Rhyan LaMarr: Speaking Truth to Power and Encouraging Others to Do So

We are just a few days from Independence Day, America’s declaration of freedom from colonial rule. July 4 marks that historic day of liberation. Still, that historic day left so many folks behind. On July 4, 1776, women had not achieved the right to vote, Native Americans were not considered first-class citizens of the US, only white male, property owners could vote, and African Americans were at the bottom of the rung, only considered three-fifths of a man, with most in bondage.

Much has changed since July 4, 1776, but there is still so much to accomplish. These last two months, the US has experienced a consistent round of social protests. The cacophony of voices demanding an end to police brutality, expanded access to capital and social programs for the underserved, and the defunding and a reordering of the police state is an astounding move of solidarity among many marginalized communities.

On the heels of this resurgence of social activism, filmmaker and Christian Hip Hop artist Rhyan LaMarr has produced a protest anthem, “Fight Another Day,” that aptly expresses this historic moment. In an example of his unique prescient skills, Lamarr wrote “Fight Another Day” a year ago, foretelling the recent social protests.

Fashion Reverie had the great privilege of speaking with Rhyann LaMarr about his protest anthem, his filmmaking career, and his love of the people.

Fashion Reverie: What is your musical background?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have been involved in music since grade school. I grew up in the city of Chicago and my musical influences range from Da Brat, Twista, Bone Thugs N Harmony to Michael Jackson, and Quincy Jones. I have always gravitated to telling stories. I have found my niche in creating stories, be it through music or film.

FR: Where did you study music?

Rhyan LaMarr: I studied music on the Southside of Chicago in the backseat of my Dad’s car.

FR: How would you describe your musical style?

Rhyan LaMarr: When it comes music, I am very eclectic, you could say I am a sponge. I grew up listening to everything from Michael Jackson to Adam Levine to Smashing Pumpkins to Outcast, I just love good music. There are different mediums to tell good stories. Sometimes, I want to move and groove, sometimes I want to chill, and sometimes I want to bring my story ideas to life through music and film. And literally that is how aPerfectmess came about. If you listen to the album you hear different style and influences.

FR: Could you define the album aPERFECTmess?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have been a mess my entire life and through the grace of God, God is perfecting this perfect mess called Rhyan Lamarr. That is my testimony.

When you consider your life, you think about the world as it is right now, and right now, the world is a perfect mess. It couldn’t have been designed to be more of a mess. I hope people will look and listen to the album, aPerfectmess and equate it to situations in their own life.

FR: What was your motivation behind “Fight Another Day”?

Rhyan LaMarr: There are songs like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Going to Come” that’s so iconic and timely. When I wrote “Fight Another Day” I was writing about a moment that was a year ago. In fact, the song was written a year ago. “Fight Another Day” was based from a year ago. Strangely, a year later, we are still living with social injustice and police brutality. “Fight Another Day” is about how we are conditioned to live with adversity, but also how we are going to move past that reality.

Shirley Murdock, Ta’Ronda Jones, Angie Rose, and other artists are all on this song. And some of them wrote their own verses. We wanted to create something that would move the people and move the needle of justice.

FR: How did you assemble these incredible artists on “Fight Another Day”?

  Rhyan LaMarr: Shout out to Shirley Murdock’s husband and manager, Darryl and Michael Wayne, who had a hit song out called “Instant Replay.” I was so fortunate to work with them in the studio and they taught me how to stack a song.

FR: What is stacking?

Rhyan LaMarr: Stacking is a technical moniker. Kendrick Lamar does a lot of stacking on his songs. So, does Drake. Stacking is when you digitally amplify your voice to make it sound fuller. You layer your voice on top of your voice. You can also stack your background vocals to make them sound textured and rich. I have a small voice, so I often stack my voice on songs.

FR: So, let’s go back to you getting these great artists on “Fight Another Day.”

Rhyan LaMarr: I wrote the lyrics to “Fight Another Day” with Shirley Murdock in mind. I contacted her, explaining what I wanted to do with the song. I sent her the lyric I wanted her sing. She loved it and sent back her vocals with the lyric.

I also reached out to Destorm Power. We have worked on a couple of projects previously. I knew Destorm to be a great artist and lyricist. He has seen a lot, experienced a lot, so I knew he was going to bring a unique approach to the theme of the song.

I knew Ta’Ronda Jones through Bryshere Grey from “Empire.” I was introduced to them by Jussie Smollet. I knew Ta’Ronda more as a spoken-word artist, but she came into the studio and slayed her verse in the song.

I included Angie Rose also on “Fight Another Day.” Angie is a prolific minister and Christian hip hop (CHH) artist. She has done a lot of volunteer relief work in Puerto Rico. I knew I needed someone that had Angie’s passion and dedication to working class and poor people on this song. Additionally, on the song, there is Mod G and Jack Red who brought incredible musicianship to the entire album.

FR: “Fight Another Day” was conceived before the recent protests, but it is so timely. What were you connected to in your head that you understood how relevant this song would be?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have been African American my entire life which means I have been forced to get over stuff. At the time I conceived “Fight Another Day,” there were lots of school shootings happening. However, the schools that were getting media coverage were schools that had a majority white student body as opposed to schools where the student body was mostly kids of color. And there was a host of other things going on that I was able to pull from.

I was observing folks experiencing discrimination based on their race, sexuality, and gender. I wanted to create a song that would touch on all these things and be universal. I wanted to create a song that champion the everyday fighters and warriors who everyday fight injustice and inequality.

FR: The lyrics to “Fight Another Day” are so powerful. Particularly, the lyric “our lawyers they shoot, our doctors they shoot them.” Who wrote the lyrics and what process did you use to plumb so deeply to get to the core of what is going on right now?

Rhyan LaMarr: That particular lyric at the end of the song was written by Ta’Ronda Jones. I told her I wanted to write about what was going on and keep it real, and she did. I wanted her to have a very militant stance.

FR: Were there other lyricists for “Fight Another Day”?

Rhyan LaMarr: Yes. Everyone wrote their own verses. I told everyone on the song to come from their perspective.

FR: In the video you curated a lot of images and videos that detail the protests and police brutality. What was your process to be able to get the rights to use some of the footage in the video and what process did you use to select the footage?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have an amazing team that has worked with me on some of my films, so we have an incredible synergy. And they understand how important it is to select the right stock footage. We shot the video and then went back and injected and modernized some things because we recorded and shot most of the video over a year ago.

It is sad that very little has changed, and in some instances, things have gotten worse since we recorded and shot the initial video. It is disturbing that you could replace images of police killings from a year ago with current police killings. It is incredible that the footage is not outdated.

FR: What do you hope “Fight Another Day” inspires?

Rhyan LaMarr: I hope the song inspires folks to educate themselves and use their voice and platform wisely. Whether you are talking to two people or a million people, you have a platform.

We want people to feel uplifted and encouraged from “Fight Another Day.” We want this song to encourage folks to use the gift that God gave them to help facilitate change, be the change that you want to see. If you are protesting, understand why you are protesting and what you are fighting for.

FR: You are also a filmmaker, could you talk about that?

Rhyan LaMarr: I am a storyteller. I have been a filmmaker for the better part of 17 years. I believe that art should imitate life, so I probe real stories. My production company is Reel Stories. I became a filmmaker to change the landscape. I was tired of seeing voices and stories that were misinterpreted.

So much has changed in the time I have been a filmmaker. We are now starting to see filmmakers like Donald Glover, Lisa Raye, and a whole range of black filmmakers that are telling stories that speak to the black experience in nuanced ways.

My feature film Canal Street come out in 2019 on Martin Luther King Day. It is doing very well in the market, and it is currently streaming.

FR: You are making a film about Sean Bell, the young African American that was murdered by NYC Police in 2006. Could you talk about that?

Rhyan LaMarr: Sean Bell was an unarmed African American male that was gunned down by the NYPD in 2006, a day before his wedding. We are telling a lot of the backstory behind this tragedy. Most folks don’t know that Sean had been drafted by the LA Dodgers. We delve into what was going on in the minds of the police that murdered Sean.

Images courtesy of 2Rs & Entertainment Media PR

FR: What’s next for you?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have a couple of videos coming out from the album aPerfectmess. Of course, “The Sean Bell Story.” There are some phenomenal voices on the soundtrack of “The Sean Bell Story,” I cannot reveal who is singing on the soundtrack just yet. Lastly, I have a comedy coming out, “North of the 10.”

— William S. Gooch

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