5 years ago, Buffalo-bred drummer David Jonathan was ready to create a drum mix-tape. A well-versed studio drummer who has toured across the country and contributed his talents to artists like Kendrick Lamar, Chris Brown and the Black Eyed Peas just to name a few, David Jonathan was working on a project that would showcase his drum work front and center. While recording potential songs for his mix-tape he initially titled Conundrum, Jonathan went through a process of discovery researching his Trinidadian and Tobagonian roots in 2017. Recognizing the significance of his family’s history and African-American history’s connection to music, the accomplished musician renamed his work 400 as a nod to the anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. With a literal pile of shelved songs and a new direction for his mix-tape, Jonathan put together a series of sounds and samples that created the crux of his most recent single “No Collusion (Remix).”
“No Collusion was the first song that hit me because at the time Donald Trump was going through the whole ‘There’s no collusion with the Russians’… I used this recorder I had and recorded him saying that …and I went and threw it in my work station and said ‘Ok, what can I do with this,'” mentioned David Jonathan.
Finalizing the original version of “No Collusion” as a combination of his drum work and newscaster samples, Jonathan was eager to create a remix of the song with rapper Chuckie Campbell.
“The first person I thought about that could give me not only good perspective, but a perspective from a white male…whose also college-educated was…Chuckie…This is a Chuckie song, and Chuckie and me are both very forward-thinking when it comes to looking at things with a social degree,” explained David Jonathan.
David Jonathan and Chuckie Campbell, who are both outspoken, respected artists in Buffalo have often used music to challenge their listeners. For Campbell specifically, social commentary is a primary aspect of his work. A quick look at his YouTube page and you’ll find him rapping about wokeness, cancel culture, politics and “Karens.” Also a working educator with a M.A and PhD in the English field, Campbell’s passion for tackling social issues through his art is his way of bringing accountability and responsibility to the ongoing conversation about racism.
“I have in the past done a lot of songs … I would say is risky for white voices to say in the white community because lots of white people don’t like hearing about their own privilege or don’t like hearing about white fragility or police brutality. Or don’t want to deal with the long history of racism and white supremacy that has come at the expense of marginalized people in the country, so I’ve made those songs in the past and have been willing to at the risk of losing fans and losing people that follow me. I had taken those risks already I think. David has been along on that journey with me,” explained Chuckie Campbell.
With a friendship spanning just under a decade, and an even stronger musical chemistry, Jonathan and Campbell’s urgency on “No Collusion (Remix)” song and music video captures a unique energy of both hope and caution. Ushering in delicate, colorful instrumentation, Jonathan leads the record with part of the chorus “Everything is gonna be alright, be alright” before Campbell raises the intensity, recounting polarizing racial times from the Jim Crow era to the Charlottesville rallies. Flashing images of boys playing, Buffalo city-line and Campbell revealing a Black Lives Matter shirt under his business attire, the duo insinuates the need for present change.
By the 2nd verse, Campbell gets to the root of the problem. Proposing a couple different causes of racism, the rapper concludes “To hate another human being is to love yourself less.”
Also sharing images of Rayshard Brooks and Jacob Blakes’s names, (both black men who are victims of police brutality and sparked national protests), the Freedom Wall and the entrance to the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor (all made possible by local cinematographer Alex Roje Felix), a melodic piano plays among a sample of a man poetically praising Africa.
Since its release in last November, the song and music video has racked over 50,000 views on social media. With an overwhelmingly positive reception, the song has unified Buffalonians particularly on Facebook. Since being posted on the platform the video has just under 100 comments praising Jonathan and Chuckie for ultimately pushing a message of unity in the city.
But like any art, “No Collusion (Remix)” also brought haters. Luckily for David Jonathan and Chuckie Campbell, their experience with hecklers and trolls have equipped them to handle backlash; and to a certain extent, they expect it.
“I want to upset the status quo and the very hoity-toity establishment…I’m a nice person but my music is going to cut you. Chuckie’s music is going to cut you, because it’s gonna make you look inward and examine these things we keep repeating. These moments in history that seem to be on replay constantly,” explained David Jonathan.
For Jonathan, his relentless need to push progressive ideas in music comes from a deeply intimate place. A graduate of Performing Arts High School who lived in the Langfield-Kenfield projects, Jonathan’s regard for Buffalo is bittersweet. Despite his strong connection with the arts community, the drummer’s recent experiences with police brutality has made him more vigilant as an artist living in the Queen City.
“I’ve been through a lot of racial profiling and racial discrimination especially over the last 5 years….Working with other artists I started seeing things that were very disturbing. Some of those intances of my travel with previous bands, I was pulled over…5 particular cases they [police] pulled me out the car, and 3 of those intances I was on the ground,” recalled David Jonathan.
Between the current Covid Pandemic and the rising racial unrest since the highly publicized George Floyd murder last June, including Buffalo’s own protest in response to Floyd’s death where a 75-year old man was pushed by local police officers in front of City Hall, both Jonathan and Campbell understand the need to call out social injustices. Their timely collaboration on “No Collusion (Remix),” is just the first of many songs to be released under Jonathan’s 400 mix-tape.
“I’ve heard more of the songs that exist on 400 and to me, I feel like its part of a larger narrative about the human family, specifically a celebration I feel like of all black music and art – like he has everything on there from Jam Band to Jazz, R&B. The stuff that you hear with us almost sounds Jazzy and Neo-Soul in “No Collusion,” but when I heard it immediately… It struck me as something that was really, really special and different. A kind of music that people couldn’t immediately box in or that no matter what, it’s hard to deny something when it’s just good,” explained Chuckie Campbell.
As anticipation grows for the release of 400, David Jonathan is focused on pacing. As the music streaming world continues to dominate, Jonathan is working on the best strategy to drop his music. With “No Collusion(Remix)” exclusively available on Bandcamp, its likely he will drop the other tracks on the music selling platform as well.
In the meantime, you can get familiar with David Jonathan & The Inner-City Bedlam on his Instagram and YouTube. Defining the Inner-City Bedlam as “more than a catchphrase,” Jonathan uses the title in his music to give a name to the collective state of mind or awareness he hopes Buffalo will start to embrace fully.
“It is a movement of believing that justice can prevail and that we can move forward and break these bonds of everything that’s been happening,” mentioned David Jonathan.
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BANDCAMP LINK: https://innercitybedlam.bandcamp.com