In the music video, “Till the DJs Gone,” Boston native Juma – a mysterious figure oft shaded by dark sunglasses who at first acts as a pensive observer – navigates a contemporary milieu under the spell of a corporate subconscious controller. Men and women stare at ipads and cell phones, brainwashed by the messages of greed and consumerism propagated by the digital screens set before them. Juma breaks the communication by hacking into the mass system that disseminates the pervasive messages in order to send out his own message. The song and video transform into a commentary on the state of commercial music as Juma states, “We’re being force fed radio/transmitting garbage/the corporate media monsters.” He ultimately asks us, the listener, to take control and reshape the face of music. Juma creates a meta-narrative of the independent artist rallying against a commercialized cultural system through his music.
The purpose of the song is “to heighten awareness and to help people to start thinking twice and three times about why certain things are valued,” according to Juma.
He jokingly calls himself a “conspiracy theorist.” Juma is a rather upbeat and humorous person, but he holds fast to his beliefs. “The lyrics of the song are talking about mass media and using radio as a point object. What I wanted to visually get across with the video was, the core of the song, the story of awakening. So it’s really about making people aware of agenda setting, which is a communication theory that posits that news media and media systems may not be able to tell us what to think, but certainly what to think about,” says Juma, who makes sure to fleck his statements with academic language.
“We are all being bombarded with these messages that effect who we are. And the intent of these things is to trigger a particular consumer behavior. I tend to feel like there are capitalistic forces at work in the world,” he continues. “The prospect to monetize human existence – in a sense is kind of crazy – is antithetical to why we’re here. It totally devalues who we are as human beings.”
The single, “Till the DJs Gone,” is off his upcoming sophomore album, Fall of the Giants, which is set to be released on January 31st. The title track of the forthcoming album, “Giants Fall,” had a video release during the summer of 2010. But unlike his most recent video, the “Giants Fall” full-length music video has a run time just under eight minutes. The video follows a struggling alcoholic, played by Juma, who grapples with deep seeded issues of witnessing his mother being abused by his father as a child.
“Domestic violence is the backdrop to this guys present day…. He is really in dire straits psychologically,” says Juma. The character creates an imaginary psychologist to help him sort out his twisted memories as he spirals deeper into a suicidal depression. A force emanates from a bible in the house – of which the character is reaching for – which transports him into a spirit world, “where he fights his giants in the form of these demonic smoke projectiles.”
This David and Goliath theme runs not only through the two singles, but the entirety of the album. “The whole album is about winning, overcoming, its about freedom, fear, and limitation. Whether its personal fear that holds people back from being the best that they can be. Whether it be societal limitations that keep people from coming together or keep people from excelling in society,” states Juma. His strength in his music stems from his ability to take a macro-perspective. “It speaks to overcoming any and all forms of obstacles, may it be emotional, spiritual, intellectual, societal. It speaks to the celebration of those giants falling.”
“I am a man of many giants,” states Juma. His album, though having political and cultural meanings, is rooted in a personal narrative. “What inspired me to come up with an album was my own personal giants in my own life. And that change to victory made me want to share it.”
His ideas work as thematic motifs and ubiquitous narrative arcs. The political bent on the album can also be applied to the music industry, something that Juma has a strong opinion about. “In celebrating the fall of giants, it absolutely connects to the deconstruction of the old model, institutions, and the old music industry… an institution that we now realize was in need of deconstruction, and now reconstruction.” Juma is a completely independent artist who often produces his work on his own. Furthermore, Fall of the Giants – like his first album – will be released on his own record label, Inniss Entertainment.
Juma’s opinions on the music industry are steeped in experience, as he is no newcomer to the rap game. His debut album, Blast Music, features the song “Pray 4 U” with guest vocals from Grammy winner John Legend. Juma befriended Legend back in 2001 when they were both working at a Boston management consultant firm. This was a time when Legend was still relatively unknown, slowly gaining popularity. After trading mixtapes, Legend and Juma decided to collaborate, creating a song about having faith in the face of adversity.
“Music has always been a part of my life,” explains Juma. He has opened for Fat Joe, Amanda Diva, The X-ecutioners, Kirk Franklin, and many others. When asked about why he makes music, Juma jokes, “the heavens didn’t open up, and a voice didn’t come down and say ‘Juma, do an album,’” the omniscient voice stated with a deep rumble. For him, music is just a given; it is a piece of his life.
With his upcoming release, the sister single of “Till the DJs Gone, “We Don’t Really Care,” is available as a free download on his soundcloud page. And further information about Juma can be found at facebook.com/JumaMusic.
So what’s next for Juma? After watching a TV show on the apocalyptic Mayan predictions for 2012, Juma jokingly mentioned that he is “reshaping [his] plans for the year.” But it is more likely that his future parallels his opinion on the music industry; we are moving back to “where it should be, back into the hands of the curators. With the digital age and the ability to record and release music at no cost has empowered artists.” And Juma is doing just that – exactly what his own music suggests – which is to defy the corporate music giants.