For the last eight years, FreeSol has represented Memphis lovely. Although the quintet admits that their home city is still learning to properly embrace them, their sound is a healthy dose of goovy Soul, Jazz and Hip Hop. Calling themselves a "Hip Hop" band, the outfit's vocalist Free began as a rapper with Stetsasonic-like dreams of creating a band to back him. Pulling from musicians from the streets, the church and other bands, FreeSol was born.
While the city along the mighty Mississippi is still getting hip to FreeSol, one early supporter was one of Memphis' superstars, Justin Timberlake. Around the same time the former 'N Sync front-man awakened critics and R&B fans with his FutureSex/LoveSounds, he signed FreeSol to his imprint. While the four years since have been long and challenging for the band still in search a break, they all admitted to DXnext that it's also made them better as musicians and tighter-knit.
With their RockNRolla mixtape (hosted by DJ Benzi) recently released - and featuring Three 6 Mafia and Outasight, the group is gearing up for a summer climb, leading to a Lollapolooza show next month). DXnext rapped with its first Hip Hop band in over a year, giving you that Mclemore Avenue groove.
Unlikely Beginnings: "I met [Kickman] Teddy and Premo [Danger] on the street. I was sellin' [my Rap] CDs. I was tryin' to start a band, and they were tryin' to start a band, and we kind of met at the same time. A month later, we ended meeting Elliott. I think from the beginning, I always had a desire to fuse music. To me, that's what Hip Hop has always been - [built off of] Rock and Jazz, whether it be Digable Planets or back in the day with Run-DMC to Linkin Park to whatever. I've always been into that, me personally. So just wanting to do something more live, that was my interest, my goal," said emcee/vocalist Free.
FreeSol's drummer, Kickman added, "When I first heard what [Free] had to offer, he came out to my truck and popped [the CD] in. I immediately heard his style, his delivery was different than the basic emcee, Hip Hop, Rap. Then, I had always heard Premo as an R&B cat [despite that I heard him playing in church]. The way this came together, damn."
Free chimed back in to say, "The first rehearsal, we jammed for four hours. I was just freestylin'."
Hometown Hopefuls: "I think it's kind of held against us, especially here in the city. We're more accepted in areas other than Memphis," said Kickman. Free clarified, "Us being from Memphis is the only reason we have the sound we have. There's so many different sounds, in the middle of the country. There's a lot of [similar bands], but noboy's really done it the way that FreeSol's done it. The reason that is is because of where we're from and where we met."
Elliott, the group's guitarist and vocalist said, "There's a lot of southern influences in our music. You hear Free's twang, you hear the church, you hear Blues music. Me and my playing, everything I do is influenced by the city. All the players here totally made me who I am. I love the grit and the grime of Memphis, and capturing it, without sounding like a Booker T. & The M.G.'s [cover band]."
Taking A Band To Hip Hop Producers Like Jim Jonsin, No I.D. & Others: "We all produce music," Elliott said. "The mixtape, we did ourselves. We all wear different hats. Getting together with big producers is an education. You have to go in humble, because this whole experience has been humbling. We've waited a long time to get here. We've kind of been thrown around in this development phase, and it's been diffucult. But we walk into it with open-arms. But we become better band members."
Free added, "Every time we walk in with someone, it's different. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work. We've worked with No I.D., and I think that was more of a tracking session. When we went in there with Jim Jonsin, that was more of a factory - you've got a bunch of songs and studios going on at the same time. Justin [Timberlake] allows you to do you - bring your music to the table and then add to it. There were times when no one touched it. It just depends."
Patience Is A Virtue: FreeSol's keyboardist Premo said, "Over the last eight years, we've developed way more than a corporate relationship. We view each other as brothers."
Go Deejay: "Having a deejay really helps with live shows, going from song to song, getting the people into it, or hyping that crowd. That image of seeing that emcee and deejay is important," said Free, who considers himself the Rap delegate of FreeSol. "This is a Hip Hop band, fused with Pop, fused with Soul, fused with Jazz. But at the end of the day, the deejay is essential."
Justin Timberlake's Hand In FreeSol's Development: "It's been long. [Laughs] It's been challenging," admited Free. "[Justin Timberlake] is unbelievable in the studio, as well as his memory. I was writing a verse one time. He looked over my shoulder, read the verse with me, and when I went into the studio to record it, he remembered it - from reading it one time. He's intimidating, his level of photogenic memory and everything. He's on another page. He challenges us. It's been an uphill battle. When we were getting close to that uphill, he found a way of encouraging us. Even though he's a young guy, he's a wise spirit." The emcee says that time has proved JT all the wiser though. "There were periods in the middle where we thought it was taking too long or he was too busy of whatever-whatever. I can honestly tell you now that I wouldn't change a single step. Everything that happened for us till now, is for a reason."