If you’re a music lover on the perpetual pursuit of meaningful music, and you’ve never come across this artist named Freedom on iTunes, consider yourself as mighty unfortunate. His nine-track album Liberation 1804 for one, is one of the deepest song collections I’ve ever encountered on that platform.
Soulful and gospel-tinged, each track is more spectacular than the other. There’s some excessive flag waving, but there’s depth, and plenty of allusions to Haiti’s history that you may have read on Haiti-related Wikipedia entries, or perhaps came across in the Latin American Studies section of your school’s library. There’s this song “Manman” (Ma) that’s squeezed among the track listings. It’s like a pomegranate in a barrel full of mangoes—totally unexpected, but welcomed. From the spoken intro, backed by light guitar, and the singer-rapper’s fluttering voice. When I was scouring Youtube for mother-themed songs in Creole when I first started this website, it had to have its place on the Haitian mom musical tribute countdown. Truly, that song is everything and then some more.
The profound lyrics and the hard-hitting melodies on Liberation 1804 are what makes the record. Then there’s the voice of this Freedom person. There’s something to be noted about it. I don’t know. The voice sounds pained, like he’s vocally unearthing a couple of decades of pain, but is trying to remain calm about it. One of the best showcases for it is “Sove Peyi Mwen”, where one is treated to nearly four minutes of Solomon Burke-like vocal acrobatics. Next up, is “Ayibobo”, a drum-and-clap-driven track that cries for a miracle and unity. The song conveys the rapper’s exasperation with how things are–-Olye ou priye pou mwen/Ou ta renmen’m detwi—You ought to be prayin’ for me/Instead you’re clammoring for my demise. “Twou Bwa Kayiman” has an almost this techno rock sound to it, with Haitian roots music doing some meddling. The title, is of course, a reference to the meeting place where the 1791 slave uprising was planned out.
I thought to myself that if this Freedom dude can do this with these songs, I wonder what he’s capable of he were to sing some love songs, as those tracks were truly amazing. Actually…mouth-droppingly amazing.
This Liberation 1804 is practically Haiti’s answer to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814—methinks. The musical critic and writer David Ritz and others have written about how—in the 1990s—Rhythm Nation brought music and social consciousness to young urbanites. I can’t help but think that Liberation 1804 has done the same for Haitian folks discovering it.
Kreyolicious: Your real name is Christopher Laroche. Are you, like, related to Joseph Laroche the Haitian dude on the Titanic?
Yes. I am related to him.
Kreyolicious: At which point were you told that you were related to him?
When the Titanic article came out is when I found out about it, and I was surprised and also felt like that was very cool. The story…not the fact that he pretty much ended like [Leonardo] Dicaprio in the movie–but that many people say the story from that movie is directly based on the accounts of his wife.
Kreyolicious: How’d you feel about it?
Guess he went out like a real honorable person.
Kreyolicious: You were born in Haiti. What memories do you have of it?
Everything I remember from growing up is in Haiti. I grew up in Cap Haitien and Port Au Prince and have never stopped going back. So, my most profound memories will always be based in Haiti.
Kreyolicious: How’d you get the name Freedom?
I got the name Freedom from the fact that Haiti is the first country to get out of slavery. I got the name from the fact that I like to make one type of song today, and another the next day. And I have a big vocal range and work driven by vibes and energy. I try to make all types of different songs because experimenting always helps me create an original sound for every track. In other words, it all comes from my heart and soul—and that means freedom to me.
Kreyolicious: What was the first song that you heard that had a profound influence on you?
I would say as far as Kreyol songs, it was “Lèm Pa Wè Soley La”. As far as English songs, it was tracks like “Redemption Song” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”.
Kreyolicious: And your first performance ever?
It was in Cap Haitien and I was about thirteen-years-old with my brother Fos. Back then, I was a radio DJ, so we set up a show at a local venue. We sold out the show and had over a thousand people attend—making it a huge success back then.
Kreyolicious: I’ve listened to a lot of your songs and I absolutely love the gospel-R&B blend to them.
When it comes to music, it’s like some people choose music, but I feel like music chose me. It’s my therapy when I write a song. My music’s poetry. I don’t make it just to be commercial. I make my music just because I love making music, and it’s the only way I know how to truly express myself, so I try to make it timeless.
Kreyolicious: How did you decide on the creative direction for your album Liberation 1804.
Well, I was in the hospital at that point of time. I was in an accident [and] ended up there and it was a life-changing experience. I spoke to God and promised that I would do something for Haiti. Having gone through what I had just gone through, I felt like my Haitian brothers and sisters were the only people that could relate to what I felt. So, I had to build strength to become the voice of a forgotten people and make a Kreyol album for my people in order to have an effect on the system. And when I did that [censored expletive], things went crazy quick because I took my original freedom formula and flipped it to Kreyol and we created a new sound that was undeniably one of the most original things ever.
Kreyolicious: What usually comes first to you…the lyrics to a song, or the melody?
It depends…usually the melody though, and then I see a vision for the lyrics. But then, if I start with a purpose in my mind it might start lyric-driven.
Kreyolicious: What goes into creating a beat for a track?
It depends on who I’m working with. Sometimes, I go in and do my own tracks, but usually I like collaborating with people I’ve cultivated relationships with and have locked in the formula of how I make my sound to push it to the limit, and make bigger hits every time. I can say I’ve worked with some of the greatest producers in the world and it is a blessing every time.
Kreyolicious: There’s a lyric line in one of your songs, where you go: “Mwen fimen pou mwen fè tèt mwen poze”, talking about how you be lighting it up, to get your head all cleared. Um, please tell me those lyrics were just for the sake of rhyme.
I would have never written that for the sake of rhyme. In the history of man kind, no one would have the courage to sing those words if they didn’t mean them. [Laughter] And from your choice of words when you asked that question, I know you turn up…[laughs] so next time you roll one, throw some Freedom on for me.
Kreyolicious: Sorry, but I don’t roll. Don’t you think that Illuminati forces can get in your head when you smoke?
You should learn how to roll or buy a roller…not trying to preach bad things but anyone who attempts to drink would realize the urb is better for you than the liquor. It goes well with the mind of a true rebel. Illuminati? [Laughter] That is the funniest question I have ever answered. Definitely not. There is a forcefield of positive energy around me. I trust it, and just live. I don’t complicate much or judge things that most of the world can’t understand anyways.
Kreyolicious: And how do you parents feel about that? Or do you think that because they’re not around, you can do whatever you want?
My parents always respect my decisions—and trust—I will follow my heart regardless. They are a huge inspiration to me and have always supported my dreams—whether they liked it or not. I was taught to stand on my own feet and be proud of the way I choose to live.
Kreyolicious: What do you wish you had known before you entered the music business?
Not to enter the music business.
Kreyolicious: You regret you ever entered the music business? How come?
It was me being funny…I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It is just not for the faint at heart. So if one decides to pursue a career in music, you must feel like you have something truly unique to give the world and be partially crazy and lost in art…I do feel that way. So, the movement continues until the end of time. Been working with everyone from Jayz and Beyonce to Snoop Dogg, so I guess I’m just grateful to be blessed with the path God has placed me on. Am excited about new music coming in the near future.
Kreyolicious: You have your own record label Freedom Recordz. Is it hard running your own label?
Yes. The music industry is complicated. It takes a lot of energy, resources, and dedication from your team. Everything great takes a lot of work.
Kreyolicious: Any tips to artists and those who would like to establish their own?
Never give up. Just keep your head up. Make your music, do what you got to do. Pay dues. Know that you’re working in an industry that consists of many crazy people—a lot of very prideful people. Focus on you. The art comes first. Don’t get tangled in the web.
Kreyolicious: Do you feel some sort of responsibility towards youths who look up to you?
Of course I do. When I started making this music, I said I wanted to make songs that inspire children to grow up and believe they can change the world. Never stopped.
Kreyolicious: What do you think of women’s images in hip-hop videos?
I feel like there is tasteful art, but I also feel there is a condescending side to women that is a cause for concern to a certain extent. I honestly never think about that though, and I’m not the person to tell the difference between art and excess.
Kreyolicious: You can tell a lot about an artist by his songs. In Liberation 1804, you come across as a history-freak, and a militant, who just happens to love his mom. Is that an accurate picture?
Yes. I have always been truly passionate about our culture. Everything I do is for Haiti.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview. When available, it will be AVAILABLE BY CLICKING THIS LINK.