DJ Idol Hannz is spinning hip hop and house tunes while Carpool in Herndon, VA awaits Mr Free’s arrival. It’s a thin crowd for a Saturday night, but when Mr Free arrives and takes the stage, the rhyme and rhythm of his words create a new symphony and it is worth the wait. People are looking up and listening to the tall, thin, gentle-looking, dreadlocked man speaking his truths at the front of the room.
But Mr. Free is more than an emcee or rapper. Known to friends and newcomers as Mr Free, Geoffrey Gary has a lot on his mind in addition to making music. He is a visionary, spiritualist, teacher and aspiring inspiration to anyone who will listen.
At 17, his father challenged his self-identity – “Why are you calling yourself Geoff! I named you to be more than that! I blurted out, ‘Cause I’m not Free yet!’” Prophetic words from such a young man, but by that age, he had already begun his path to spiritual enlightenment through reading The Celestine Prophecy and studying Native American philosophy. Combined with the influences of an evangelist mother and a Pentecostal preacher grandfather, it is no wonder that Mr Free’s mission is to open minds and have a positive impact on children through teaching.
Mr Free considers himself a nuisance to the schools he works in sometimes, but only because he spends more time tapping into the minds of the children he teaches than sticking to the lesson plans he’s given. He feels strongly that the current state of American school systems do not cultivate the inherent gifts children posses, but rather forces them to conform with no focus on the energy they bring.
He credits his life as an artist, Scott Stapp, lead singer of the rock band, Creed, who with guitarist Mark Tremonti, heard something he didn’t know he had. Mr Free met the band in Kauai, Hawaii where he was a valet runner for the hotel where they were staying. They hit it off and Mr Free stayed in touch with the band.
They crossed paths again in Virginia, where Mr Free had just been offered a teaching position. Creed asked him to open for them at Nissan Pavilion, which turned into a job offer from Scott Stapp to tour with them. “In my whole life, the biggest blessing has been his (Scott Stapp) belief in me to believe in myself. Up to that point, I didn’t take myself as an artist very seriously. It was more of a fun thing, like a hobby. But when somebody of that magnitude says ‘you’ve got a gift’ you’ve got to cultivate that and take myself seriously.”
Mr Free’s music is much more just notes and words. He wants to pass along the blessing he received to others, to inspire them by his belief in himself to believe in themselves. “People are gonna doubt you. I’m gonna stand up on top of all that of that and say ‘I’m good! I believe in myself!’ That’s something that’s frowned upon. We’re socially raised to sort of bow our heads.”
He says he brings a distinct energy to his shows that takes people a couple of tries to get, though he jokingly admits that his early songs were based in a preconceived notion he had of what hip-hop was, that it sounded more like that ‘nonsense you hear on the radio.’ “I bring a comfort zone, I’m gonna be me up here and maybe in the process, you’re gonna be you.”
The single 30 year old, originally from the Bronx, NY, is frustrated with the DC music scene. He expresses that guys he has worked with for years, that he left to pursue his career in Santa Cruz, CA, are basically where they were when he left four years ago. He has returned to the metro area to spend time with his family before he moves to Japan in 2009 to teach English and pursue his art abroad, where many hip-hop artists have found success. While he is here in DC, he has a show coming up at the St. Stephens Church Youth Center on Newton Street, February 23 and is hoping to line something up with a tour that may be coming to town in April. Check out his website www.wellrootedmusic.com for biographical information, samples of his music, and a calendar of upcoming events. Welcome back to DC, Mr. Free. Hope you’ll stay a while.