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Allison Smartt is an audio engineer based in Massachusetts. We first met Allison when she was involved with MOM BABY GOD, a radical feminist theater production about activism, adolescence and abstinence in the pro-life movement. Allison has since written for The Media about sexism in audio engineering, as well as union organizing. Her most recent project is Mixed-Race Mixtape, self-described as a touring hip-hop theatre piece that focuses on the life of a mixed-race Chicano man and the exciting, awkward, beautiful, and traumatizing experiences in his life. “Part of our mission at MRMT is to fill in gaps in the national conversation about race by tackling big questions through a personal point of view, while at the same time creating performance that is engaging and accessible to diverse audiences," writes the project’s group of collaborators. In the spirit of their production, the folks behind MRMT have compiled a mixtape for The Media focusing on the political hip-hop they find inspiring. Each track was selected by a different member of the MRMT team; check it out below, along with some commentary on each selection.

Track 1 / "Hard Times (Louder Than Fiction)" by Rico Pabon: Blending empowerment and poetics, Puerto Rican rapper Rico Pabón speaks truth with one of the cleanest flows in the game. Coming off his critically acclaimed album, “Louder Than Fiction," “Hard Times" hits the nail on the head, back and feet as Pabón educates the masses on topics of political corruption, corporate power, religious violence and the school to prison pipeline.

Track 2 / "Somos Sur" by Ana Tijoux: Chilean rapper, Ana Bijoux, joins forces with the Palestine MC, Shadia Mansour, to bring you a power house Hip-Hop track “Somos Sur" to represent the neglected, silenced, and invisible! Although after you bump this one, I don’t think you’ll ever forget these female forces of the global Hip-Hop community!

Chosen by: Andrew J. Figueroa (Writer/Performer) better known by “Fig," is an up and coming Hip-Hop artist, theatre maker and arts educator from Southern California. With a Mexican father and British mother, he is the first US-born member of the household and the younger of two. He is a recent graduate of Hampshire College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latino Studies, and Performance through Theatre and Hip-Hop. His art strives to challenge how society engages with traditional theatre spaces and to open dialogue around how we can re-imagine the stage to include historically marginalized communities through a critical Hip-Hop lens. His work aims to exist as an agent of educational and social change directed at youth (specifically youth of color) by tapping into the influence Hip-Hop has on US culture and young people.


Track 3 / "Reagan" by Killer Mike: Political? What does that mean in the context of hip-hop (given that hip-hop itself is a highly politicized culture)? If I had to contribute a song though, it would be this one. Why? It's like a hip-hop summary of Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow."

Chosen by: Jorrell Watkins (Artistic Director) is an interdisciplinary artist of martial arts, poetry, dance, and theater. Most of his work is contextualized through an historical framework that serves to bridge the gaps between written history and collective memory. Watkins' education and experience background includes but is not limited to: B.A. from Hampshire College, certified conflict resolution trainer, and educator at North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens.


Track 4 / "212" by Azealia Banks: To me this song is an anthem for uncompromising artists. Azealia Banks throws down lyrically and is totally unafraid and ready to make an impact and make a space for herself. She's confident in her own abilities and validity as an artist, which as a female musician in a genre that is still pretty male-centric can be a difficult mental space to find, and something that I respect her for incredibly.

Track 5 / "We All Try" by Frank Ocean: It's a song about dealing with personal imperfection in complex situations compassionately. I think it's relevant because it encourages empathy in how we talk about our political views with people who may not agree with us at a time in which a lot of people, politicians, corporations, etc. seem invested in creating divisiveness, fear, and hate.

Chosen by: Mara Penatzer (Keyboardist) is a pianist and composer who aspires to create expressive and personal music. Mara received her Master’s degree in Jazz Composition and Arranging from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and her undergraduate degree in Jazz Piano Performance with a minor in Music Theory from the University of North Texas. In addition to playing for Mixed-Race Mixtape, Mara is currently working on several composition projects, which include commissions for pianist Andy D'Antonio and NYC-based string trio forty/sixty, as well as musical settings of poetry from Ronald Johnson's ARK.


Track 6 / "Keep Ya Head Up" by Tupac: I can't help but feel inspired every time I hear this song. It's about radical love, redefining masculinity, black power, pro-choice, paying homage to his radical mom, intersectional feminism, challenging classism and institutional racism and persevering in the face of overwhelming challenges.

Chosen by: Allison Smartt (Production Manager/Head Designer) is the owner of Smartt Productions, and specializes in developing and promoting timely and gripping performance about social justice. The company’s rep includes nationally acclaimed solo-show, MOM BABY GOD. She has built her reputation as a skilled organizer and facilitator at respected institutions like Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Barrington Stage Company and the Five College Dance Department. Her design for theatre and dance can be seen and heard at The Club at La MaMa, Barrington Stage Company, Chester Theatre Company and Arts in Odd Places Festival in NYC. She is a proud member of and Political Action Coordinator for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees local #232. She is an alumna of Hampshire College, where she concentrated in Immersive, Design Driven Performance and is currently the Youth Outreach Partnerships and Special Events Manager at CreativeFuture.


Track 7 / "Heart Don't Stand a Chance" by Anderson .Paak: Its sound smoothly combines Gospel, R&B, and Hip-Hop to ease the listener into head-bobbing bliss whilst outlining the path and struggles of one young man's life.

Chosen by: Reed Sutherland (Composer/Graphic Designer) believes that inclusive and cooperative teamwork within the scope of artistic mediums is a model for not only human success, but a way to understand our own existence. Being in a creative environment is where Reed finds comfort and happiness. While at Westfield State University he had the pleasure of studying with bright and open-minded professors that guided him through years of art history and visual thinking, taking from them not just lists of names and dates, but also an understanding of logical processes and workflows. Reed applied these lessons to the bandstand, teaching himself to play bass guitar while building an education in Graphic Design. After acquiring an internship at Northfire Recording Studio in Amherst, MA, Reed was changed for good. Committed to the idea of being a good team member and resource for bands and artists, Reed brings a set of open eyes and ears for anyone willing to work together to achieve one goal. . . Create.


Track 8 / "The Food" by Common ft. Kanye West: The song is about the trials and hardships of surviving in the urban poverty centers of America, disproportionately populated by African Americans as a result of predatory housing tactics - a pillar of institutional racism. This is an important message that needs to be heard because sadly many people aren't aware of the politics behind this issue.

Chosen by: Ian Haas (Drummer) is currently studying in the Jazz Drum Set program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Ian started playing music at a young age with his older brother and uncles. His interest in music really took hold in middle school and since then, he has been working to find beauty through music. He now plays with the bands YEWO and Ballads and Softcore Porn. Upon graduation Ian will receive a Bachelor's Degree in Jazz Drum Set Performance and African American Music.

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