If you’ve seen actress/performer Condola Rashad as high-powered attorney Kate Sacker on Billions, you know the way she can work the room in a suit. But under the musical moniker of Dola, she’s set up a vast blank canvas onto which she can paint any kind of cosmic vision she likes. As she tells MTV News, her dynamic new visual for “Running in Place,” which premieres today (May 22), “brought me to a very Victorian place.”
That’s only part of the story. “Running in Place” is the third release from her EP Space Daughter, which she calls her “playful ode to the divine feminine.” As such, each visual so far has had its own distinct vibe and aura. “Running in Place” is, in Dola’s words, “a moody song about the death of mystery brought about by the taking over of dating apps.” And the vision, which she co-directed, brings that particular tragedy to life.
For each of Space Daughter‘s visual treatments, Dola herself appears as the titular being, ushering in a different side of herself and the journey. “The idea is that at the top of each video, she does something that basically allows her to manifest into another version of herself, to tell a different story of herself. Her story,” Dola said. By the end of the violet-tinged “Running in Place” video, a black-clad mourning Dola even lies down flowers at a headstone that reads “R.I.P. Mystery.” “I like when I meet somebody, not knowing everything about them. And there’s something about the dating apps where you do the whole background check before you even meet the person.”
This wasn’t quite her idea from the jump; in fact, it took a bit of distance to discover, which she did while listening back to the Space Daughter songs she created with collaborators.
“All of 2019 was manifestation year for me. I drew up these mood boards. I drew up these treatments and these outlines for these videos last January. And then we filmed these in August,” she said of the ambitious Space Daughter project. She knew once she found the song’s bridge — anchored around the lyrics “swipe to the left then we swipe to the right” — that one of the video’s central images would be based around a smartphone. “I knew I wanted choreography with the cell phone. I knew that. I was like, ‘You have to be dancing with this cell phone! I know that.'”
That dancing comes via Dola and flanked support all seated in corsets in a Victorian interior, the set design matching the song’s baroque strings. But the phones in their hands are purposeful anachronisms. “I liked that juxtaposition between something that was antique and modern,” she said. “I knew I wanted that in the same image, of the constriction of what it is that I feel sometimes with dating apps.”
She’s also felt walled in about her sound as an artist, which doesn’t always follow along straight lines. She views the musical and visual components of “Running in Place,” for example, as “a beautiful mix of Stevie Wonder and Tim Burton.” But her previous Space Daughter entries — the gentle, elemental “Blue” and the sensual, bombastic “Give Up the Gold” — couldn’t be more different from that vibe (and from each other).
“What excites me is, as you could see from ‘Give Up the Gold’ or ‘Running in Place,’ [is how] I think people are all going to be, ‘Wait, what? Where are we going now?'” she said.
Dola still has several new shades of herself to reveal as she rolls out the rest of Space Daughter. But what’s consistent, even if the music itself varies from track to track, is the inspiration. “To me, I just felt like, even as an actor, my work is inspired by music. Every single character I’ve played has had a playlist that always builds from musical pieces,” she said. “So it’s truly shaped the way that I walked through my life.”
To that end, Dola is donating 100 percent of her personal proceeds of “Running in Place” during June, July, and August to benefit VH1’s Save the Music Foundation — which will aid in music education at an unprecedented time due to the coronavirus pandemic. “As schools are moving towards remote learning, these music students and teachers have kind of lost the ability to express themselves at school and in person, and a lot of these students have limited technology at home,” she said. “So I appreciated doing what they can to make sure that the students continue to learn about making music in these limited ways.”
See that inspiration in action by checking out Dola’s “Running in Place” video when it drops later today.