Music plays a big role in “Morris From America,” the story of a 13-year-old African-American boy who moves to Heidelberg, Germany. While unable to make friends at his new school, Morris has a ’90s rap-loving dad (Craig Robinson) who tries to be his friend. Ultimately, Morris takes his frustration out in the music he writes.
To create the film’s music, director Chad Hartigan turned to Wild Cub frontman Keegan DeWitt, who mixed original retro-sounding hip hop with a selection of EDM.
“The idea was to always have the music we made for the film feel authentic but not distracting,” wrote Hartigan. “It could be from today, it could be from the ’90s, but really just existed in our movie. Same with the EDM and party music. It was very important to Keegan and I that both these elements not feel like one person’s attempt to copy those genres, but songs that could stand up to scrutiny from teenagers who actually like that type of music.”
You can give the mixtape — which was originally handed out as a promotional item during Sundance — DeWitt created from the soundtrack below:
Here’s Keegan on the score:
In many ways, the score for “Morris From America” was a double-edged sword. We knew that, if we were succeeding, people would never even realize there was score and just leave thinking that they had to get their hands on the soundtrack. Just as Chad threw himself into a world outside of his own, I had to do the same. Digging in to create Hip Hop and EDM that felt genuine. For Hip Hop, I wanted to come from an authentic place and the first thing I loved growing up was De La Soul and Del The Funky Homosapien. I felt like that type of hip hop also helped harness the innocence and positivity of the script versus making a joke of this little kid listening to some super aggressive trap music. Jay Stone’s raps encapsulated that perfectly as well. Really innovative and quirky, but with some reality to them, and he was really game for experimenting with me. For the EDM, I wanted to make sure that it felt intimidating. It was important that, as Morris approaches the party under the bridge, you feel that lump in his stomach as the music his thumping aggressively inside. I flew out to Berlin and went to some real shows and clubs with Chad while we worked to make sure we were nailing the vibe as accurately as possible.