Film / TVMusic

animated series ‘the indies’ spotlights the harsh realities of the music business

August 29, 2017
By Ayara Pommells, AFROPUNK Contributor*

There are very few shows out which are geared towards the Hip-Hop community, but DJ Tony Drake is setting the wheels of change in motion as he hopes to turn things around with his upcoming animated series, The Indies. DJ Tony Drake is so confident that folks will want to see The Indies on the small screen, that he’s been busy creating a 2D animated short to give viewers a look at what the show could be, stating:

“I saw that there currently wasn’t an animation that spoke directly to the Hip-Hop Community without trying to exploit the culture. We’ve had shows like The Boondocks and Afro Samurai, but when those went off the air they left a huge void. We’re now trying to fill that void with The Indies.”

He may well have a valid point. The handful of Hip-Hop based animations we’ve seen have come and gone very quickly. Afro Samurai, Class of 3000 and The Boondocks, to name just a few. Could The Indies be the answer to our prayers? On August 28th, DJ Tony Drake’s Kickstarter page went live, with a $50,000 goal to bring his 2D vision to life. He spoke with AFROPUNK about The Indies and his crowdfunding mission.

How does The Indies differ from animations such as Afro Samurai, Class of 3000 or The Boondocks?

It’s funny. I’ve been getting this question a lot. All of those shows mentioned are great and have pushed animation and Hip-Hop Culture forward in incredible ways. And, to be honest, anything that we can accomplish with The Indies is in part because of what those guys did before us.

But I think The Indies differs from those shows in the same way that Seinfield differs from Friends. When you’re looking at shows that are created by people who love Hip-Hop and want to incorporate the culture into their art, you’re going to find similarities. But as far as the characters, story, and feel, they’re all completely different.

Why do you think there are so few animations like this out there, considering the huge influence the culture of Hip-Hop has globally?

You know, I’m not really sure. I can only speculate. But it seems as though Hollywood executives have a hard time taking risks and don’t want to take a chance on Hip-Hop. When creating a show you want to be able to appeal to a wide audience, and I think executives have the misunderstanding that something centered around Hip-Hop would be a niche and limited category.

But if you’re able to write a good story and have characters that people connect to, I don’t think it matters what the story is centered around. I think anime and animation fans just want a good storyline. When I was attending comic conventions leading up to the Kickstarter release, there were so many different types of people, of all races and ages, that stopped at the booth and were interested in everything that we were doing. There’s something about these characters and story that any and everyone can connect and relate to.

Tell us a bit more about Slick. What makes him relatable? Why should we care about him and his struggle?

Slick is around 19-years-old and wants to be the Universe’s next biggest Rap artist. He’s driven by the desire to make that dream come by any means necessary. This is why he hastily signs a contract that unknowingly locks him into being a hit-man for hire. Slick puts on this tough guy persona, but is actuality nothing like that at all. Faking the funk causes him to get into a lot of trouble.

Usually qualities like those make you dislike a character, but I feel as though those are the same qualities that make him endearing. The reason Slick acts like this is because he’s at the point in his life where he’s trying to find himself and what he stands for. He’s continually making mistakes and growing, which is what we all do. I think the situations and environment he’s in amplifies those struggles and allows the viewer to reflect on themselves through Slick.

Are any of the characters inspired by people we may recognize? If so, who?

Unless you grew up with me, I doubt you’ll recognize anyone in the cartoon. But because I drew a lot of influence from people I know in real life, I feel as though a lot of people will be able to say “Oh yeah, I know someone like that.”

Being able to create those real and relatable characters was one of the big reasons I wanted to create a story like this. I wasn’t seeing a lot of stories that had characters that spoke, dressed, or looked like myself or my friends/family. Since I didn’t see those characters on television I decided to create them myself.

Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign?

I’m super excited about this Kickstarter campaign! We’re looking to raise funds to create an action-based animated short. The music is going to be set to one of the songs we recorded at Grammy Award winning House Studios DC. After we complete the short, we plan on doing a festival run and will continue to push to get the full animated series green-lit.

Some of the rewards available are posters, sit-ins on future studio sessions, and being drawn into the animated short. One of the rewards that I’m really excited about is the 5-inch vinyl toy. It was a collaboration with The 3D Hero, and I’m loving how it came out.

Another special aspect of this Kickstarter campaign that I’m really excited about is the free webcomic that we’re going to be releasing. I wanted to release it as a thank you to everyone that’s been supporting me throughout this whole process. Each Monday throughout the campaign I’ll be releasing a section of the comic which will pick up where the previous week left off. The illustrations for the webcomic were done by the super talented Icky H. from London, UK. We’re going to be releasing it through WebToons, but people will be able to go to Blue Geek Music starting August 28th to read it.

How else can people support The Indies?

If people can’t donate to the Kickstarter, then they can share it with friends and family. The more conversations people are having about The Indies, the better chance we have of not only successfully funding the Kickstarter, but also getting this on television.

Also, make sure to support animations that are putting out dope content. Tyler the Creator is about to drop a new show and Ian Jones-Quartey’s show just launched. There’s also the guys at Noir Caesar that are running their Kickstarter for the super dope movie Primus 7 right now. If we all support dope programming, Hollywood will be forced to deliver those quality shows that speak directly to us.

Check out the Kickstarter Page


*Ayara Pommells is Editor-In-Chief of and a freelance writer for several outlets. She is also a member of Rap’s first Performing Arts Group, The Black Opera. Follow @ErykahYah.