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Hip-Hop Animation: The Road To Creating The Indies

Hip-Hop Animation: The Road To Creating The Indies

Independence. When was the last time you paid attention to an independent project?

We are so often caught up with mainstream media that we fail to take notice to the diamonds in the rough in the independent part of any industry.

The Indies is a Kickstarter funded project from the mind of DJ Tony Drake. He has created a really dope concept, a Hip Hop based cartoon. After raising 50K, he was able to release a beautiful Animated short. His goal is to turn this into a full length animated series, which I am so looking forward to! I got a chance to pick his brain and get more details about his creation!

First order of business, What was your inspiration for this project? 
The overall concept was drawn from my love of Hip-Hop, my time doing radio, and interacting with entertainers/artists throughout the years.  I really wanted to explore morality and the limits people will go to to pursue their dreams.  The more and more I thought about those themes, the more it made sense to explore it in the setting of Hip-Hop and the entertainment industry.  For instance, on our radio show, we once interviewed an artist that had a platinum single that was in rotation.  You would have thought they’d be the happiest person in the world.  But come to find out their label had them doing a bunch of non-music related things that had them contemplating whether they still wanted to make music or not.
2. Was it difficult to come to the decision to develop this cartoon independently?
I think the way music and entertainment is now, independent is the best thing right now.  Of course you want to get your art on the biggest stage possible, but this initial time is great because we’re creating a foundation.  We’re showing networks and executives that we can create something with diverse characters and stories and people will dig it.  I wanted to create something that was truly authentic without feeling as though I would have to compromise the story or characters.  I also wanted to show that people were into this project off the sole purpose of the music and story.  Not because there was some machine behind it.
3. The one song from the actual short is super dope! As far as the soundtrack is concerned, who is the one person you’d love to collaborate with on a song? 
Thanks!  That’s a tough one.  But right now I think I’d like to work Tobe Nwigwe.  He has such a creative way of approaching his songs and videos, that I think it’d be really dope to see what we could cook up with animation.  He’s already done a ton of dope animations with Dab Studio 7, so I know he gets it.
4. I see the four locations are New York (As A New Yorker, I love it!), New Orleans, The Moon & Las Vegas. What made you decide on those very different places to set your storyline and not Baltimore, whe
re you currently reside?
There’s way more locations than just those four.  I think the four locations you saw were from some of our concept art.  The location of the series takes place all over the world and even on the moon.  You’ll see that as more animation comes out, you’ll start to notice locations that you recognize, but with a post apocalyptic twist.  There’s a lot of locations, because that same feeling that you felt looking at our concept art as a New Yorker, I want other people to get that same feeling about wherever they’re from.  So there isn’t a nod to Baltimore in the short film, but we did put out a short webcomic in 2017 that actually takes place in Baltimore.
5. So, just how long will we have to wait for the full animated series to drop?
Right now we’re taking the short film to festivals and trying to spread the word about what we’re doing.  But we’re also in the middle of pitching this as a full series, so hopefully it won’t be too long before you can start seeing episodes.
6. Is this something you dreamed of doing as a child, or is this something you discovered you wanted to do in adulthood?
Although I enjoyed writing as a child, I never actively pursued animation or film growing up.  Not because I didn’t want to, I just didn’t know it was possible. I didn’t know how to get into animation or know anyone that was doing it. I thought it was something that wasn’t for me.  But then as an adult I started to realize that I can do or become whatever it is I want to. I wish I would have found that out a lot earlier, but hopefully I can pass that message along to others.  Because life is too short to not be doing what you want to do.
7. Growing up, what was your favorite cartoon/anime to watch?
Wow, there’s way too many to name.  I’m just a fan of animation in general.  But I think some of the influences I had as a child definitely shine through in The Indies.  For example, I’m a big fan of how Looney Tunes and The Gorillaz tied in music so seamlessly into their cartoons.  And then when you flip over to the action side of things, I’m a big fan of Afro Samurai, Samurai Champloo, and The Boondocks.
8. Since this project is Hip Hop related, who is your favorite Hip Hop artist right now? 
Once again, I don’t think I can narrow this down to just one.  I mentioned Tobe Nwigwe earlier, but another dope artist is G Yamazawa from North Carolina.  I love how on each project they put out, they continue to push themselves as artists.  Not just in the musical sense, but also visual.
9. The short itself has sort of an anime style feel to it. What made you go in this artistic direction?
I think a lot of it has to do with the team that was around me.  I was able to explain to them the feelings and the concepts that I wanted to convey and they were able to help bring it all to life.  I spent a lot of hours with my original character designer Braeonart, my co-director Chaz Bottoms, and art director Axel Ortiz coming up with how we wanted to pull this off.  Matter of fact, all the artists on this project were amazing.  To be able to take what was in my head and put it on the screen is still mind boggling to me.
10. Is there anything else you want our readers to know?
I kind of just want to tell them what I wish I would have heard when I was younger… Whatever big idea or project you’re thinking about doing; go for it.  And go for it now.  Don’t be scared. Don’t let yourself feel that the dream is too big for you.  You’re just as good as anyone else and you deserve it.  I know the dream seems far away, and it will be a lot of hard work, but I promise it’ll be worth it.

You can check out DJ Tony Drake’s advanced screening video here and check out the single Trouble that plays during the short here! Follow Blue Geek Music on youtube for updates and inside looks into the creative process for The Indies. Support Independent Projects!

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