majority of people out there know exactly what their dollar does… for anything, not just music. And because of that we are unarmed against corporate control. I’ve grown more appreciative than ever for my paying fans because I know it’s real easy to illegally download my music. It takes a lot of integrity to make a purchase now a days.
Sketch: You’ve also been pretty transparent online and in interviews about the stress toll this project and the music business in general can take on an artist. How has your faith helped you navigate all of that?
Mr. J: I don’t know if it’s my faith as much as I believe “God’s love” that helps. I am grateful for the chance to make music and it’s always my hope that I am doing the right thing. I just try to keep pushing and trusting I’ll know when I know. Of course I would like to come across as a “good” person in life, on Twitter, on Facebook, etc., but not at the risk of being dishonest.
Sketch: One of your most well-known songs, “Constance,” tells the stories of people involved in human trafficking and child sexual abuse. What drives you cover these type of issues in your music? Ain’t hip hop supposed to be about poppin’ bottles and living the high life?
Mr. J: The first song I wrote that made me feel like I was saying something from deep within was “Waters Edge.” From there I felt a push in myself to tap into a certain love/pain that uses “art” as a way to escape. It’s really a personal thing. I don’t feel I am speaking to the world. I feel like I am talking to myself, in a way, and then after it’s all over I just hope it matters to someone else.
“American Fado” was a step closer to how I wanted to write music. I was learning to interpret a feeling into a story. Then came “Constance” which was the first song I produced and rapped on which really helped to channel an emotion into both the music and lyrics. It may be my most watched Youtube video. This could be because it was used so often in conjunction with anti human-trafficking organizations, which I am very grateful for, but I don’t consider “Constance” to be my strongest foot towards self expression.
Since my first [solo] album, of gods and girls, I have felt a challenge to learn how to speak about these feelings, emotions, and intuitions about life and its purpose. Which takes me to ‘Friends Enemies Apples Apples’ to ‘The Art of Broken Glass’ and now to my newest work: ‘Saudade.’
I used to think that making music was about having a very clear mission and agenda. But now that just seems like the same one-dimensional theory that “pop-thug” music uses to become popular. People and the issues that ensnare them from faith, love, and hope seem complicated, and that drive to make sense of it all, without being contrived, is what makes music.
At least I think so right now.