FreeSol Jump “In the Mix” [DJBooth Interview Exclusive]
Photo Credit: Coy Aune
Mentor-protégé relationships in hip-hop are often long-lasting, unshakable, mutually uplifting and, if nothing else, wildly successful. Just ask Dr. Dre and Eminem, Weezy and Drake, Jay-Z and Rihanna, Prince and Sheila E (it wasn’t hip-hop, but hey, it worked). Now music lovers have the pleasure of seeing another partnership added to this list, a partnership that was formed, not to make subtle noise, but to come out the gate with a bang, and maybe a couple of guitar licks too. Yes, it’s Justin Timberlake’s sponsorship for Memphis hip-rock group FreeSol, and with a six-time Grammy-winning multimillionaire as a co-signer, those unfamiliar with FreeSol don’t even need to hear their music to know they’re amazing.
However, it’s always all about the music, and if anyone knows that, it’s FreeSol’s four members Elliott Ives, Premo Danger, Kickman Teddy, and Free. After forming in 2003 and signing to JT’s Tennman Records label in 2006, the soul and rock influenced hip-hop band has been busy making sure their talent and unique sound are seen and heard by everyone perpetually starved for good music. After showing up at the Booth quite a few times with much-welcomed cuts like “No 1 Can Stop Me,” the group prepares to release its new mixtape, Rock n Rolla.
In this exclusive, five-question interview, the members of FreeSol chat with us about the formation of the group and the new material we can look forward to hearing on their upcoming mixtape and future projects.
What is the meaning behind the group’s name, “FreeSol”?
ELLIOTT: Exactly what it says.... free to do whatever... and without rules.
FREE: Yes, "FreeSol" is a state of mind. A decision to never conform to the normal way of doing things... whether it be in music, religion, business, relationships, or life in general.
PREMO: Free to be who we are as artists, musicians, and more importantly, individuals... we accept and respect each other for who we are AND the many different talents and styles that we each bring to the table...making us all "freeSol(s)"
In 2006, the group was discovered (and later signed) by fellow Memphis native Justin Timberlake. Considering J.T.'s musical roots are in country and pop music, were you hesitant to put your rock/hip-hop sound in his hands?
FREE: Not at all! We knew that our sound was a natural pop sound when we started, although it is infused with real Hip-Hop/Rock. I mean, all of our favorites are pop icons in all music genres. Whether it be Prince, OutKast, Rolling Stones, Kanye West, Black Eyed Peas, Police, Nirvana, Kings of Leon, Tupac, etc, we've always been attracted to pop acts. So, when JT showed interest, it felt right and once we had the opportunity to work with him in the studio, any potential fears amongst us were erased immediately because of the amount of talent and knowledge the big homey has about all aspects of music.
ELLIOTT: JT is dope!
TEDDY: Yeah. "Shocked" might be a good word to describe it. But we trusted in him with everything that he told us that he would produce in us.
PREMO: I know I was just excited that someone of JT's caliber took a genuine interest in us. And, with the fact that he's sold millions of records and been in the game for quite some time, I felt confident that we would be okay riding with JT.
You’re currently working with several renowned producers like Jim Jonsin and Cool & Dre. How have they affected your creative process?
PREMO: Each producer we've worked with has been a different wonderful experience in its own way across the board! And furthermore, each has shown us new ways of incorporating our own production methods into our music. Although each producer has their own unique way of "getting it done", the outcome has been the same: we've been walking away with straight up BANGERS!!!!
ELLIOTT: My creative process has become more technologically advanced. It would take me too long to describe how much knowledge I have gained from working with these great producers. Everyone has their own style. No rules!!!
TEDDY: These producers really took us in, embraced what we have as a unit, and enhanced it to create a monster...
FREE: Having the experience of working with Jim Jonsin and Cool and Dre is priceless. I mean, how couldn't it be?? It made us more aware of our talents, we learned more about the recording process, we built strong relationships with these writers and producers, and we learned tons of tricks about recording and performing. We're true lovers of music and our profession, so whenever given the opportunity to learn, we become sponges of knowledge... soaking up all the wisdom we need to be successful at what we do.
Your most recent Booth feature, “No 1 Can Stop Me,” discusses how you’re…well, unstoppable. What obstacles have you faced and how have you overcome them?
ELLIOTT: Ask Free.
FREE: Well first of all, in October we've been a band for eight years! When we began, no one was interested in what we were doing. I couldn't even get the lame DJs in Memphis at that time to play or support any of our music, even though we were packing out local venues weekly! The majority were into the dirty south movement (which was all about simplicity, both in rhymes and music) and crunk, while we were mixing live hip hop, soul, pop, and rock underneath rhymes with both fast and slow rhythmic patterns and melodic hooks, and choruses. Many people told us we would have to move to NYC, or even overseas, to succeed because they believed southerners wouldn't understand our music. But, in the midst of opposition we did get encouragement from Carlos Brody (legendary Memphis producer - Wu Tang, Biggie Smalls, Yo Gotti, etc). Carlos told me that we were ahead of the game and that we would know when our time is near once the industry begins to shift towards what we've already been doing. Those words became prophetic because I would say that the industry has changed, and consumers are more interested in music fusions now more than ever! Which obviously makes it great for us because that's what we do and have been doing for years!
TEDDY: So we've been to hell and back but we're still fighting like champs. I've experienced lack and having to be patient for the things I know that's needed although it's kept us waiting... but I just keep faith and never gave up.
PREMO: Yeah, if this process (getting signed and waiting our turn), has taught us nothing else, a sure lesson that's been learned is PATIENCE and HUMILITY! There have been times where we didn't really know how we were gonna make through as a band, but here we are four years later, still together and about to win. Times of not really knowing how I would keep the roof over my family's heads or how I would feed them really tested my character as a person, and even more as a MAN. But here I am and I honestly can say that I believe God has already written this story and HE's honestly got my (OUR) back! No matter what comes at us, NOTHING WILL STOP US!
June 16, will see the release of your DJBooth.net-hosted mixtape “Rock n Rolla.” What type of impact do you hope this project can have on the masses?
FREE: We came up with the "RocknRolla" idea to give the people an idea of what we, as a band, are trying to accomplish. We took AC/DC, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, The Police, and etc, and "FreeSol"ed them in order to paint the picture that we are a rock band from the dirty south, with a focus and love for hip hop... and the desire to be popular!
PREMO: I hope that it will only inspire and maybe even challenge someone to think outside the box as we feel we did with this mixtape... And maybe even prepare the world for whats about to drop when that NEW FreeSol album drops in the near future!
Final thoughts? Confessions? Shout outs?
FREE: I think the future is now. Genres are beginning to clash, mix, and breed. The consumer is intelligent and capable of handling sophisticated entertainment with wide boundaries or boxes with penetrable walls... or no walls. To be just a rapper is almost boring... so is to be simply a jazz muscian, a rock band, or R&B artist. The music industry may be accusing the consumer of not buying music, but I think the consumer has made a stand against mediocrity. I'm not saying that we are the "second coming", but I know the masses will respect what we do because our genuine love for what we do is obvious and shown through our music - it isn't simply a desire to be filthy rich! But hey, to be rich doing what we do would be nice too!!
PREMO: So we just wanna thank everyone for their continued to support over the years! Thank you so much for being faithful to us! The wait is ALMOST over! FreeSol crew...Lets Do This!!!
TEDDY: Shout out to the Tennman Crew, Interscope, and everyone who took hand in making this all happen!
ELLIOTT: Huss Hard!!!!!!