Meeting the Freedom Family


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.

Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.

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.

Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.

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.

Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.

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.”

Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.


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…

Photo courtesy of FreeFAM Inc.
  1. 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.
  2. November 4th: Music Garage concert on the West Side (these are awesome and cost about $10—highly recommended!)
  3. November 16th-17th: FreeFAM will be visiting Denver and hitting up some local venues.
  4. “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.

Photo by Jamie Leigh.

Have a Scien-tastic day!

Take It Slow

As if my excitement for the upcoming DC Comics film, Suicide Squad, wasn’t flying off the charts already, I recently found out that one of my all-time favorite bands – Twenty One Pilots – would be featuring a brand new song for the movie’s original soundtrack.


The featured track, titled Heathens, was “leaked” onto the deep depths of the interwebs just last week. “Heathens” has a dark melody and haunting lyrics – traits that aren’t uncharacteristic for the band. However, even for Twenty One Pilots, a band that notably writes dark-ish songs such as “Car Radio” and “Stressed Out,” the song was undeniably grim.

As soon as the song dropped, the Skeleton Clique (a nickname dubbed for the TOP fanbase) started making speculations about whether or not there would be more to the sudden release of this song than meets the eye. It turns out that they were right. The following day, news that the song will be featured on the Suicide Squad soundtrack was released, and the Clique went wild.


A few days after the big news, an official audio of the song was uploaded as well as the music video for the single. And let me tell you – the music video is amazing. I can gush about the music video all I want, but ultimately, you’re going to have to see for yourself.


Anyway, you know the drill. If you haven’t heard the song or watched the music video, check it out below! Whether you’re a fan of the comic, film, or band, I’m pretty darn sure you’ll like it.


“You Took me As Safe”: An Interview With Dumbfoundead

Just a few weeks ago, one of my favorite rappers, the LA/ Korea Town native Dumbfoundead (aka Parker), dropped a powerful single titled “Safe.” The track, which states lyrics like “The other night I watched the Oscars and the roster of the only yellow men were all statues/ We a quarter of the population there’s a room of f**kin’ one percenters laughing at you,” talks about some issues that have been very prominent in Hollywood: whitewashing and the discrimination of minorities.

I was recently able to chat with him about his inspiration to write “Safe,” what it means to be an Asian-American, and the importance of being true to your identity. Check out the interview below!

IMG_7434 Continue reading ““You Took me As Safe”: An Interview With Dumbfoundead”

The Manifestation of Sir The Baptist

If you live in Chicago and you haven’t heard of Sir the Baptist, you must be living under a rock. Announcing his signage to Atlantic Records, performing for the GRAMMYS, opening up for Travis Scott and King Louie, and working with Tony Bennett as well as Lee Musiker – he is no foreign music artist. I’m not just saying this because I have become a part of the team. We are more so because he is playing all the top festivals this summer including but not limited to Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch, Afropunk, Thrival, Made in America, and more. His single, “Raise Hell”, premiered on BET and has been streamed almost 2 million times on Spotify.

And let me not just stop there, Sir the Baptist just played Columbia College Chicago’s urban arts and graduation festival, Manifest. You may be wondering what it was like – well fasten your seat belts and get ready for a literary journey as I describe one of the most electrifying performances I have seen to date.

Five minutes before taking the stage, Sir is humbled enough to be in the stage to join the stage of student performers. Seconds before the stage, jumping up and down, sparking a fire within the team, and a prayer to seal it all. The first step onto the stage begins and the transformation starts. He’s in the zone. As he screams, “Whatsup Manifest”, the crowd goes crazy as they roar back with cheers and screams. From song to song, he tells his story as he takes you through the journey of a Preacher’s Kid. It becomes an audible movie but yet visually stimulating with a dynamic gospel choir, a tuba, a full band, and a dancer. On top of that, a choir member flipping into the crowd. At one point the entire performance crew jumped down into the audience to share a connection of dancing and singing while the confetti cannons are going off. Additionally, he gave away his hat that was given to him by Jay Z in New York at TIDAL. If you don’t believe me, just check out this video:



Find more of Sir the Baptist below and catch him on tour below:

Swizz Beatz on Ruff Ryders’ Anthem: “DMX didn’t want to do it” [VIDEO] (by @leofromthego)

By Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images.

Swiss Beatz has accomplished a lot in his time in hip-hop and not many have worked with such a wide spectrum of artists that he has. Swizz has production credits ranging from the likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce to Damian Marley and Gwen Stefani. Yet and still, his work with DMX defines his career and”Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” may go down as the song that defines his production.

So it was interesting to learn from Swizz, that the making of “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” hinged on single solitary bet.

“X was scared of change and he didn’t want to do Stop/Drop (Ruff Ryders’ Anthem) he was like, ‘why you giving me this white boy-rock n’ roll record?’ He thought Stop/Drop was a white rock n roll record because of the yelling and chanting. Him and my uncle Dee (CEO of Ruff Ryders) made a bet and X lost the bet. And than Dee was like ‘ok you lost the bet you gotta do the verses.’ Thats how he did the verses to Stop/Drop cause he lost a bet. He wasn’t even gonna do the verses. Most of the artists that you heard on my records, they didn’t like those records or it wasn’t for them.” (“Rap Radar Podcast”)

Starts at 1:20:55 mark.

It safe to say with the talent and tenacity that both DMX and Swizz Beatz has displayed over the years, that they were bound for success. But sheesh, “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” one hell of a springboard into the game! It brought a new sound to the world, introduced bike life to hip-hop, and ushered in the careers of rap royalty from Eve to Jadakiss and even reinvigorated the career of Jay-Z. Were would hip-hop would be without the”Ruff Ryders’ Anthem?” Scary thought…let’s move on.

By @leofromthego he likes Motts fruit snacks and Real Time with Bill Maher. Follow him!

An Animal Collective Live Retrospective

Baltimore experimental pop group: Animal Collective has been one of my favorite bands for many years now.  For the hardcore fan, the band’s live show have been just as intriguing as their albums. With the release of their new record: Painting With and tonight’s live performance at the Concord, I’d like to share some of my favorite recorded performance from each of AnCo’s live incarnations over the past decade.


The Collective’s earliest tours are surprisingly well documented. Footage from 2001 shows that band at it’s most primal and abrasive. The band had not begun using the samples that would define future live setups, but instead consisted of Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) on drums, Avey Tare (Dave Portner) on guitars, and Geologist (Brian Wietz) running fx and feedback loops. Performances from this period shift from frightening to hilarious rather quickly.


Very little footage exists of the tour leading up to the release of Here Comes The Indian. From what I can tell performances were in the same vain as previous tours only this time even more tribal and Boredoms-esque. The band’s lineup was completed by the addition of guitar player Deakin (Josh Dibb) during this time. That same year, Animal Collective released a freak-folk album under the name Campfire Songs. This would inform the bands subsequent tour and their 4th album: Sung Tongs. This tour saw the band stripped to the acoustic guitar and floor-tom duo of Avey and Panda. The primal energy remains here, but child like vocalizations and Beach Boy harmonies replaced the abrasive noise.


After Sung Tongs proved to be a critical success, the full 4 man lineup made a return and began touring songs for their 5th release Feels. This lineup continued into 2005 and 2006 where the band would debut material from Strawberry Jam. The material here was their most ambient and poppy to date, with electric guitars and samples beginning to be used as a major part of the live instrumentation.


2007 through 2009 is the most well documented period of Animal Collective’s career. Most likely due to the arrival of smart phones combined with the rising popularity of youtube and live-streamed concerts. Over three years of nearly non-stop touring, the band used the live show to develop the tracks that would eventually form their critical and commercial peak: Merriweather Post Pavilion. My favorite footage of the band comes from this era. The use of samplers meant they were able to perform most of their back-catalog, which was often reworked to fit in with the new material. In my opinion this is Animal Collective working at the height of their creative powers.


Since the release of MPP, the band has tour less frequently. The full lineup returned in 2011 for a set of festival dates, leading up to the release of Chz in 2012. Avey Tare developing strep throat multiple times in 2013 plagued the subsequent tour, however the band still played some of their strongest sets during this time.





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The weekend before last I was lucky enough to experience Cousin Stizz live in Wicker Park.

Although he came all the way from Boston, when he stepped onto the the stage you would’ve thought he was at home. The crowd knew every song and never stood still.  Surrounded by colliding bodies and lyrics screamed on both sides of you, you couldn’t help but vibe with him. His name will definitely “ring some bells” next time he’s in Chicago.

Checkout his latest music video for No Bells


Even though the crowd was wild, Stizz’s music has a slightly slowed tone to it. This is relevant in his most recent mixtape Suffolk County (a must listen to for any hip hop fan). Popular tracks like Fresh Prince and Shoutout (cosigned by Drake) illustrate his hypnotic sound.  And while he incorporates beats from various different producers, his sound is consistent throughout the tape.

Specific songs like Real Life and Fed Up stick out to me. Lyrics like, “They dont understand what we be rappin’ about, real life.” and “Meanwhile on the block n***** dropping like flies / Streets always at war man ain’t nowhere you can hide” show that his music is his story book. Be sure to not only enjoy the music when you listen (which isn’t hard) but to really listen to his words. He’s telling you something.


Day In The Life Of Chicago’s Very Own Sir The Baptist

If not now, when? 24 hours is all we have in any given day. Time is free and doesn’t cost us a single dime but time is also the most valuable currency we can spend. Mind boggling, isn’t it? How you choose to spend those 24 hours is truly something precious. Do you ever wonder how a music artist spends their 24 hours? Between interviews, photoshoots, studio sessions, performances, legal agreements, and more – the life of an artist is definitely not an easy task.

Photo by Johnny Fan (yours truly)

Chicago’s very own, rapper-singer, Sir The Baptist, shares with us a video showcasing the behind the scenes of what a day in the life of a music artist looks like. Sir The Baptist calls himself the Urban Monk with a unique genre of his own, the Ghetto Gospel sound. A truly vivid yet complex sound captures the cadence of church. (I dropped a bar right there, yay for alliteration.) Sir’s collaboration with music artists include Chance The Rapper on Surf, Twista, and Logic, among others. With features on Jay Z’s TIDALFakeShoreDrive, Apple Store EventChicago TribuneOkayPlayerWGN RadioSway In The Morning and more, Sir The Baptist is definitely making waves Kanye will hear.

Among other news, Sir The Baptist will be the sole performer at the Chicago’s 58th Grammy Viewing Party at Thalia Hall! RSVP is available! Following the announcement of the Grammy Performance, Sir The Baptist’s “Raise Hell” hits #2 on Spotify’s U.S. Viral Top 50!

Without further ado, here is the Day In The Life of Sir The Baptist below!

Continue reading “Day In The Life Of Chicago’s Very Own Sir The Baptist”

JakÜbi – Warm Weather and Summer Vibes

We’ve been lucky that winter hit us late this year, but when the cold decided to hit, it hit us hard. I thought I’d try to let you guys get a taste of summer through giving you some music that reminds me of the warm weather. I first discovered Jakubi around this time last year and was hooked with their fresh vibe and unique flavor. Jakubi is a Melbourne Australia-based band that consists of 2 brothers, 2 cousins, and a friend that came together to make music that’s equally funky and soulful with a hip-hop flare. They haven’t released a lot of music and there are no rumors of them releasing any big projects any time soon, but it seems like their always on tour. Among the music they do have, I have yet to find any song that disappoints.


Check out “Couch Potato”, their latest single


Listen to their latest EP on Soundcloud

Lupe Fiasco and Boy Illinois Kick Off “Tour For The Fans”, New Video “Day Goes” [Video]

boy illinois

Back in November, Boy Illinois killed the stage with his performance, opening for Lupe Fiasco. And now Illinois is following that up by going on tour with Fiasco, hitting the road on Lupe’s “Tour For The Fans.”  The tour kicks off January 13th in Seattle and ends in Indianapolis Feb 14th.

And that’s not all Illinios is bringing in at the top of the year. Check out his latest video for his track Day Goes, from his latest EP Dusable. Directed by Jaymavaz and produced by Jmixx with cool visuals. Kinda cool, Illinois giving a tip of the hat to the OG Bill Cosby.

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