On Tuesday morning, two Chicago brothers, Nick Demeria and Christian Ferrer, and their friends Vic and Pre met me at the UIC Radio station for an interview. I’d witnessed this group called FreeFAM in action at a Music Garage concert for independent rap artists this summer. Performing as NV and Cheech Beats respectively, Nick (lyrics and vocals) and Christian (beats) absolutely stunned their audience as they provided the closer for the concert.
I’m not in the habit of repping amateur musicians. So if my usual abstinence from this topic doesn’t speak for itself, I encourage you to see for yourself. Thirty seconds on Sound Cloud, Spotify, or YouTube will prove that this article doesn’t break my usual rule. There’s nothing amateurish about the group I spoke with Tuesday.
After we managed to fit enough chairs for the five of us in the studio, I broke out the questions.
FreeFAM has expanded from a young rap artist to a musical theme, visible style, and legal corporation since we met in July. I started by asking the group to describe the set-up of FreeFAM Inc. What exactly did they do, and how?
Nick and Christian explained their intent to help others produce music while supporting their own sound. This means being the studio and providing engineering, mixing, and mastering under the FreeFAM name. When I asked what goals they had for their new Inc, Nick immediately responded that the most important thing is to keep an open mind so they didn’t find themselves limited in the future. The potential for this group to master the artistic and administrative side of the music industry seems unlimited and inevitable, given their collective energy, creativity, and eagerness to hear what others have to contribute.
I felt too clichéd asking which artists had influenced his style, but when the possibility of FreeFAM becoming a label was mentioned, I asked the group what they’d look for in an artist they’d like to sign, assuming they wouldn’t limit themselves to rappers. The unanimous verdict was drive. “They’ve gotta have the work ethic,” Christian commented. There also had to be meaning, or a point to their music. When Nick added that they didn’t want to hear drill music, Pre, Vic, and Christian wrinkled their noses and shook their heads. But of course, you can’t have a point if you don’t have the talent. “Lots of people have a positive message, but not that sound, and it’s not appealing to the people who need that message,” Nick explained. He used Christian rap as an example of quality music, quality message, but lacking the appeal to get to where it was needed most.
Listening to FreeFAM’s music, you get a feeling of nostalgia, unity, and a humble confidence that’s unique in hip-hop. I mentioned this to Nick and he laughed and told me that the cocky artist is an overplayed stereotype. “Not everybody can be Kanye,” he mentioned. He preferred to show that he took nothing for granted and valued what he’s been given, what he earned, and his connections.
This theme of fraternity is omnipresent in each FreeFam track. I was curious how he ensured the message gets across in his writing—surely consistency across years of work isn’t easily earned. Nick shrugged his shoulders and recommended artists should “Practice what they preach.” “It definitely also helps that we’re brothers,” Christian laughed. FreeFAM Inc. certainly stands out in the world of hip hop because its founding members are actually family members, including one business-merchandising mom and one legal-advising uncle. With familial support driving their music’s success, it’d be pretty hard to keep that appreciation from accenting each song.
Practicing what Nick preaches also includes staying in touch with independent creative sources at their roots. He mentioned open mic nights and events at Young Chicago Authors. “The first time I went to YCA really shaved down my ego,” he told us. The appreciation these artists have for these experiences are what keep FreeFAM’s writing aware and self-reflective.
One thing you’ll notice listening to FreeFAM’s music is the energy that comes across in the writing and the performance. You can witness this live or in their recently released music video for “Guarantee,” but Nick rarely stops moving. When I pointed this out, all four artists chuckled. “You can’t write a club banger sitting down,” Nick offered, and explained his writing process. Each track has a specific emotion he wants to convey, so each has to be approached differently. “Not every song is meant for bringing your problems out in the open. Some are meant as an escape.”
My last open question was a curiosity about the genre in general. I asked if the group thought it was possible to make rap less excluding without selling out. After some silent head-shaking, Nick decided that if you begin with a positive message, and maintain the same vibes throughout your career, it doesn’t matter if you get a bigger audience. He rolled his eyes. “Everyone wants to get money, and who cares?” The trick is to be consistent. And it probably wouldn’t help if you only get a starting niche audience with a negative message that doesn’t leave any room for growth. “And you should be your own boss,” Christian interjected. Everyone nodded.
So what’s next for these guys? Well…
- A new song “Make a Toast” is dropping next week; in fact, Nick plans to drop a new song each week for one month to promote their music. Keep an eye on their Sound Cloud here, the FreeFAM Facebook, and search them up on Spotify.
- November 4th: Music Garage concert on the West Side (these are awesome and cost about $10—highly recommended!)
- November 16th-17th: FreeFAM will be visiting Denver and hitting up some local venues.
- “Running through my Mind” will soon have a video!
This is the near-future. Long term, the group sees more trademarking and legitimization of their music to add to their professionalism and credibility. With more videos and more shows, of course. But when I initially asked the group what’s next, Christian immediately said, “Ramen! It’s almost lunch time.” I eventually left the studio wishing I could join the freedom family.
Have a Scien-tastic day!