Adam Fridman, the man better known publicly/digitally/musically as Freeds, is draped over the arched green railing on one of St. Kilda’s busiest intersections, staring into the street. I’m late, “on my way”, affecting a slow stride beneath sun streaked overstory of Acland’s Street’s leafy beginning. It’s the buildings that are slowing me down—as totemic and colonially delusive as anything that appears to be be built out of solid cream can look. They’re mainly ex-mansions, veiled in palm fronds and now vertically split into higher-density homages to luxury, price tag intact. Where my interview with Freeds transpires is a very different homage altogether. I follow Fridman from the intersection he’s staring into, jigsawed with places advertising light breakfast and heavy drinking, to his car. It’s a BMW, another homage to opulence in retrograde. Ordinarily following someone younger than me to their BMW results either in a raft of existential crisis type emotions or recreational drugs. This BMW is different. It’s an early 90s [Author’s Note: 1991 I’m mostly sure] 318i and clad in the kind of high-shine-resistant maroon that is only visible on cars that are either pre-loved or unloved (the former being the case right here in a small carpark half sunken behind St. Kilda’s main strip). The car’s emblem has been recently prised from its hood, leaving the vehicle even more visibly stranded between modern and classic, marooned in both colour and nature. But judging from its spotless shell and fresh interior, his vehicle’s lack of cutting edge cool or vintage class matters to Adam Fridman exactly none. But of course his mode of transport is more like a handy symbol for Freeds’ broader outlook rather than where his outlook begins and ends. [Author’s Note: Not to say the vehicle in question doesn’t possess an importance of a high-grade personal magnitude for Fridman. Au contraire. The maroon BMW is the central object of affection in the song ‘Cartunes’, and is referenced directly in ‘Mango Squarez’: “In my old school Beemer, feelin’ like a Rolls”. The car makes cameos in both videos not entirely unlike Wayne Knight (Newman) did in Seinfeld—starting as an oblique player, but creeping ever closer to a defacto central character] My editor [Author’s Note: poor, poor, poor, poor man] earlier agreed on the whole maroon BMW=Handy Symbol fortuity, so with tenuous (as always) permission, I’ll proceed:
As I reach the 400 words mark, I feel I should make clear, that Freeds is a rapper. [Author’s Note: My (poor, poor poor) editor usually by now will have mercifully broken up the previous text with a video but just in case, thought I’d make this belatedly clear] But he’s a rapper that is swimming in a sort of cross current to a lot of other modern hip-hop, if not musically, then definitely stylistically. Unlike the extreme sheen or carefully graded urban grit of most modern hip hop, Freeds, rather than just being without budget, is almost against budget. Take a look at his video for ‘Cartunes’. [Author’s Note: My (poor, poor etc) editor will almost certainly insert the video here, so go right ahead, I’ll wait.]
As you now have no doubt seen, the video for Cartunes is split between Fridman driving, Fridman with a Warner Bros/Tom and Jerry-type cartoon being projected onto him and Fridman hanging out with 3 other friends, one of whom—I assume the one hunched over a keyboard at various points— is producer Uncledes (pron. ‘Uncle Des). The others are doing what Fridman is doing: wandering down the length of dams, swaying on the roofs of their cars and basically sloping through some thirst-inducing bush. And the visual accompaniment for ‘Mango Squarez’ isn’t dissimilar: Fridman rolls out of bed, rolls a joint, rolls around town in his trusty BMW 318i and rolls his limbs in their sockets, dancing in front of an iconic Sydney view. But initially it’s hard to figure out if it’s just lack of funds or a deliberate lo-fi ethos. “I think it’s a bit of both, working with what I’ve got, keeping things kind of raw” Fridman says, his words stretching uncertainly as he drives in no particular direction at all. “I really like that raw and candid footage, it represents these songs kind of well…” [Author’s Note: We ebb slowly past the left side of a deserted Luna Park towards St. Kilda’s esplanade, shaggy palm trees stricken breezlessly under an almost cloudless sky. The esplanade’s footpath is being simultaneously run, skated and ridden at a unanimously lethargic pace. It is what we’ve both already referred to as a “beautiful day.”]
In a Top Gear review by the verdantly bearded Chris Goffey in 1991, the BMW 318i is accused of having shed some of the classic BMW sportiness and become, if I’m catching Goffey’s drift right, an ‘everyman’s car.’ I would say the same thing about Freeds, in the best possible way. Freeds has none of the toxic and delusive grandiosity that so much widely popularised hip-hop tends to lean on for narrative thrust. A good lot of it can’t even be accurately described as narcissistic because it’s mostly written about fictional selves. [Author’s Note: I’m hyper-aware of how old/white/miseducated the above will sound off the cuff, but having largely blown my word count on describing old cars and luxury homes, I should stress quickly, I’m talking trends, and more pointedly, imitable trends. The broadcasting of money and the aggrandized self has a vindication/survivalist legitimacy in areas of the poverty-stricken urban US that can’t be refuted. But these are trends and symbols that have spread way beyond those areas and struggles.] Basically, having a linguistically limber rapper, full of gratitude and awkward dance moves who raps about his real, everyday life is actually kind of refreshing. Some of the Refreshingly Everyday Things Freeds Raps About: ‘Bubble ‘O’ Bills (icecream), cartoons on a Saturday, connect 4, backgammon, open house parties, meeting at arcades, cutting mangoes into squares, Jay and Silent Bob, Loony Toons, the Lion King, meeting girls, not meeting girls etc.. “Well I never pictured myself on a stage or anything” Fridman admits. “I highly doubted myself…so the fact that I’ve confronted that, I guess that made me more grateful and it’s a part of my nature. I’m a tell-it-how-it-is person. Music for me is just about how I’m feeling at the time.”
Of the BMW 318i, Chris Goffey says: “Of course you shouldn’t forget that even though it’s just the 318, the BMW is still a powerful rear-wheel drive car and if you really want to be silly and provoke it, it’s possible to get it into pretty extreme attitudes.” Freeds doesn’t ostensibly seem to exhibit any extremity. His extreme attitudes are more ‘contextually extreme’. There’s no other MC I can immediately think of that can happily describe themselves as “quirky” and not have it sound like a cynical PR directive. In the video for Mango Squarez, Freeds skips, throws his arms above him and bends his body into different dance-like shapes. It’s not quite dancing, it’s an abbreviation of dancing, a sort of instruction-card of motion where he moves from the beginning of one kind of dance to another without elaboration. It’s kind of inane—he clearly knows it— and it totally works. It’s…fun. Not always something that’s instantly associated with hip-hop. [Author’s Note: If you freeze the ‘Mango Squarez’ video at exactly 1:00, you can capture a microcosm for the whole fun/tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek Freeds outlook. It’s Fridman driving slowly by, looking at a girl (who’s P.O.V. we are observing) in his BMW 318i. As well as driving past the camera (ie – girl) in slow motion he’s holding a coconut with a straw protruding from it while wearing sunglasses on what doesn’t look to be a particularly sunny day. But most edifying of all is the expression on his face, which is warped into a sort of canny earnestness, an even split between keen self-awareness and true vulnerability.] “I’m just driving randomly,” Fridman admits as I ask him whether he thinks hiphop in Australia is taking itself a little too seriously. “They’re just doing their thing” he replies slowly. “I can’t say they should have more fun because they’re just being themselves. But in terms of what I do, I’m a pretty fun dude, I like being stupid and corny jokes and I think that just comes out in my music…” The most interesting thing about talking to Freeds is finally receiving an answer to what arises upon first listen and watch: Does he know how dippy it is? It’s a firm yes. The humour and general candor of Freeds isn’t just natural goofiness, it’s a style that has been braided with his personality, rather than modified to lock snugly into a trend. But there’s no question as to whether he’s aware of what he’s doing. He talks about the influence of Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, how you can hear their personality bleeding through their verses and how Kendrick uses his voice to “work with the beat.” And you can hear it. Freeds isn’t just sleepy sunshine, he breaks at times into flows of artillery-grade speed, bending his voice suddenly from percussion to melody. Its detail (particularly in Cartunes) is an interesting polarity to the accompanying visuals. [We’re now heading past parochial deco apartments, civic buildings slathered in thick coats of light apricot paint and exposure-decayed coin laundries, snaking very generally north and east through St. Kilda. We pause briefly at a soccer pitch, where Fridman plays competitive soccer for Caulfield. His reply to how the team does competitively is “uh, not the best.”]
Again to Chris Goffey from UK’s Top Gear in 1991: “The high tail gives [the 318i] a big boot of 15.2 cubic feet, but like all modern cars with this sort of shape, the rear screen comes a long way over the luggage compartment, now that’s alright when you’re slotting lightweight suitcases in and out but if you’ve got a box that must stay upright you’re in major problems trying to get it through this letterbox slot (sic).” So it’s not like baggage isn’t possible, it’s more like there’s just not the room for it. Freeds has a similar working structure. He openly concedes that someone might release one mixtape and “boom! They almost blow up to stardom” but he doesn’t say it in an invisible baggage or chip-on-the-shoulder kind of way. He just retreats to what he knows, which is “that drive and that work ethic”. Something Freeds has, apparently, no problem with. “I’m constantly writing, up until the early hours of the morning. Like last night I was up until 4am. My Mum and Dad are both like: ‘you’ve gotta take a break!’”
“The handling is very secure, in a straight line it’s very stable” Chris Goffey assures us in his early review of the BMW 318i. Freeds through all of his releases has stuck firmly with the first two producers he found through a cousin. “When I lived in Sydney I used to rap over beats that weren’t mine” Fridman shrugs. And after finding someone keen to work with him, he made a “leap of faith and said ‘alright, I’m coming down to Melbourne’, moved out, and we gelled really well.” Producers Baloo and Uncledes originally wrote as a duo ‘2sugars’, but have since split to follow different creative tributaries. All three entities have produced for Freeds (2sugars produced his first EP, then Baloo produced the ‘Jetski Blues’ EP and most recently Uncledes was behind Freeds’ ‘Insomnirap’ EP. He seems content to keep it that way. “I never felt the need to buy beats off other producers and stuff” Fridman states flatly. He claims (perceptibly I think) that chasing beats just becomes a sort of cyclonic pattern of trend. “Say some produced a successful song for a rapper, then the next rapper’s like ‘I want him to produce my song’ and the next person and the next…it starts to mould into one sound.” And Freeds clearly has something unique, something that he’s getting attention for. Late last year rapper Illy reached out to him and asked him to tour with him. “Yeah that was awesome, I listen to a lot of Illy…he heard the Jetski Blues EP and he dug it and hit me up and it went from there.” But in step with his work ethic, Freeds propelled himself around the country under his own financial steam. “Yeah I was over the moon. Like money was not even a thing for me. I’m so bad with money I didn’t even care, I was like ‘no matter what, I’m playing these shows’…”
Chris Goffey remarks in his 1991 Top Gear review: “If the shape of the new car is different, then the feel is very different as well.” Unlike the EPs and singles that have preceded, Freeds is working on a 12-track mixtape. But not the kind where “someone gets a Bruno Mars beat and raps over it.” Freeds is determined to make sure there’s a concept, a “start to end.” It’s going to be mainly composed of originals and around four sampled songs. “We’re going to be taking that instrumental and flipping it and doing something with it…even though I know people aren’t going to as easily connect with it. I don’t know. I just want to be as original as possible…” But the future’s still very much a large, yawning horizon. “But while I’m doing this I’m also working with Uncledes on new material which could possibly turn into a debut album, I’m not really sure yet…” Anything could happen. But I feel assured it’s going to tumble out in the same way as what has preceded it: partly awkward, musically dense and unswervingly true. [Author’s Note: Eventually we end up on the esplanade again. The pace of runners, riders and skaters hasn’t elevated perceptibly. Small huddles of tourists move glacially along the footpath, heads craned towards the sea. The first of the day’s icecreams have already begun to appear in the loose fists of people moving at a saunter, like small torches that signify a serious holiday and by extension insinuate that their mid-week recreation is very much hard earned and not habitual.
FREEDS: Where shall we go? Should we go down to the beach?
WV: Sure, sounds good.
FREEDS: I’m just…uh…waiting here, where should I go?
(We’re now idling in the middle of the only road into the mostly private marina area)
FREEDS: I’ve never been here before…how about here?
(He pulls the car over and parks. We’re pointed towards Port Phillip Bay. On our right side, a gently nodding array of lavish boats, bone-bleached and dazzling, trimmed almost unanimously in variations of blue. They sit unattended in front of boat sheds [11 across, 4 high] with townhouse style roofs that imitate an ‘expensive waterfront real estate’ aesthetic’ without any need for houses. We’re looking for a good place to take photos, but no matter where we look, the aesthetics of our surrounds couldn’t be further from Freeds’ own. So Fridman just pulls over.)
WV: Yeah, here’s good.]
Freeds’ INSOMNIRAP EP can be downloaded for FREE over @ freedsmusic.com