RH Interview: Lorde Fredd33 Discusses North Milwaukee, His Album And Giving Back

Lorde Fredd33 is the latest in a string of artists from Milwaukee to make an impact outside of their city. From WebsterX to Ish Darr, Milwaukee’s rap scene is a haven for D.I.Y. rappers looking to push the limits of rap with a uniquely experimental approach. In May Lorde Fredd33 (pronounced Freddee) released his debut album NORF: The Legend of Hot Boy Ronald which received a lot of good press and put Lorde Fredd33 into the national light. Ruby Hornet is excited to have Lorde Fredd33 on the line up for our show on 11/7 at The Empty Bottle, so ahead of it we called him up to talk about where he’s from, how he gives back to his community and where he’s going.

rubyhornet: I want to start off by asking you about the significance of your name, and specifically the spelling of it.

Lorde Fredd33: Oh, well Lord Fredd is just a name I’ve always really liked. I mean it came to me one day when I was working on music. I was under a different name, and then I was going through different transitions, and a lot of shit was happening, and so I switched my name. Specifically, if you’re talking about the spelling, the spelling is more so to differentiate, you can’t really … once you get it, you can’t mess it up. You know what I mean? Which means, in the beginning I gotta deal with a lot of people fucking it up, and you fight to validate it, you know what I mean?

rubyhornet: Right, right, F-R-E-D-D-33, spell my name right bitch.

Lorde Fredd33: Right, yeah, like I earned that shit, you know what I mean? Once people don’t spell my name wrong anymore, I definitely earned it. My whole city, they use to fuck it up when I first started, and none of them get it wrong now.

rubyhornet: It’s cool because it kind of shows like if people are listening. Like if someone gets it wrong, and spells that shit wrong, it’s like all right, no reason to go ahead with them.

Lorde Fredd33: I’m like you haven’t listened to Possum Play, clearly.

rubyhornet: Yeah, exactly. So tell me about the North Side of Milwaukee. What’s it like coming up there? It seems to be like a forgotten place.

Lorde Fredd33: Yeah, I mean that’s more of a testament to Milwaukee, more than anything. Milwaukee is a forgotten place, and a rarely acknowledged place unless it’s something negative. Yeah, the North Side it’s all right. It’s home. It’s pretty desolate, you know what I mean? Like not a lot of business that is rooted there, and there’s not much of a sense of belonging, but there’s a strong pride there, you know what I’m saying? Being from the North Side. It can get a little rugged and shit like that. People drive like shit. A lot of negative can happen there. A lot of negative can happen anywhere though, but the North Side it can get a little rough, lot of discrimination, lot of segregation in the city of Milwaukee as a whole. The North Side’s considered the more Black place, or they might call it urban or some goofy shit. you know what I mean? But, yeah. It’s all right, you know a lot of good families come from there. It’s just shit happens, you know?

rubyhornet: Right. I was looking up some statistics, and it said that there was 50% unemployment on the North Side of Milwaukee.

Lorde Fredd33: Oh, yeah, for sure, at least. At least. So you gotta think, what’s that 50% doing, you know what I mean?

rubyhornet: Right, they’re just around all day.

Lorde Fredd33: Right, they’re around doing something.

rubyhornet: I mean, you gotta live. The album kinda feels like you’re just looking out your window.

Lorde Fredd33: Yeah, that’s basically.

rubyhornet: Certain aspects of it. I mean there’s some more personal songs, but certain aspects of it just it really reminds me of, not musically, but Ready to Die always kinda felt like Biggie was just looking out the window, you know?

Lorde Fredd33: Yeah, that is what’s it’s like, because you know I drive around a lot. I don’t live on the North Side anymore. I live ten minutes away, further east now, but I travel back and forth all day, all night. I go through the North Side every day, and it never changes. It’s the exact same shit, exact same people doing the exact same shit, same amount of violence. It actually like intensifies, but I write what I see. I write what I analyzed and observed, and been a part of. I just constantly reflecting and getting shit off my chest, and really I made the album the way I did because the thing about Milwaukee artists that I’ve noticed, especially the rappers, it’s that none of them ever use our lingoes. They never actually sound like they’re from Milwaukee with like the way they speak, when you hear them actually just talking at some point. They never actually highlight, it’s like they’re actually ashamed of Milwaukee. They don’t understand the originality, and the power of that originality from where we’re from. Because when we go anywhere else in the United States, people fucking vibe with us, you know what I mean? They really do. Like with our dances, with the way we talk, with our phrases and shit. They love it. I’m sick of that shit, so I took time out on my first album to reminds people that it’s cool as fuck being from North Side of Milwaukee, you know what I’m saying? We got something to offer, you know what I mean?

rubyhornet: Yeah, totally. I wanted to ask, Milwaukee is kind of having the beginning of a moment it seems, because I can’t name … and this is, honestly, more attributed to my ignorance than anything, but the first Milwaukee rapper I ever heard about was at a Mick Jenkins’ concert like four, five years ago when Webster X came down.

Lorde Fredd33: Right, right, right, yeah. We was at that show. That was cool.

rubyhornet: Were you part of the … he brought like 30 people on the stage.

Lorde Fredd33: Yeah, yeah. I was there. I was there. Actually, I was on the stage for one of the songs actually. Yeah, that was sweet.

rubyhornet: Do you think that there’s some sort of parallel between like the early, say money days, in Chicago, and what’s happening in Milwaukee now?

Lorde Fredd33: Well, to say that would imply that I know what was going on with that, and I really don’t. But what I will say because I did like observe shit when like Chance just dropped 10 Day and shit like that, and started doing his thing, and you start seeing the whole crew pop up. In a way, but there’s no organization here, you know what I mean? There’s no infrastructure, and there’s nowhere for it to go. So in a sense that there’s a shit ton of creators, who are like excited to create, and they feel like they’re starting to gain or create platforms here for it. If that’s what Savemoney was doing, yeah, but right now it’s just a whole bunch of people just trying to be heard, and not know how to do it.

rubyhornet: Right, yeah, just knocking on the door.

Lorde Fredd33: Just knocking on any door and shit, and be like, “I rap.”

rubyhornet: One of the people you’re working with is Q The Sun, right?

Lorde Fredd33: Yeah.

rubyhornet: That’s been consistent too. He’s worked with a lot of the people that are really coming up out of Milwaukee. I heard that you’ve been teaching kids how to make music with him. How’s that been going? Why did you start doing that?

Lorde Fredd33: Oh, it’s fucking great, bro. It’s been two, almost three years now, three school years, we’ve been working with the fucking kids. It’s fucking great. We worked with kids before in different capacity, we like, him and I, we both worked as group leaders at an at-risk youth center around the neighborhood that we’ve met in. We were already working in a capacity with kids, but I know I figured out that there was so much red tape in the nonprofit sectors to where you never actually had an opportunity to reach the kids and shit. I wasn’t playing with that shit, you know what I mean? I don’t get told what to do as is. I only had a job for my son, you know, because I needed to like, I gotta take care of my son and shit. Music wasn’t something that I was crazy confident was gonna happen even though I was good and shit.I was just like, I’m gonna work with these kids, and then once I got sick of having to wait for okays from idiots that don’t even know these fucking kids, and never even touched these kids, I just said fuck it. I left that, and then we… I don’t know. We just started working at it, and we got into the schools, got the contracts, got the legal shit down. We just hopped in the schools as contractors and started teaching them shit. It’s easy as shit because the kids wanna be heard, and Scott Walker, the governor, he played a pivotal role in fucking our kids over in public school and taking all the art out. I think that’s a thing that’s commonly around America, so maybe he was a puppet in that book, neither here nor there. It’s just the facts are that kids have no way of expressing themselves now, and we’ll be damned if they all don’t have a chance to so they might just do different things. It’s not even about money, you know what I mean? Even things we don’t get compensated for, we still pop out this shit, and work with the kids, go back to the old organization that we worked with. I still pop in and check on some of the homies and make sure … I check the kids out, check their flow out, check their confidence out. Then I give them some pointers when I see them. We just kinda just, we just spread love, and look the kids in the eyes and tell them, and we let them lead the way, you know, we don’t tell them how to make a specific type of beat. We don’t make them do anything. We set up shop, and then we tell them that you can do it, and we know you can do it, so get to it. They all make something original. It works.

rubyhornet: Yeah, that’s so cool. It seems like the same approach as how you’re getting your music out there. Where it’s just like, man, I don’t wanna go through the shit that’s already there, it takes too long. I’m gonna figure it out myself.

Lorde Fredd33: Mm-hmm.

rubyhornet: I mean that’s really cool. It’s really admirable. How have things been going since you dropped the album? I mean, Possum Play is doing really well. You got covered by Pitchfork on your first album.

Lorde Fredd33: Hell, yeah. That’s pretty exciting.

rubyhornet: That’s pretty big. So how are you feeling about it? Where do you see it going?

Lorde Fredd33: Well, I mean, I’m confident that the album has not reached as many people as it can. So I’m blessed in that sense to where it’s not like I truly lost momentum with it because a lot of people just haven’t heard it. And every day new people hear it, and they fuck with it, and start sharing it. The album itself sells on Bandcamp at least once a day, so that’s cool. It’s just a beautiful thing, man. I think there’s still a lot of headway I can make with that shit, so I don’t know, man. I’m more so as curious as you are, I don’t know, don’t get me down with that shit, you know what I mean? I’ve been in the background just kinda like trying to figure out how to formulate it to help with this shit because I’m a creative. My plan is to be like 100% full time creative for the rest of my life, just constantly be outputting shit, putting things together for people. I think that it’s limitless where that shit could go, and I want it to go a lot of places. I want it to take me a lot of places.

rubyhornet: Yeah, definitely. Do you have any music videos coming out any time soon, or anything in the works for that?

Lorde Fredd33: Yeah, I’m working on some shit. I got treatments and stuff. It’s just, that’s money and shit, and I’m more focused on just creating more things right now. It’s one thing when you find people who see a vision and just wanna help out, but I’m not too forceful on that thing. I don’t force creativity. I got a lot of concepts, and I got a lot of shit that I can’t wait to create, but right now I just gotta focus on things I can catch right now.

rubyhornet: That’s understandable. I wanted to ask you about Hotboy Ronald. What is the story, are you Hotboy Ronald?

Lorde Fredd33: Nah, but it was like a post-track for the others, you know what I mean? Because the North Side of Milwaukee is a small place, right? But what’s considered the North Side of Milwaukee is this far spanning like geography, throughout Milwaukee, that’s not even really north all the way, it’s like everywhere. It’s just past a certain point is North Side, and then that just spreads north to south. It’s crazy, but Hotboy Ronald was a funny thing. It was like a phenomenon in the hood back in the day. When that song came out, Hotboy Ronald, the hood went crazy over that shit. Everybody, like a lot of people in Milwaukee stalked at the dude who created that shit, like the Hotboy Ronald song, it’s like they thought he was from Milwaukee, like it was a fat ass rumor going around that he was from there, and he wasn’t I don’t think. I think he was from the south or something. It was just funny, and it was nostalgic, and so I was like, you know what I’m saying, if you gotta ask, “What’s Hotboy Ronald?” Or, “Who is Hotboy Ronald?” You’re not from the north, I’ll know that. You know what I’m saying?

rubyhornet: Totally, that’s hilarious.

Lorde Fredd33: You know what I’m saying? So like, yeah, it was one of them things, and I wanted to appeal to my homies and shit like that, not my homies specifically, but the people around the way that I come from because we don’t all know each other just because we all North Side because … like I know when people saw the album cover, first of all, it’d be an attention grabber, like, “Oh, shit. Bro got the capper out the window, got the kid and shit, reading a book, it breaks your heart.” But then you see the name, and it say, The Legend of Hotboy Ronald, and you like, “Oh, shit. I’m gonna check this out.” It wasn’t made intentionally, really.

rubyhornet: That’s awesome. On that album cover, the book that the kid’s reading is an alchemy book. Do you feel like that’s the position that you’re put in because you gotta make something turn to gold?

Lorde Fredd33: Shit, hell, yeah. Most definitely, like straight up. My moms tried hard too, she tried to do everything. She worked hard and shit, but you know, it just… When I came into adulthood I realized that I was just kinda left on an island that I had to work myself off of no matter what. And so I just realized that I was alone essentially. I had no real bearings, and no real understanding of anything I didn’t learn by myself, or get taught by my grandpa in his round about way. I don’t know. I do feel like that, and I feel like a lot of people can relate to that concept, you know what I’m saying?

rubyhornet: Yeah, absolutely. That’s the story of hip hop. The last thing I wanna ask you about is the different voices that you use throughout your album. Even just in Possum Play, I was picking out probably like six or seven unique flows that sounded almost like different people, not quite, but almost like different people. I’m wondering where does the inspiration for that coming front? And also are those actually different characters to you?

Lorde Fredd33: Yeah, in a way they are for sure. I think a lot of people can relate to me, but won’t say it out loud because they know you can’t help but sound crazy as shit. But I think everybody has a lot of voices in their head just naturally, they accumulate after meeting a shit ton of people, watching a shit ton of things. I think that deep down everybody understands that we’ve got multiple voices in our heads constantly. It’s just I figured out how to channel them. Well, I’ve got the confidence to channel them without hesitation, and so I exorcized them right on there, you know what I’m saying? On the other hand, it just … me, it was a fun way to exercise versatility, and to show, display my versatility. I think that … I don’t know. I try to not to overrun shit with features. I think that I don’t really need that many features. I don’t need that many other rapping guys on my shit, you know what I mean? I think I got enough style to mesmerize motherfuckers.

rubyhornet: Hell yeah, totally.

Lorde Fredd33: I’m just trying to push my boundaries constantly, and I used to do a lot of different voices to entertain my big brother because I think he was cooler than me for a while. That’s the only thing he would laugh at, and shit it’s just like if I landed like a voice off the Simpsons or some shit, you know what I mean? I just like fucking with that, and my son likes that shit. I don’t know. I just wanna be … I don’t know. I just think that’d be a good avenue to do, you know? Voiceover work, and all that shit. I think it’d be useful, you know what I’m saying?

rubyhornet: Yeah, definitely. It does show off your creativity, and it does make like, when you switch your flow up, and it has a different sound to it, it makes you pay attention closer. At least it makes me pay attention closer.

Lorde Fredd33: Yeah, so that’s kinda working.

You can see Lorde Fredd33 alongside Ajani Jones, BoatHouse and Jared Lanell with support from DJ RTC on 11/7 at The Empty Bottle. Get your tickets here.

Stephen Kaplan