A music video recorded by a coalition of Richmond-based artists, featuring an inmate and a parolee in support of President Barack Obama’s campaign for reelection, has gone viral on YouTube, attracting more than 80,000 views with at least 60,000 people having watched it in the past week.
The song, titled “Change,” features the vocals of R&B singer Waymond “Suave” Anderson, who is serving a life sentence at the California State Prison in Lancaster following a 1997 conviction for murder.
In the music video posted Sept. 3, Anderson — also known for making, recanting, and then repeating a claim that two Los Angeles police officers were involved in the killing of rapper Christopher Wallace (also known as the Notorious B.I.G) — calls on voters to give the president a second term in the November election, saying it takes more than four years to deliver Obama’s promised reforms.
A recording of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech begins the audio, with montages of King and president Obama in the background, followed by Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes We Can.” The video is punctuated with images of Bay Area landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco waterfront as seen from Richmond.
Anderson’s vocals, recorded over the phone in several 15-minute calls from prison, come in and weave through rap skits from Richmond artists like Portia Romano, Lunee, and parolee and former Richmond gang member Saint James.
“You might not see it, but believe me and I will tell you,” Anderson says, “It takes one man like President Obama to start a revolution. Change, changes are coming.”
One of the lead singers and producers behind the music video, Dwayne Omarr of Richmond-based HMG records, which has studios in both Richmond and Riverside, California, said the music video was intended to convey a political message in support of the Obama campaign.
“The message we are trying to convey is that it is never too late to change,” Omarr said, adding that the video also has a message on reform among parolees. “Just because some people got caught and some people didn’t doesn’t mean that they cannot reform. Given the opportunity some people will change.”
Donald Hasan a producer at Hasan Music Group Recording, the production company behind the video, which cost $20,000 to produce, delivered a copy to a Democratic campaign office run by volunteers in Richmond last week, and said HMG had offered the Obama campaign copies of the video for use during the campaign.
Joan Carpenter, the vice president at the Richmond Democratic Office said the office had received a copy of the video from HMG but said the campaign had no relationship with the producers.
Omarr said he saw the music video as an opportunity to promote young artists from Richmond. “It is widely known that president Obama has celebrity friends but there are some new up-and-coming artists for whom it is a little harder to create an audience,” Omarr said. “The people we selected for the video are some of the most under-marketed artists in Richmond.”
Among the artists featured in the video is Saint James, a Richmond rapper and former gang member who is on parole.
“It took time for us to open our doors to him when he came to our shoot and he told me that he’s on parole,” Omarr said. “He has been in jail and he told us that he wanted to work hard and reform so we gave him the opportunity and he went from being out of jail for two days and in a music video that has 40,000 views and climbing.”
Omarr said after giving Saint James a role in the production of the video, he agreed to act as a liaison between the former gang member and his parole officer. “He is a guy who lived a life that most people would not choose,” Omarr said. “He can’t get rid of his tattoos but he can change his direction.”
Omarr said recording Anderson’s vocals was the most difficult part in the production of the music video, because as an inmate, he could only spend a limited amount of time on the phone.
“It took quite a few tries to edit the vocals recorded from Lancaster,” Omarr said. “Every 45 seconds an automated message saying ‘You have a call from an inmate’ interrupted Suave’s singing and he could only speak for three minutes at a time in the early evenings. It took us two weeks to edit it out.”
Both Omarr’s and Hasan’s sons are featured in the video. Omarr’s son, King Titus Robinson, 11, also known as El Presidente Jr, and Donald Hasan III, known as Hass, both make appearances in the single. Omarr himself appears as El Presidente, a title he said he chose instead of CEO.
“I put the song together like a puzzle, piecing together all of the telephone recordings and combining them with the different artists we found in Richmond,” Omarr said. “Suave is an Obama supporter and he believed that the song would get enough attention to get people thinking about reform and the need to vote.”