Jonny 5 of Flobots reflects on the Occupy Movement and talks about the act's new album

Categories: Interviews

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Matt Walker
Jamie Laurie (aka Jonny 5) of Flobots
To many pundits and casual observers, whose purview has presumably been shaped from the perspective of being on the outside looking in, the Occupy Movement may seem like an abstract manifestation with an amorphous agenda, driven by a seemingly baseless ideology.

To the passionate protesters whose heels are dug in, however, the impetus couldn't be clearer. The displaced have been galvanized by their collective disillusionment with any number of issues, utmost, the systemic failures of Wall Street and the subsequent absence of accountability.

There's also a pronounced exasperation with corporate lobbyists and the brazen sense of entitlement being flaunted by corporations that hide behind corporate personhood. Those things, coupled with a very real frustration with the lack of employment and affordable healthcare, plus rampant social injustices, have brought the masses together under one banner.

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"99th Problem" is one of the most stirring songs to date concerning the Occupy Movement, locally or otherwise

As the movement continues to evolve, the focus appears to be getting sharper and sharper, and it's finding an incisive voice thanks to a groundswell of musicians across the country championing the cause. Locally, a growing collective of MCs, Sole, Molina, Mane Rok and Kalyn Heffernan, have been the most vocal and visible of those advocates, both on site and online.

Jamie Laurie (aka Jonny 5) is among those raging against the machine. When we reached out to the Flobots frontman earlier this week to get the latest word on his group, he drew our attention to a video that was about to drop related to the Occupy Movement, revealing that he had been enlisted by Mane Rok, a dependably outspoken MC, to contribute to a fittingly titled Occupy-centric track called "99th Problem."


"Our country tells us all that's being done/But we've got 99 problems, and the rich ain't one!" - Dyalekt


The song features a number of other MCs who were also recruited by Mane, including Dyalekt of Diamond Boiz, who produced the track, Bravo One of One Eyed Kings, Aja Black of The ReMINDers, T minus Katlyn (aka Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp) and Es-Nine of Prime Element. It's the most moving portrait of the movement that's been painted thus far, local or otherwise.

A video for the song was filmed on-location recently at Civic Center Park during one of Occupy Denver's general assemblies (look closely and you'll see some familiar faces from the movement such as John Sexton, as well as Occupy-centric iconography -- "spirit fingers" ) by Locker Partners, who first approached Mane about collaborating on an Occupy related project.

As you'll see below, the compelling footage captured by Locker Partners principles, Emily Crenshaw and Mary Grace Legg, is positively captivating. There's some powerful imagery here. The clip offers a bird's eye view of the movement, from scenes of those intimately involved with the occupation to their subsequent clashes with the police. The stark black-and-white images of the occupation are riveting enough on their own, but they become even more impactful when set against the incendiary, unflinching wordplay of the MCs. Taken together, it all makes for an incredibly moving statement.

The video opens with a stirring voiceover from Congressman Alan Grayson, espousing about the Occupy Movement on Real Time with Bill Maher:

"If I am a spokesman for all of the people who think that we should not have 24 million people in this country who can't find a full-time job, that would should not have 50 million people in this country who can't see a doctor when they're sick, that we shouldn't have 47 million people in this country who need government help in order to feed themselves, that we shouldn't have 15 million families who owe more on their mortgage than their house than the value of their home -- okay, I'll be that spokesman."

As Grayson's poignant words ring out over a martial drum beat, an image of a Colorado flag waving in the wind in a downcast sky is interspersed with scenes of the protestors marching in solidarity, close-ups of their signs and their feet pounding the pavement to them all gathered en masse. That segues directly into a shot of Dyalekt spitting his verse in front of a stoic, soldier row of police officers clad in riot gear, which eloquently and effectively sets the tone for the entirety of the track:

"We are the 99, but we ain't being heard/So we took to the streets to let freedom speak, they dismiss our concerns/Used the corporate media to say that we're confused/The rich folks were amused; they sent in the boys in blue/Like we didn't know you would cross our path, like you always have, try to push us back/I'm Apache, man, wouldn't know about that/Now everybody pissed here; we ain't even have to ask/Our country tells us all that's being done/But we've got 99 problems, and the rich ain't one."

And there's plenty of other striking moments in the nearly four-and-a-half-minute-long video, from the scenes of protestors clashing with the authorities to the images of the children depicted during Aja Black's verse, which illuminates the perspective of beleaguered mothers, expressing the exasperation they experience when faced with the prospect of maxed-out credit cards and overdue light bills and the subsequent inability to buy the kids medicine when they're sick.

"How can we save for the future? We still paying for our past," she raps adamantly and affectingly. "Up to the neck in loans and debt, and the water's rising fast. We standing strong up in these streets in solidarity as proof. We going to occupy the system and the nation and the booth."

We spoke at some length about the Occupy Movement with Laurie, who, in addition to filling us in on the current status of Flobots, took time to share some of his thoughts on the movement and offered some perspective on the collective disillusionment of the Occupiers, as well as reflected upon the current political climate and how eerily similar the tenor of the times is to the days leading up to the last Presidential election.

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