Finding His Element: The Emergence of Freako

All photos by Julien Carr

25 year old Andray Sappington, known to the music community as Freako, is part of the next wave of young talent on Chicago’s horizon. The city continues to catapult to the forefront of music, and unique artists like him are why, each with their own radically different dreams and paths.  Freako began his career later than his peers, and easily compensated for that with a relentless drive and a perspective that’s his own. Entering Chicago’s world of underground hip-hop with ferocity, now he’s helping shape the scene that molded him into the artist he is today.

Raised on the East side of Chicago, Freako was an athlete, and traveled throughout the city to play basketball, football and track. This developed and encouraged his connection to the city. Freako started listening to prominent Chicago underground acts, got a sense of the scene, and quickly abandoned mainstream music altogether. His attention was on the underground, quickly picking up skills and turning his passion into reality.  He learned how to freestyle, which he prefers over prewritten lyrics, frequently going off the top once he’s in the booth. This gives his music an added feeling of authenticity, heart and soul.

The dark, unconventional tones of underground hip-hop in 2017 mirror a lot of what Freako feels internally. He’s dealt with depression throughout his life, and finds reprieve in music as both a fan and artist. Mental health can be an uncomfortable subject, but Freako tackles it head-on, “I’m always in my thoughts, so I could be cool, but I’m like a nerve, I feel everything, but I just don’t really care for it. I be offended about stuff I shouldn’t be offended about, and I take stuff personal that’s not in my control. It’s just being able to have that and being able to get past it to be stronger for yourself. That’s a challenge that I have to work through. It’s easier now than it was before, it’s a better experience. I feel actually happy because a lot is going good for me at the moment.”

Surrounded by friends making music, Freako and his competitive streak were drawn to the scene. Driven to constantly improve, “...at first I was doing it for fun and then, I don’t know, I just kept at it. I was, like, not really addicted to it, but there was just something about it that kept coming back... Like with basketball there were days where I was like, ‘Damn I feel raw as hell,’ and there were days when I was like, ‘Damn I feel weak as hell,’ and then you just start to doubt yourself...With music I felt that, but it felt like I was always on top of my shit and just always getting better.” The time and effort Andray put into sports instilled in him a strong work ethic that carried over into his music, and allowed him to bring that passion to life.

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"I be offended about stuff I shouldn’t be offended about, and I take stuff personal that’s not in my control. It’s just being able to have that and being able to get past it to be stronger for yourself."

—FREAKO

Although he started a bit later than his peers, Freako’s need to continually grow and learn propels him. “I feel like I’ve always been good, but I’m a perfectionist, so something is always wrong.” It’s quality over quantity for Freako. In a scene where many people release music consistently, but with seemingly little regard to quality, Freako is an aberration. With this year’s release of his Oasis and Element EP’s, Freako showed his ability to drop praiseworthy content with a variety of producers and other collaborators. He always has a slew of tracks at his disposal, ready to drop at any moment, but his releases are calculated and never rushed, ensuring that only the best make it through.

Oasis showed us his incredible range, from airy light hearted tracks, to deeper and darker subject matter. Love and loss are consistent themes in many of his songs, a refreshing reprieve from drug riddled lyrics. Freako is speaking on life, and he has a talent for connecting to others. Oasis feels like like an introduction, and an invitation into his world. It’s just as Freako intended it. He feels that the concepts, messages, and storylines layered throughout each track are “so rare and lost nowadays.” Freako raps with a youthful energy and joy, twisting and bending his flow to fit unique and unconventional beats. But his most recent offering, the three track EP, Element, contains some of his most mature material to date. Produced by Luke Almighty, the duo brought out the best of Freako’s vocal and lyrical abilities. Striking, and hypnotic, Element plays like a warning to the rap scene; something deadlier is on the horizon.

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"I feel like I’ve always been good, but I’m a perfectionist, so something is always wrong."

—FREAKO

Music has helped to heal Freako, and in return he uses his lyrical talents to help others. Adjusting his style to connect better to his audience without revealing too much on himself, “I feel like I was too personal in my music. But some people want to hear that in a sense. At the same time, I needed to figure out how to approach it in the way that I wanted to. Nothing really changed, it was just learning how to deliver it so people can understand it, and be able to relate to it.” It seems to be working; a fan recently reached out to Freako to let him know that his music essentially saved his life and brought him back from the edge.

An appeal to the emotions and lives of prospective listeners are sentiments that you can feel while listening to almost any Freako track. His music translates in a way that makes it relatable to everyone. You'll find yourself singing lines out of the blue, for instance the lyrics “And I’ve grown since you’ve seen me” from his track “The Calm” are instantly magnetic. His clear flow delivers messages that don’t simply feel like pandering to the generic “you”, but instead reach you, specifically. Freako isn’t just making music for himself; he’s creating art that others can find themselves within- a talent that will take him far. We will be watching closely as he rises to the top.