Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project (2013) is a collaborative album initiated Grammy-nominated pianist/composer Vijay Iyer and poet/emcee Mike Ladd. Three years in the making, the album focuses on veterans of color who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Holding It Down blends the dream reports of young veterans with music, poetry, and song.
The album continues in the politically searing style of the Iyer and Ladd's previous collaborations: What Language? (2004), based on interviews with people of color in airports, and Still Life with Commentator (2007), an oratorio about 24-hour news culture. Holding It Down rounds out a trilogy about American life over a decade of war.
Holding It Down was commissioned and premiered at Harlem Stage in New York City. Along with theater director Patricia McGregor, Mike Ladd interviewed scores of veterans, focusing in particular on the visions they experience while sleeping, which are by turns disturbing and mundane, ranging from combat-related nightmares and stress dreams, to comically surreal fantasies.
Ladd's lyrical adaptations of these accounts are juxtaposed with Iyer’s music, and accompanied by first-person poetic contributions from Maurice Decaul, a writer who served with the Marines in Iraq, and Lynn Hill, who served in the Air Force and was tasked with piloting drones over Afghanistan from a base in Las Vegas.
—From Pi Recordings album notes 2013