Two weeks after Barack Obama delivered his “Yes We Can” speech in Nashua, New Hampshire, the Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am assembled an all-star cast of musicians and actors (including Common, John Legend and Scarlett Johansson) to appear on his “remix” of the speech and the accompanying video , an arty, black-and-white clip that quickly became a YouTube sensation, racking up more than 4 million views.
Now, two weeks after Obama delivered another speech — this one from his hometown of Chicago, after a triumphant Super Tuesday in which he won 14 states — Will is at it again, booking time in a Los Angeles studio to record yet another pro-Obama tune.
“Right now, since we’re in the early stages, I think the song is gonna be called ‘We Are the Ones.’ It’s inspired by a line in his speech after Super Tuesday, when he was in Chicago: ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for,’ ” he told MTV News. “It lit another inspirational fire in me when he said that in his speech. So I decided to get to work on another track. We’re lining up people to appear on it right now, and that’s the easy part, because people are just passionate to want to be a part of it. There’s no casting … the inspiration is the casting director.”
Though the “Ones” project is still in the early stages, MTV News heard a snippet of the song, and, in keeping with the spoken-word feel of his “Yes We Can” track, it’s pretty minimal: little more than some Rhodes piano chords, some “We Will Rock You” handclaps and a chanted chorus of “O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma!”
“I kept it real simple and bare to the bones because it’s really more about what people are saying,” Will said.
So far comedians/actors George Lopez and John Leguizamo have recorded spoken parts for the track, and a publicist for the project told MTV News Jessica Alba, Ryan Phillippe, Ben McKenzie, Macy Gray and the Black Eyed Peas’ Tabu are slated to participate. And rumor has it that Beyoncé is trying to clear up her schedule to make an appearance too. The whole thing is coming together with a spur-of-the-moment kind of feel (in the studio, Will was collaborating with a New York-based percussionist via online chat service Skype), and it looks like that’s the way it’ll be until the song is finished.
“I’m here in the studio, doing the new Obama song, then I leave tonight, head straight for the airport, take the files with me on the airplane, and I’ll be finishing my part of the song in the air,” Will explained. “When I land — every airport has Internet — then I’ll send what I did on the airplane back to have them edit the video, so then in 24 hours, half the video will be done.”
It seems like an awful lot of work for a guy who hasn’t even been contacted by Obama’s campaign. “I don’t expect to. If I did, I would be worried. … If the phone call comes in, like, ‘Hey, this is Barack Obama, I want to talk to you,’ I’d be like, ‘Uh, hey dude. You should be running for president. I’ll talk to you later,’ ” Will laughed. But he sees it as his civic duty, his chance to sway potential voters and get them interested in the candidate that Will thinks can change everything, the candidate that has personally inspired him.
“When we were in high school, junior high and elementary, they made us recite speeches: ‘Four score and seven years ago,’ ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ And we remember those lines, it was part of our homework,” he said. “And these kids nowadays, there’s no one in the political world that says anything that kids want to recite. It’s all fear tactics and things like that. Agendas that go over kids’ heads. … But here’s this man named Barack Obama, who, for the first time in a long time, is gonna be part of [kids’] homework assignments to recite these words.
“And there’s a lot of skeptical people out there who say, ‘Well, those are just words.’ But I say, ‘When was the last time words didn’t mean anything? When was the last time you didn’t use words to define how you felt, or describe the things you want to achieve?’ ” he continued. “Words are powerful. Words and images together are powerful. Words, music and images are even more powerful. So I wanted to do my part with the ‘Yes We Can’ song, and the result of that has inspired me to no end. The youth in America is waking up. The slumber is gone. We can’t continue to do things in the dark, now that someone has turned on the light. … It’s beautiful.”