Free black!, the hip-hop collective developed by Floco Torres and Holbrook Riles III (HR3), is releasing their third album, “Black Tuesday!” in October.
The album explores themes around the economy and the working class, and it includes an assortment of features from local musicians.
Torres has been a solo writer and performer for years and teamed up with Riles after moving from Macon, Georgia to Akron in 2017.
Riles is a prolific local producer and cratedigger known for both his creative sampling work and his drumming skills.
The couple occasionally exchanged rap verses and rhythms during their concerts.
They released the first “Free Black!” eponym. album in 2018.
Torres said the band’s name represents the freedom to be a multidimensional black artist and serves as a mantra for listeners to express themselves.
“When we watch from the stage, there are a lot of different types of people at our shows,” Torres said. “So for you, you take the ‘free’ part, and that’s for the public.”
Torres has released several albums as a solo rap artist, most notably the one from 2018Nobody cares“, which features the Akron-centric song,”Bounce like rubber. “
Riles has performed and released music with Steve Miller, Big Pop, Bluelight and other artists, and he has released several albums under his producer nickname, HR3.
Come together as Free Black! allowed the two musicians to have conversations around historical, artistic, literary and societal themes.
They have incorporated these topics into their songs in a way that educates the listener.
Since 2018, artists have become more “intentional” with their work, and they have developed a particular sound and style that is instantly recognizable as a Free Black! original.
“Now we got to mark it where people know the difference between my solo stuff and the Free Black!” stuff, which is cool, ”Torres said.
Referencing of historical events for new versions
“Black Tuesday! “Was released on October 19, and the single”Don’t make me“, Dropped the previous month.
The features of the song Wesley Luminous, frontman of Wesley Bright and the Honeytones and Akron Honey Company founder.
The track set the tone for the soulful and retro vibe of “Black Tuesday!” and gave a taste of the rich collaborations with other local artists featured on the album.
“The most recent album was just the most ambitious in terms of the track structure and also the features that we have,” said Riles.
Riles said Free Black’s debut album!The summer of freedom!”Was a little brighter.
“Black Tuesday! Strikes a balance between experimentation and intention, as well as the different styles brought together by the star artists of Northeast Ohio.
The musicians included on the album are Bright, Jul Big Green, Peachcurls, Dave Rich, Jeri Sapronetti, Jean P The MC, Theron Brown, Phil Anderson and Bluelight.
Last July, Free Black! released the album “Summer freedom», Inspired by the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964, a pivotal period of the civil rights movement.
The album was released at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. It was mixed and mastered by Nate Bucher at Akron Recording Company.
“Covid-19 is a blow, so we did it all from a distance. Luckily Nate is a wizard there, and he made my album and all the Free Black releases! to this day, so it’s still an easy process to work with them, ”Torres said. .
The album was a collection of songs they had performed live over the past year, as well as unreleased songs they wanted to play on tour.
The tour was canceled due to the pandemic, so they decided to record and release the new music as an album.
“The Elizabeth Keckley Award!Was the first single.
“Holbrook named her ‘Ms. Lincoln, and I freestyle this chorus at his house last summer [in 2019]. As we continued to build the song, I ran with the Lincoln theme up to recent events and some more personal Lincoln research. Personally, I didn’t feel comfortable bringing out white politicians when the whole world is talking about police brutality, and Holbrook has walked with me on that, ”Torres said.
Torres researched slaves during Abraham Lincoln’s presidential era and discovered Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave turned civil activist and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln.
The pair planned to complete the record early in the pandemic, and themes spinning around the world watching the story unfold began to drive the lyrical content.
“And then I think for me, Ahmaud Arbery was the first to perform, then George Floyd came along. But somewhere in between, again reading, listening, doing something, the theme of Freedom Summer came into something, ”Torres said.
Torres and Riles continued their exploration of the nation’s history and themes that continue today with “Black Tuesday! “
“The most recent album was just the most ambitious in terms of the track structure and also the features that we have.”
Holbrook Riles III
Experiment with the themes of economic depression
After reading a recent article on the Great Depression, Torres spent time researching the topic at the Akron-Summit County Public Library.
He was interested in how history repeated itself in the United States.
The album’s themes focus on the economic depression, and Torres expressed interest in the impact this has on real people.
“I was often in the library on the third floor, browsing encyclopedias, just like reading, looking for themes,” Torres said. “We all know what the Great Depression is, but it’s kind of like that. As if everything had crashed and boom, boom. And I was like, I don’t really know much about it, and I just went to google it. I was like, ‘What is Black Tuesday?’ “What’s a Black Thursday?” “”
Torres realized from his research on credit and the stock market that patterns have emerged and that many factors impacting the working class have remained the same over the past 100 years.
“I was like, ‘Oh, we’re doing the same things again. And if it happens again, it will be 10 times worse. And then that’s when I got the idea like, “I think we should call this Black Tuesday,” put that idea out of, you know, it happens, “Torres said. .
He said that many of the historical themes he had taken were translated into lyrics on “Black Tuesday!” Torres said the song “Mischievous IIWas inspired by Dwight Powell.
“When they were talking about economic recovery, he was basically saying it would help people be stronger if we let them weather this storm. That’s why we were like, “We have to talk to you outside of Dwight, because it’s like, no, bro, that’s not it, is it,” Torres said.
The album title was inspired by October 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed. This was a crucial factor that led to the Great Depression.
“I think we should call that Black Tuesday, put that idea out of, you know, it’s happening,”
Torres and Riles mixed together experimental elements, such as music from the 1920s and a vocal section that looks like an old-fashioned radio commercial.
“When you think of the 1920s, when you think of the Great Depression, like that, that was the start of advertising,” Torres said.
Riles said Torres would mention a particular theme or topic he was thinking of, and Riles would start listening to records to extract certain samples that match the theme.
Most of the time, Riles says, he would send Torres beats to rewrite them.
“With like a lot of rhythms I’ve chosen, it’s just to get your attention and also to make it feel like it’s basic storytelling work,” Riles said. “Do you know what I mean? Say, for example, like [the track] ‘100 per cent! ‘- it’s’ Keep on Keeping on’ by Curtis Mayfield from ‘Roots.’ It’s just great for getting someone’s attention.
Riles and Torres were planning to organize a few evenings of listening to the album for a select group of audience members.
They prepared the album at Dirty River Bicycle Works in Akron on September 24th performing all the songs they had written for it.
The workshop was an opportunity to discuss the themes of the album with the audience, to give them a taste of what was to come and to cut the material as needed.
“Even though it’s just five people, those five, we were going to love this album when it came out no matter what it sounds like because they had that experience,” Torres said. “So it was a bit of the state of mind behind the workshop. And one of the things actually made the album that wasn’t finished because I did freestyle in the studio.
They continued to refine the album over the following weeks. It was mixed and mastered by Akron Recording Company.
Torres added graphics and visuals with the album’s release to connect the dots between inspiration from the events of the 1920s and how they translated into songs released in 2021.
“What we’re doing now is like the album cover art, and I made these graphics that look like a projection screen. And all that, all of these clips are from the ’20s, but I cut the clips to go with the themes of our songs because it’s like the feeling is already there, ”Torres said.
Continue to educate listeners through music
Torres has announced plans for the next Free Black! project is to wrap the themes featured in “Freedom Summer!” “And” Black Tuesday! And present them differently.
“Maybe we end up talking to schools. Maybe we end up talking to the colleges. You just have to find different elevated ways to present what this group has to offer. This is the next step, ”Torres said.
For now, he has said he wants people to listen to “Black Tuesday!” and feel different things, then share those experiences with Torres and Riles to continue the conversation.
He said the next phase of the group would move in a more focused direction.
Torres said when people attend a Free Black! show, it’s hard to ignore what’s going on on stage.
He wants the next Free Black! albums to capture the attention of the listener, in the same way, to get the point across effectively.
“So how do we combine art, music education, sampling, history, all of that every time we do a project? We can eliminate these concepts and help everyone learn, especially the younger ones, ”Torres said.
Free black! Strives to design higher ways to share its offerings with the public. The duo hope to put on another show in Akron by the end of 2021.