June 16 2010
Hot, Hot, Hot
Dussolliet ’09 writes chart-climbing rap music
Turn on that car radio. There's an ILR person coming at you in the rap. Two tunes that help define the summer of 2010 are products of hip hop lyricist and performer Jeremy Dussolliet '09.
Under the name "Kinetics" (www.facebook.com/kineticsmusic), Dussolliet is half of a two-Cornellian duo. The other half, Arts and Sciences graduate Tim Sommers '10, is known as "One Love." Warner Music Group has signed Dussolliet and Sommers as songwriters. The pair has written two popular songs – "Airplanes," which flew to number two on the Billboard charts, and "Graduation Song," described by one listener as "mad catchy." Dussolliet grew up in the Hudson Valley village of Cold Spring. He lives and works in New York City.
In an interview, he talked about his day job, his night job and the ILR of it all.
In what ways did your ILR experiences influence your writing?
"My ILR experiences have really contributed to my awareness and ability to write socially conscious music. They've opened my eyes to issues that will soon have a deep impact on a lot of people, but issues that we may be completely oblivious or apathetic to … things like increasing job insecurity, the specter of globalization and capital mobility, an unhealthy dependence on technology. I don't have a rough upbringing or hood story to talk about, nor do I live a superstar lifestyle that I can boast about, so my raps stick to ordinary issues that ordinary working people can relate to."
When and where did you write lyrics while an ILR student?
"At all times, in all places. Writing has always been more of a state of mind than an activity. I'd say only a small portion of my music is composed in a studio or during a writing session - the rest of it has stemmed from random bursts of inspiration that occur as I go about my daily activities. I've probably written some of my best lines while showering, riding the bus or sitting in the back of a class (only the non-ILR ones of course)."
Was the ILR community aware of your writing interests?
"Not so much, initially. You know those ice breakers on the first day of class when everyone in the room has to state one interesting fact about themselves? Me, I've never been skydiving or backpacking in Pakistan and I can't touch my forehead to my back or anything like that ... but, after the first few times of saying "I rap" and then shuffling awkwardly in my seat to a room of blank stares, I decided it was better to save the rapper line for more appropriate timing, and in the meantime just let the music speak for itself. I guess that's happening now with the commercial success of "Airplanes." Since its release, former teachers and other ILR staff have been really supportive, reaching out to congratulate me and to learn more about my music."
Do you have a "day job" and write at night? If so, how to do you balance those two worlds?
"Yes, I'm currently working at the New York City Mayor's Office doing campaign finance reform. A few nights a week, I leave City Hall and head to a Warner studio for a writing session until about 1 a.m. City Hall can get pretty demanding at times, but not so much that it detracts from the quality of my music. To be honest, I think there's a plus to waking up before noon, interacting with different types of people all day, having the responsibility of staying on top of New York City politics and current events -- that kind of stimulation makes for richer songwriting."
What is your most memorable ILR moment?
"My junior year, I had to write up a strategy for the organizing drive of a mock union election for a final paper. As part of my plan to gain community support for the union, I talked about hosting live shows headlined by young, politically-minded emcees that would not only discuss relevant social issues, but also attract younger workers. And, in trying to give my professor, Kate Bronfenbrenner, an idea of the type of hip-hop I envisioned, I included the link to my website so she could listen to my music."
"But, the second after submitting the paper I immediately regretted it, assuming she would mark off for shameless self-promotion. In the end, however, she was really into the idea and liked the music, and since then we've been really close and she's always been supportive of my music and career goals. I did research on the Employee Free Choice Act with her throughout my senior year, and then she helped me get an internship at AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) for a few months before I started at City Hall."
Where do you live now?
The Bronx. But I'm getting a place in downtown Manhattan with my producer, Tim Sommers and five or six other Cornell alumni come August. It'll be great in terms of productivity. Yes, it might get a little crazy, but we recorded "Airplanes," and our entire album, at our frat house at Cornell. If that kind of environment can spawn the number two most-played song in the nation, I know this apartment will spark some great ideas. This next year will be a landmark year in our careers."
Where do you go from here with your life?
"Now, I just write as much as I can in an attempt to produce two or three more "Airplanes." Tim and I will be performing in the city all summer and recording our own material, so hopefully we can break out as recording artists in the next year or so. This publishing deal we have with Warner is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I just want to ride it out for now. And I'm confident that my educational experiences have prepared me for my professional aspirations, wherever they take me."