RAW Records, a student-run music label on campus, is back after a nearly two-year hiatus. According to Emma-Cecilia Shahriari (senior), the head of the label, RAW stopped its operations May 2016 after all of the students who oversaw the label graduated. Shahriari said that RAW is now evolving to serve its artists in more ways and expand its reach.
According to Shahriari, RAW is not just a record label, but a multimedia company. Their work includes photography, videography, graphic design and light and sound tutorials. Shahriari said that RAW helps educate their artists about their rights as musicians and prepares them for when they are trying to sign to major or independent labels. They are based out of the audio booth in the Critical Making Studio (CMS) located in the Academic Commons, which is available all week at any time. Shahriari said that it is common for them to work well into the night.
“You can come in here at 2 a.m. and work until 6,” Shahriari said. “It’s what a lot of us do.”
RAW’s restructuring focuses on increasing diversity, according to Shahriari. She said that the old staff was not as diverse as it should have been, and that the music was one of two extremes: garage hip-hop or, as Shahriari put it, Jason Mraz-inspired music.
“A lot of the artists that wanted to sign onto RAW felt very excluded and it wasn’t a space that fostered inclusivity,” Shahriari said.
Currently, the staff of 10 students is entirely people of color, and seven are women, according to Shahriari. Julia Viola Tello (first year), a current staffer, said that creating an inclusive environment is crucial.
“Our goal is to create a creative space for anyone on campus — but specifically students of color — who haven’t had the resources or confidence in the past to explore their musicality or artistry and have it be a welcoming atmosphere,” Tello said. “The way I got into music was through a really collaborative space where the people I learned from and worked with were really supportive and open so that I had an opportunity to express myself.”
Looking ahead, RAW will be partnering with six organizations: KOXY, Black Student Alliance (BSA), Diversity and Equity Board (DEB), Food and Energy Team (FEAST), Food Justice House and Handmade Oxy at FEAST Garden for I-Fest May 1. I-Fest is an all-day food and music festival in which all of RAW’s artists will have time slots to perform. The festival will include a raffle and fundraiser that goes towards all six organizations.
When working with artists, Shahriari said that RAW’s goal is to help bring out whatever vision that the artists see for themselves. She said that if they do not want their music to be streamed too much and would prefer to be more of a session musician, then RAW is happy to provide that. On the flip side, Shahriari said that the label is excited when artists want to be on stage and be represented on a larger scale.
Inez Leon (first year), another staffer, who is an artist and producer, said that the atmosphere of the label has been really fun.
Leon, who has been in the recording studio since she was 13 years old, released her first single “Him” on Spotify March 23. RAW represents and promotes Leon.
“I know what it’s like to be in a studio full of adults who think they know what you want and I never want to bring that kind of energy into a session,” Leon said. “The fact that the label is pretty underground gives us a lot of creative control and room for exploration.”
The new RAW Records label has signed 15 artists, with genres ranging from acoustic ukelele to jazz-inspired hip-hop. According to Shahriari, their biggest acts include DJs and hip-hop artists.Two artists, Tumi Mohapi, a lo-fi rapper and opera singer, and ADR Percussion, a percussive collective, are represented by RAW but do not attend Occidental. She said that they are still looking to attract more diversity in genres.
“We’re really excited in what we have but we don’t want people to feel intimidated that if they’re not a rapper, a DJ or a producer, then they can’t be represented,” Shahriari said.
According to Shahriari, RAW is technically a separate entity from Oxy and does not receive any kind of funding from the school, nor do they have a faculty or alumni adviser. Whether RAW becomes an officially recognized student organization will be up for review when budgets are examined in July for the 2018-19 year.
RAW can be contacted at rawr.oxy.edu, or through their Facebook page.