Addressing the current issues of today, DJ Hardwerk is doing his part to contribute to the world in its time of need. From police brutality, dirty politics to disease, we’re all experiencing some scary times. This can easily make us all wonder, “How are we going to survive all of this? Will we be okay?”

Joining up with Akon and Shell’s #MakeTheFuture initiative, Hardwerk is taking a stab at contributing to the greatly needed solutions with his new video, “Tell Me We’re OK.” Tackling the need for alternative energy, which Akon is known for specializing in with his Lighting Africa project, the two are creating an awareness for the importance of looking into the issue and helping where possible.

Taking some time out to speak in more detail on the issues at hand, Hardwerk discusses how he got involved with the cause for alternative energy, what it’s like to work with Akon and what plans he has for the future.

Out of all the causes to support, why are you so invested in alternative energy?

Energy like water or clean air is a resource you take for granted until it’s no longer available to you. Imagine your cell phone is almost dead and you can’t get power to recharge it for days and you’ll understand why alternative energy sources are so important. Both of my parents are from Kingston, so I spent a lot of time in Jamaica when I was young. A lot of issues we face in Jamaica are the same issues that plague other third world countries. Akon and I filmed the video for “Tell Me We’re OK” in America, Brazil and on a soccer field in Lagos, Nigeria. We visited places where there was no electricity at all; kids were doing schoolwork by kerosene lamps. When I saw how Shell and the #MakeTheFuture initiative were revolutionizing reusable sustainable energy in the third world countries, it was a no-brainer to invest and partner with experts in renewable energy. 

We saw the “Tell Me We’re OK” video. Can you explain kinetic energy providing power and how that works? 

Under this soccer pitch, over 90 underground Pavegen tiles were installed. Those tiles capture kinetic energy from the footsteps of the soccer players running and alongside panels generate enough energy to power the floodlights. This is groundbreaking for villages in rural areas who will receive electricity for the first time ever. If you go to Africa or any third world country and experience power outages, you’ll understand why it’s important for all of us to be invested in alternative energy. Plus, the possible future applications are endless. Think about being able to light up Times Square with just the energy from the movement of people.

What is it like working with Akon for a cause he’s so invested in?

We have actually been working together for some years now and we started working on this record a little over two years ago. From the jump, we knew the song’s message, “Tell Me We’re OK,” was something special and important. It’s a question that’s on the minds of a lot of people right now, whether it be in politics, race relations or energy in the case of the #MakeTheFuture initiative. It’s the same question, are we gonna be OK? Seeing Akon’s commitment to Lighting Africa was inspiring and the steps he’s taking aren’t just big for for Africa, but the world globally.  There are billions of people in the world without access to basic energy and Lighting Up Africa has provided solar solutions to millions of people in Africa. That’s lit, literally! Since I speak through music, it was natural to add the musical component and align with other people/companies who are working to make a difference.

“Tell Me We’re OK” has an interesting sound; can you tell me about some of the elements you brought musically into the production? 

My goal musically is to always bridge together different worlds or musical influences, so everything from dancehall, reggae, naija music, hip-life, afro-beat, house, trap, R&B or even classical are places I’m constantly sourcing from when I create. In this particular case, we tried a million different versions until we found the right fit that made the most sense sonically with what “Tell Me We’re OK” is saying.

What do you think it is about music that makes it such a great platform to spread your message?

Music is a universal language, whether you understand the lyrics or not, music can move you and make you feel something. Melodies and lyrics have a tendency to stick with people, sometimes more than anything else.  Ask someone in 2016 if they have five phone numbers memorized in their head and you’re lucky if they can give you two, but people know all the verses and the ad-libs to their favorite songs. With Shell’s #Makethefuture being a global initiative and seeing the strives they were trying to make in places that I could relate to, it made sense to add a musical element to the initiative.

How do you plan to move forward with supporting this cause with your craft or otherwise?

On the music side, the single, “Tell Me We’re OK” is available on iTunes. I definitely would love to see the #MakeTheFuture initiative or similar initiatives spread to other places. The kinetic technology is beyond practical. You’re not asking people to do anything they aren’t already doing: walking, running, dancing, playing, sports, etc. One of the biggest focuses of the #MakeTheFuture initiative is to really inspire or spark the next idea or solution. The soccer pitch idea came from young like-minded individuals trying to find a solution to a common problem for billions of people across the planet. If we can inspire one, it’s a job well done.

What’s up next for DJ Hardwerk?

A lot of new music on the way. My EP DJ HardWerk: 1st Shift will be out soon. There are a lot of amazing features and collabs on it; I can’t wait for people to hear 1st Shift. Ive also been in the studio collaborating with a lot of artists for their projects, so there will definitely be no shortage of music coming out