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Interview: Musicians Roahn Hylton and Jacob Yoffee Detail Creative Process in Scoring ‘Free Meek’

Amazon’s latest documentary series titled Free Meek follows Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill’s ongoing battle for freedom. Executive produced by Jay-Z, the chilling yet captivating docuseries details Meek’s legal struggles, from when he was first arrested in 2007 to present time where he is still fighting to be exonerated from the initial charges that haunt him 12 years later.

Approached by showrunner Michael John Warren, musicians Roahn Hylton and Jacob Yoffee were given the task to score the five-episode docuseries which released August 9th. Free Meek is the fourth project that Yoffee and Hylton have collaborated on. Although Yoffee has jazz roots and Hylton has a hip-hop/pop background, the two composers have come to understand one another and speak the same musical language.

Meek Mill’s son, Papi Williams in ‘Free Meek’. Image via Amazon Video

When scoring Free Meek, Yoffee and Hylton wanted “to fill in the gap between what his [Meek’s] music does and what the story needed.” The duo was inspired by the story being told on-screen when creating these complex pieces. “One of the main emotions that came to me was inspiration and seeing him use that same energy to literally free hundreds of other people in his same situation…I thought it was very impressive,” Hylton revealed when asked about the emotional effect learning Meek’s story had on him while watching the docuseries and working on the pieces.

When creating the pieces, the duo drew inspiration from several different areas, including Meek’s music. Hylton recalled a phone conversation they had with Michael John Warren.”He used some specific words to describe the feelings that he wanted to illicit with the project, and one of the main ones was trauma. We were playing around with words like ‘trauma’, ‘visceral’, ‘PTSD’ and we wanted to literally be inspired by those emotions.” Yoffee went further to say they “had to figure out how to show the vulnerability, the idea of isolation…the very real situation of an individual fighting a massive system.”

Image via Amazon Video

The pieces created by this dynamic duo tell a story on their own. When listening to the tracks, there are varying emotions that take the audience on a soul-stirring journey. The piece “Perseverance,” which was played in episode 5 “Free, Not Free” is a chilling yet victorious track. Hylton discussed how they wanted to “encapsulate emotions from Civil Rights era jazz, but at the same time Maybach music…so the listener could feel uplifted.” The pieces created for this project have unique names such as “Uphill Battle” and “Voiceless Men,” and Yoffee explained that “the names were based off of where they were used in  the show. ‘Voiceless Men’ was written specifically for…when Meek was coming out and he decided to give a voice to all the voiceless men in prison and to build the reform alliance.”

Both Hylton and Yoffee agreed that “Perseverance” is their favorite piece that they created for the series. Yoffee expressed that “thematically it bridges so many things. The way it supports the protest sequence in episode 5…just gives me chills,” while Hylton added that “this piece, the style and how it was created perfectly incapsulates what the story is about.”

Composers, Jacob Yoffee and Roahn Hylton. Image via YouTube

As musicians, Yoffee and Hylton “felt it was their job to humanize the story” and to make music that would allow the audience to feel the depth of Meek’s sorrow and to feel his victories.

Free Meek is out now and available on Amazon Video.

Featured Image: Priscilla Jimenez

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I'm a 19-year-old sophomore at GWU. Love reading, writing, and music, but I'm also interested in social justice and equality. #UnapologeticallyBlack #BLM

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