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Things That Matter
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Things That Matter

Description: Fourth student album with Hill-Freedman World Academy; 2019–2020

“If I don’t speak up, who else is gonna do it?

If I don’t speak out, who else is gonna do it?

You can complain or you can make improvements.

You can sit down or stand up and start a movement.”

—From “Things That Matter,” lyrics, music, vocals & production by Jehmir Nixon, 9th grade

Since 2016, we have been in partnership with Philadelphia public high school Hill-Freedman World Academy, collaborating with Music Technology Teacher Ezechial Thurman in support of his program and Hill-Freedman Records, the school’s record label, part of the IB Design/Music Technology curriculum of the school’s International Baccalaureate Programme. Our partnership with Hill-Freedman represents our commitment to be a place where artistry meets social impact.

In 2020, Hill-Freedman Records released THINGS THAT MATTER, an album of 20 original student songs co-produced by World Cafe Live, the fourth album on which we have partnered. Begun as an in-school project in the fall of 2019, the collaboration shifted to Zoom in April 2020 once schools shut down due to the pandemic. The album stands as a testament to the creativity and voices of young people speaking to a turbulent moment in our country.

A team of acclaimed Philly artists from World Cafe Live—composer/producer Andrew Lipke, hip hop artist Chill Moody and songwriter/producer Kristal “Tytewriter” Oliver—joined Mr.Thurman and ArtistYear fellow Justin Jaramillo and marketing and promotion teaching artist Ikeya Sade to collaborate with the students. Students created samples, original beats and digital tracks and composed poetry and lyrics. When the pandemic struck, students and adults committed to making the album virtually. Though it was not a required activity, the project became a passion for a core of more group of students. The result was a process of Zoom meetings and home production, online recording sessions and collaboration-by-text.

The murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the need to confront systemic racism and injustice in society challenged, outraged, and inspired the student artists. Songs on this album call for speaking up, standing up, and needing to move from cynicism to action. The title track, written, produced, and performed by 9th grader Jehmir Nixon, takes its name from Martin Luther King Jr’s declaration, “Our lives begin to end the day that we become silent about things that matter.” The lead-off track, “Show Me,” written, produced and performed by 11th grader Samuel Smith, begins with the honest question, “Don’t you think we’re tired of this,” and moves on to proclaim, “We use our voices to create a solution.”

“I hope that it helps people see what we see,” 11th grader Camya Bradley said of the album, “and that if they were asleep to the things in the world, I hope it wakes them up.”

Project Team

Songwriting, Music Composition & Production Teaching Artists: Andrew Lipke; Chill Moody; Kristal Oliver; Ezechial Thurman
Marketing & Promotion Teaching Artist: Ikeya Sade
ArtistYear Fellow: Justin Jaramillo
Poetry Teaching Artists: Jasmine Combs; Trapeta Mayson
WCL Producer: David Bradley

Vocal producing by Kristal Oliver. Album engineered & mixed by Andrew Lipke, Kristal Oliver & Ezechial Thurman. Mastered by Andrew Lipke.

Thanks to our supporters

Support for this album was provided in part by:

The Barra Foundation; CHG Charitable Trust; Councilwoman Cherelle L. Parker, 9th District; The Horner Foundation; The Independence Foundation; LiveConnections Kids Count Campaign; Patricia Kind Family Foundation; The Philadelphia School Partnership; The Philadelphia Activities Fund; The Presser Foundation; The Scholler Foundation; The School District of Philadelphia; The Seybert Foundation; Spring Point Partners; The Wyncote Foundation.