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Firebrand Records’ Son of Nun and Ryan Harvey discuss the new label’s Baltimore roots and say they aim to take revolutionary music to the mainstream

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Musicians inspired by the Arab Spring, #BlackLivesMatter and other struggles have joined forces to form a new record label, Firebrand Records We spoke with Baltimore artist Ryan Harvey. He launched Firebrand with famed guitarist Tom Morello RYAN HARVEY, ARTIST, CO-FOUNDER & MANAGER OF FIREBRAND RECORDS: We’re trying to fight on the cultural front. Because I’ve seen in, like, my long years of organizing and activism, I’ve seen the way that culture affects our ability to organize. I’ve seen the way that musicians affect our ideas. 2011, really since the Egyptian revolution, since the Tunisian revolution and since the protest in Wisconsin, I just made a decision to like, hit the road a lot more, put my music back out in a more serious way. Because I was seeing the role that artists were playing, that musicians were playing in, like, fostering the–I don’t know, the dynamic that we’re in globally right now. TEXT ON SCREEN: Capturing the events of the Baltimore Uprising, “It’s Like That” is the lead track on the album A New World in Our Songs released by Firebrand Records in 2015 SON OF NUN, , ARTIST, FIREBRAND RECORDS: And the media’s perception and the way that they talk about what actually happened, is what I try to capture in the beginning with that clip from Kwame Rose, I’m getting on Geraldo like that. KWAME ROSE, ACTIVIST: I want you and Fox News to get out of Baltimore City. Because you’re not here reporting about the boarded up homes, and the homeless people under MLK. You’re not reporting about the poverty levels up and down North Avenue. SON OF NUN: They’re only coming to cover all the violence and whatnot without actually addressing what’s at the root of it, right. So I wanted to make sure I did that with the song, too. Like, Chuck D called it the black CNN, that’s what hip-hop is. I wanted to bring that back to the mix. I did operate as a street medic during the uprising. I’ve been an activist for a long time. It’s the kind of thing that you see in city after city, country after country, place after place, right. It’s that same dynamic where oppressed people have had enough, and they’re saying no more. And it’s usually young people that are at the head of it. They’re not saying, you know, these older people are telling us to bide our time and to go through all the proper channels and all of that shit. They’re like, no, we’ve had enough. Fuck these cops. We’re going to do what we need to do, because this is bullshit. HARVEY: And I love the underground music scene. I love the DIY scene. I love playing basement shows. I hope I keep playing basement shows for the rest of my life. However, if it’s our duty to win, and I’m talking about some real political stuff and Son’s talking about some real political stuff, we want to hit the mainstream with it, you know. Not the mainstream in the watered down way, but like, hit the people with it. I don’t want to do my political activism in a corner with just my friends. We’re trying to change the world. I don’t want to just built a cool music scene. I want to affect cultural change with all the people around me.


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Jaisal is currently the Democracy Initiative Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network and is a former TRNN host, producer, and reporter. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent. Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @jaisalnoor.