In Dorothy’s bluesy song “Freedom,” the lyrics sketch a woman trying to escape her troubles by heading on a road trip across the States. But her raspy warble and sparse drums combine to create an anthemic feel. Legendary musician and producer Linda Perry perceived the power behind the song, and repurposed the 28 Days in the Valley cut as the official soundtrack for her #FreedomMeans campaign.
Launched to celebrate Women’s History Month in March by We Are Hear (producers Perry and Kerry Brown’s label) and Equality Now, the #FreedomMeans campaign encourages people to share what freedom means to them and spread awareness about gender equality and women’s rights issues. On this version of “Freedom,” the worlds of rap and rock collide, thanks to a blistering verse about discrimination and racial tension rapped by Angel Haze.
It’s the type of song you want to listen to over and over again. But now, the song has a new dimension thanks to a new accompanying visual, directed by Lisa Bonet and made by a predominantly female production crew, which features over 100 women of all ages coming together to celebrate this beautiful thing we call life. ELLE.com caught up with Angel Haze, Dorothy, and Lisa Bonet to discuss the “Freedom” video, the #FreedomMeans movement, and finding liberation through their respective art forms.
Freedom (TROY NōKA Remix) [feat. Angel Haze]
Let’s start off by defining what freedom means to you all.
Angel: To me, being free means I’m allowed the entire spectrum of expression, because my life is largely about getting things out, whether that it’s a gift, message, feelings or whatever. I like being completely untempered. When I’m free, I am not bound by anything.
Dorothy: For me, freedom is being able to do what I love to do, and I feel the most free when I’m writing with my band. And some of the time I’m lucky enough that a really good message gets imparted into the song, and I get to pass that on to the listener. I’m in recovery, and just living my life this way now, as opposed to how dark and how scary it was before when I was using drugs and alcohol—it’s like I’m in a different dimension, like I have a purpose, and I’m here to help other people recover. I’m here to be of service through music.
Lisa: Freedom, in its ultimate state, would be me reaching my fullest potential and understanding, which I think I’m probably closer to achieving now that I’m in my fifties. These years are our goddess years. We’re so much less burdened by trying to please people or in the pursuit of what we think we should be as women but now have landed, hopefully, in a place where we’re unencumbered by what’s been projected upon us as young girls and as women, and now can truly just step into our power, pursue what truly matters and have the discerning knowing of how to make those decisions and healthy decisions for ourself.
It’s difficult to remain optimistic nowadays, which is reflected in Angel’s first verse. What feelings did you hope to evoke with that verse?
Angel: All of my music is surreal. All of my life I have been seeing people dying or who can’t walk down the street without getting shot at or harassed or arrested. To me it is important to put that in the music. Your heart should make you feel something, it should make you react, it should make you feel like your blood is boiling, and I wanted to put that into the verse. I feel the weight of the world but I also know that as an artist I have the ability to lift it. When I first wrote it, I wrote it from a dark place. Linda came to me and said, “You have an opportunity to do something different, and if you use your voice in the right way, you can change not just your own story, but the story for a lot of people around you.”
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Lisa, when Linda came to you with the song, what was the initial concept that you had in mind for the video?
Lisa: Because of my love of dance and my commitment to that kind of joy in my own life, I go to a class weekly. And when I’m in that class, I really feel those glimpses of liberation and joy—when I look to one side, and I’m dancing with my daughter, and I look to another side, another good friend. There’s this joyful feeling when we move across the floor and there’s so much power in that. That was the nucleus of the video for me, this vision about the unstoppable force of women united.
You said that dancing gives you a sense of freedom. When did dance become so important to you?
Lisa: I think always. The word that I use when I think of dance is liberation and I think it’s amazing when you are in that place of kind of real abandonment, where you’re not thinking about what you look like. And also I believe that music is one of the greatest contributions that humans make to the universe. So, music and dancing bring you to that place of liberation and joy—the merging of those two, is just a beautiful collision of what life has to offer.
There’s a moment when Angel makes a gunshot gesture and everyone drops.
Lisa: Well, it’s just a reality we’re all living in now, isn’t it? We could be anywhere. It can happen anywhere at any time. That’s just now a part of our culture, the virus of violence that’s spread to all parts of our planet. The NRA can come out and tell people to stay in their lane, but this sickness is in all lanes of life. All of us are vulnerable. I don’t understand the purpose of firearms except to do harm.
Lisa, in one scene, there’s a big group of women in the street, walking and dancing—young kids, older women, pregnant women. Why was it important for you to represent their different walks of life?
Lisa: This is life. Everyone deserves to feel welcome and have their place in life to be honored. The children need that innocence protected and guarded at all costs. People give birth every day, multiple times a day, so it’s almost forgotten how sacred that is, and that every woman faces the risk of walking through a doorway and potentially losing your life while giving life. The growing life inside of you is very sacred, but it’s taken for granted now.
How do songs like “Freedom” help you cope with what you’re seeing in the news?
Angel: If you’re feeling alone in the world at any point, music has the power to swallow your heart. I think artists are angels—they were sent here to do something special for people, to connect with millions and millions and millions of people around the world. So when I listen to “Freedom,” it makes me feel like I’m not alone and it makes me feel like someone understands me, or someone is speaking for me.
Dorothy: I think music is so powerful because it can shift your energy. I agree with Angel—I’ve had the same experience where fans have said, ‘I feel like you understand me.’ It connects us all. Music is very healing.
When you look to the world today, how do you feel about it?
Dorothy: I feel like this might be controversial, but I feel like we’re being controlled by the powers that be. I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation and then there’s a lot of truth as well, so people have the choice to come together and unite, and stop separating and attacking one another, judging one another. And we have got to do it now. The world can end up in a really scary place or it can end up in a really beautiful place, it’s up to us.
Angel: I’m going to be honest—I think for the first time, I am experiencing a new sense of optimism. I think that everybody is a force of nature. When it feels like the darkest moment in our lives, we have the choice to search for the light. We all have an incredible energy and I see so many people going out and doing things differently. It’s almost like we’re on a mission to break generational curses. I work every day to create space so that when I do have children they won’t have to live in the same cycles that I did, and that my mother did. It’s an amazing place to be in, even though we have no fucking clue what the future will be. But I think I will be beautiful if everybody keeps their hearts free.
Lisa: Well, I feel great despair in one part of me, and I feel great hope because what else can we do? But I don’t feel hopeless, and I can fall into that pit easily. I’m taking a little news fast right now, just because I get overwhelmed, and I then turn back to my own world, which I think is what people need to do. They need to turn to themselves, to the world that they are creating, which is hopefully some form of a sanctuary. And then, if everyone took responsibility, self-accountability, and continued to polish ourselves, that would resonate in such a deep way.