In 1991, rap group 3rd Bass came out with the song Pop Goes The Weasel which was a diss song about rappers like Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer going POP! In fact, in the 90’s, once a rappers lyrics went mainstream, you were in jeopardy of being labeled a sellout by the culture of Hip Hop. But what happens when it’s your intention to go pop from the gate? As I spoke to Freedom Williams of C&C Music Factory, he states “Man, I don’t give a fuck what people have to say about me. What did Diddy say? Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks.” I must say, hearing Freedom express himself in a real way was like when you saw the real Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) do stand up comedy for the first time. I was in sheer amazement.
But let’s break down the song Gonna Make You Sweat for a minute. It was just a fun song song.(or so it seemed) When I did sports arenas, that was the No. 1 song to get everyone pumped up. And for most people in suburbia America, it was a safe hip hop song. But if you listened to the lyrics, they were in proper cadence to what was happening in rap music at the time. Queen Latifah came out with Come Into My House In 1989 and The Jungle Brothers came out with Girl I’ll House You in the Golden Year of 1988, so you could really count C&C as a musical progression of what they started. Not to mention that song went hard in the dance clubs of Chicago and New York.
What people may not know is that prior to 1990 Freedom already cut his teeth in the music game producing and engineering for artists such as Natalie Cole (Pink Cadillac), Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, and was on the boards for the 2300 Jackson St song. But while he was engineering those hit records, he was bringing these three kids from Brooklyn and Staten Island along that later called themselves The Wu Tang Clan.
The rapper from Queens grew up a 5 percenter and understood what it meant to be a man with his own mind and his own plan of action. Through trial and error, he learned the music business, so much to the point that in 2003, Freedom acquired the federal trademark to use the name C&C Music Factory for live performances. If you know the story of The Sugar Hill Gang, you would really know how wise a move that was. Freedom also took his business sense and invested in a CBA basketball team called the Atlanta Krunk.
While conversing with Freedom I asked him if he cared whether or not the hip hop culture embraced him considering his pop success and he replied “Man, I know how to make records. I mixed the song for Cameo Word Up and Single Life. I mixed those records for the RZA and the GZA before they were who they were. When you’re making a record, you can tell by the vibration of what it’s going to be. So when we made Make You Sweat, we knew it was gonna be pop and scrutinized by the hip hop community…but the question is….do I give a fuck? Shit man I had a hit record!”
He continues, “When I wrote Gonna Make You Sweat, I wrote it as a political record. I was actually homeless when I wrote it. So when I really got into the lyrics I didn’t like the way it was riding with the beat and I switched it up. I made it more pop. That was my choice.”
I asked him if anyone has every considered him a sellout. He laughed “Only African Americans give life to that word. Western culture makes their products for everyone to use. I get it though. But what happens is, when we as oppressed people living in the hood see Johnny doing something to better himself, we don’t identify with that as something good not realizing the same opportunities are afforded to us everywhere” he adds “Again, I never gave a fuck what someone thought about me.”
We talk some more and we touch on the Martha Wash controversy. Back in the day it really caught the world’s attention that C&C didn’t want to acknowledge the singing icon because she was overweight. Freedom clears his name by saying “I didn’t think nothing of it because I know Martha Wash didn’t want to do the record. Martha Wash didn’t want to go on the road with me. But that whole we didn’t want to give Martha Wash credit, that was a myth. Don’t believe that.” He later says “Why would I care if she was fat? There were a lot of talented fat people in the music industry. The music business is full of them. I didn’t give a damn if Martha was fat. Bottom line, she had already peaked in her career she did the record and settled for a crumbs deal not knowing that record (Sweat) would go on to sell 3 million copies. That changed her mind real quick”
I really enjoyed talking to this educated rapper. Ever since I met him at 90’s Fest last year in the Columbus Commons, we’ve just built a relationship through social media. I share his views on protecting your intellectual property. He warns “You don’t see Jay Z and Puffy sharing everything they know because they want to survive. They can give bits and pieces but they aint gonna give up the whole game because they know that playing field still isn’t leveled.”
Expect to hear more EDM production from him in the future. It’s almost safe to say Freedom is the blueprint for the EDM heard around the world. He is still touring the globe and raising his family. He keeps himself in shape…almost as if he’s catching his 2nd wind….Much respect to the pop rapper from Queens New York.