Jamie Laurie aka Jonny 5 has devoted the better part of his adult life to becoming a radical force for change. How? As the frontman and founder of the Denver-based conscientious and popular hip-hop band, Flobots, Jonny 5 is of the strong belief that music is probably more powerful than we know. And he uses it discerningly as a tool to connect, mobilize and engage people.
A paraeducator at East High School in Denver, Colorado, Jonny 5 left East High School when the Flobots were signed by Universal in 2008 following the smash success of their single ‘Handlebars’ from their first album, Fight with Tools.
But how did he get such a funky name? From a naive, well-meaning sort of futuristic-looking experimental military robot called Johnny Five from a 1986 movie called ‘Short Circuit’. “Something about the robots personality struck a chord with me,” he once claimed.
Over the years, Jonny 5 and the flobots have gone on to create great music. But there’s definitely a lot more to the band’s songs than just good music. Jonny 5’s revolutionary attitude, for one, is legendary.
Outspoken and with a distinct socio-political voice, Jonny 5 has been participating in and leading social-movement training workshops around the country. And his songs reflect the frustration and anticipation of a new generation of activists navigating the seemingly intractable environmental and economic crises.
Johny 5 attempts to get people to raise their voices in unison about the black lives matter movement and minorities disadvantage to white privilege, a laudable mission and a heartfelt one, his work is far from done.
On the Black Lives Matter movement, he said, it’s important that we never disempower ourselves, no matter our identity. Because that can become an excuse to do nothing. You have to find ways to speak to others so they can hear and understand you.
The band is part of the Rock Against the TPP roadshow, a massive effort to sound the alarm about the toxic backroom deal that is the Trans-Pacific Partnership scheduled to take place in Boston.
On how the song Handlebars came about: "The song is about the idea that we have so much incredible potential as human beings to be destructive or to be creative. And it's tragic to me that the appetite for military innovation is endless, but when it comes to taking on a project like ending world hunger, it's seen as outlandish. It's not treated with the same seriousness.
On marches and Denver’s MLK Day ‘marade’: “The isolation of the Internet threads threaten to pull us inward and constrict us. But in community, conversations can spark personal transformation that leads to real change.”
He also believes that his tours allow him to connect with organizers and activists doing important social justice work across America.