Muses of Musical Medicine: McAD of Freedom Movement Shares inspirations
Interview by Moriah Hope
Humanity is traversing a particularly intriguing time in history where societal advancement and decline are occurring simultaneously.
Like parallel realities, we see and feel features of heaven and hell operating concurrently on Earth. We see widespread corruption, environmental decline, degradation of the indigenous and an unjust ‘justice’ system… Yet we also see the evolution of consciousness, the awakening of the heart, and empowered communities rallying together and rising for global change.
There is no denying the chaos that clouds our minds from participating with nature simply and harmoniously. And there is also no denying the arousing human spirit that is hungry for change and immediate fruitful action. Both narratives are alive and thriving.
As creative beings we all have our own unique way of telling this dual story. Some are more inclined to speak to the pervading darkness, others to give voice to the power of the light.
Those who are in tune with the inherent function of equilibrium in nature recognize that it is also mirrored within our own makeup. Through countless spiritual practices we are learning the necessity of acknowledging both the light and the dark.
Many people on this path are getting creative with how to gracefully maneuver this balancing act. This makes me think of an amazing quote I recently stumbled upon from Maria Semple: “People like you must create. If you don’t create, you will become a menace to society.” Those with a deep capacity to feel and care for the collective NEED to create.
It’s no secret that music has always been on the front lines of activism. Here at The Shakti Journal, we ardently hold tight to music as a vehicle for speaking to the injustices of the world and promoting change. At the first Shakti Speak Easy live event in 2020, we will be joined by two revolutionary hip-hop artists who powerfully encapsulate both narratives of the dark and light in order to deliver a powerful message.
Hip-hop’s roots can be traced through a long lineage of talking blues and oral story telling. Soul stirring story and early free-form jazz poetry were used to pass urgent messages of racial inequality, political deceit and spiritual revival. Now Alais Clay and McAD of Freedom Movement will nobly carry the torch for hip-hop activism culture on the Shakti stage. Let’s hear what the artists have to say.
Moriah Hope, for The Shakti Journal: Tell us, who are you? What do you represent in your music?
McAD of Freedom Movement: Nom-de-guerre = McAD. I am the founder, producer and lead emcee of the Freedom Movement, and Co-Founder, producer and one of lead emcees of the Wandering Monks. I would say I represent one aspect of the creator, but I don’t presume to speak for any other sentient being. In my music I represent many things—the good, the bad and the ugly. Just as my own life has reflected many aspects of the spectrum from left to right, up to down, hot to cold, and love to fear, my music is an outward expression of those perspectives and experiences.
I intentionally try to gear much of my lyrics to the social, spiritual and political ideals I hold. I create a lot of music that ultimately emphasizes and suggests the benefits of living with love and working for peace, both internally and externally. The Freedom Movement has always promoted a Love Revolution, which is certainly a loaded term that could be dissected much more in depth.
SJ: Why do you create? What is your mission in sharing your art with the world?
McAD: First and foremost I create music and art to uplift, have fun, educate and celebrate with anyone who connects with and is inspired by my offerings. But I also create to bridge discordant gaps and differences in a positive way, with the goal of increasing knowledge, wisdom and understanding of things that are not well known or easily misunderstood, including between cultures.
Knowledge is potential power. There is a saying that goes, “Each one teach one.” I try to pass along my lessons through my experiences, and empower myself and others through any wisdom I may have gained traveling my path in this world. Often when vocalizing my thoughts and feelings I end up deepening my own understanding, values, judgments and beliefs.
SJ: If you could distill the essence of your music into three words, what would they be?
McAD: Progressive Soul Music. (Soul music being any form of music inspires you!)
SJ: Since its beginning, the Shakti Journal has been about merging creativity with right action. What is right action to you, and how does it play into your life and your music?
McAD: “Right” action is a very loaded term, and rooted in personal judgment that I think ultimately stems from the polarized paradigm we reside in. “Right, good, divine” all imply some intellectual judgment and relationship to its opposite or counterpart. So while I embrace and support these judgment calls, I think it’s important to do so with humility and acknowledgement that we are fallible—we can become too rigid and adamant in our limited perspectives at times.
Right action for me is often accurate action, logical action, or inspired action characteristically regarding my intention and soul purpose. For example, if I am in Colorado and I’m trying to go to Oregon, it’s easy to say I’m going the “right” way if I am traveling west to get there. Alternately you would likely say I’m going the “wrong” way if I were headed east towards New York. There’s no debate around that simple definition because there is less room for personal judgment and moral discrepancy.
I don’t say this to be difficult or play some devil’s advocate, but many wars and violent aggressions are motivated and justified by a deep conviction about what one considers to be “right.” This includes me as well. I believe it’s right to minimize harm to others, to not infringe on another’s rights and pursuit of their ideals, unless those pursuits infringe on your pursuit of the same or harm you intentionally or unintentionally.
I subscribe to hermetic principles, so in this realm of relation and separation, there is no right without wrong, there is no hot without cold, and so polarity paradigms should be respected and understood to the best of our ability. This can be a very difficult thing to do in the pursuit of morality and positivity.
SJ: Tell us about something that brought you to your knees with tears of joy or pain, and how it influenced your music.
McAD: When I created life, I was brought to tears of joy. Experiencing family and soul communion has brought me to tears of joy. Experiencing the damage and discrimination of the family court system has brought me to tears of pain. Having the state tell me I didn’t have the “right” to see my 2nd child caused me grief I had never experienced prior. I write about these dualities in my music.
SJ: You will be one of our special musical guests at our first annual 2020 Shakti Speak Easy, on the roster with some of the greatest activists of our time. What inspired you to say YES to joining us?
McAD: Shareshten [the founder of Shakti Journal] was an inspiration to say ‘yes’ to this event. Her vision, enthusiasm and intention behind what the event seeks to manifest was something I felt inspired to support, and honored to participate in.
People don’t like to talk about money, like it taints spirituality, but the financial compensation was no doubt a factor too. So many artists fade away because of financial hardships. Many artists pay to play because they have that much passion for their artistry and goals. And unfortunately we live in a culture that increasingly denies funding for certain things that bring value to our lives, like art and music.
The meat suite [human body] has requirements that the intellect understands simply and logically, but often times those equally important soul food aspects get neglected. The Speak Easy puts its money where its mouth is and makes artist participation tangible on a financial level, and that I respect deeply. Cynthia McKinney was equally a huge draw for me personally, as she has been a great inspiration to me since I first was introduced to her over a decade ago.
SJ: Share with us one of the most cherished songs that you’ve created and what it means to you.
McAD: I have hundreds of tracks and a majority of them hold a special place in my heart, and a special role in my intention for the outside world. I love my gritty music, I love my vulgar music. I love my spiritual music. I love my love songs. I love my Reggae music. I love my straight hip hop. I love my punk rock music. I love my political music, and I love my feel good music. So maybe you should tell me: what is your most cherished song that I have created, and why?
SJ: What is your most recent artistic endeavor that our readers can tune into? Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?
McAD: I just completed an EP called “The Incredible.” It’s the same as much of my other music, yet very different. It’s all radio friendly and I feel there is something on there for everyone. It’s the shortest album I’ve released intentionally.
Now that “The Incredible” is completed, I am setting my sights on collaborating with many artists who have inspired me and who I feel would mix beautifully with my style. I have 4 albums in the vault that simply need funding to finish production and release to the public, so I have old projects and new projects that will hopefully come to fruition, Great Spirit willing, in the near future.
Book me for a positive music event and let’s chill before and after and break bread. Peace y’all.