The Untold Story of Freedom Williams
of C&C Music Factory
By Laura Mazurek
Recently I had the pleasure to sit down and interview dance music Icon and groundbreaking rapper Freedom Williams who rose to fame in the 1990s as the front man of C&C Music Factory. Freedom and C&C Music Factory created a new genre of dance music in the 1990s. They were the first musical group to fuse together funk, gospel and hip hop combined with contagious dance beats. Freedom co wrote and performed lead vocals on many of the group’s huge hits including “Things That Make You Go Hmm”, ” Here We Go” and ” Seat Everybody Dance Now” which went 5x platinum internationally in 1991. As a young teenager I immediately fell in love with their music. Every song made your spirit and feet move when you heard it. When given the opportunity to interview Freedom Williams I was very excited to delve into the creative process of all his music that I have for over 25 years. We met on a beautiful sunny day in Brooklyn, NY at the restaurant Habana Outpost. As we sat down outside just 2 blocks down from where the Notorious BIG lived, you could feel the energy of all of the fellow Hip Hip icons that once walked these streets together. We spent the afternoon talking about his career, musical influences, duality of the universe, and his 20 year journey to gain the creative rights to the name C&C Music Factory.
Freedom grew up in Brooklyn and Queens NY in the 1970s. He knew at a young age that he wanted to be in the entertainment industry, and that the newly forming genre of Hip Hop would be here forever. He is known as a MC for his baritone timber and slow yet aggressive delivery. At a young age he found confidence and empowerment from his childhood friends in the neighborhood. In the late 1970s- early 1980s Hip Hop was very Afrocentric and powerful. The beats of hip hop inspire the bravado, confidence and naturally competitive nature of many MC’s. When Freedom was in his early 20s he left his then young son with his son’s mother and grandmother to pursue his dreams of making it in the entertainment industry. At some points during this time Freedom was homeless. In the early 1980s he was making a name for himself in NYC as a sought after DJ and musical sampler maker. Freedom reflected that back then DJ’sused to cover up the labels of their records so as not to give away to fellow DJ’s what records their were using during their set. Freedom credits women as the foundation of all forms of music ” Women create all of our styles of music from the subtly and sublimeness of the universe. Everything in art is traceable to the simplicity of women and the female energy of love and happiness. Women are portals and visionaries.” Freedom emphasizes the importance of studying music and all genres which gives you a mentorship and musical vocabulary within your art form as reference points to pull from creatively. Some of the MC’s that influenced him in the early part of his career were; Grand Master Flash, Afrika Bambattaa, Melly Mel, Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J and The Fearless Four. Williams was also heavily influenced by punk, new wave and pop music in the early 1980’s some of these influences include; Flock of Segals, Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran, and DepecheMode, .
In the late 1980s Freedom Williams was a sound engineer in NYC at Quad Studios. Freedom met music producers David Cole and Robert Clivilles while he was engineering musical projects for Seduction, Cameo, Natalie Cole and other musical artists. He first teamed up with them in 1990 rapping on the single “Get Dumb”. Freedom was working on a solo project at the time when they all started collaborating musically on what would become C&C Music Factory in 1991. During his time with the group in the 1990s they won several MTV Video Awards, Billboard Music Awards and American Music Awards. Billboard Magazine ranked C&C Music Factory as one of the most influential dance groups of all time. “Sweat/Everybody Dance Now” would go on to become one of the most successful dance songs of all time, and went platinum 5 times. C&C music Factory was also influential on the world’s of fashion, music, music videos, and pop culture as a whole. Marcus Nispel directed several of C&C Music Factory’s music videos and mixed together lush tones, glamour, animation, computer animation and industrial elements to create the musical groups iconic music videos. Freedom reflected on the importance of impactful music videos and visualsstating ” We don’t hear music we feel and see music. It’s always been physical and spiritual. Video allows you to visually see the music and connect with the artist. It was my marketing vision for C&C Music Factory to portray the look of the characters Jonathan Steel and Emma Peel from the British spy TV show The Avengers, hence in many of the videos I was wearing suits. Hip Hop style is the mixing of rich styles with urban influence”.
In 1993 Freedom left C&C Music Factory to pursue a solo career and other creative ventures. In addition to his music, Freedom has directed various music videos and a short film in 2011 ” Freedom Williams Life Goes On”. He also has owned a basketball team and become a certified pilot over the past years. He mentors several hip hop artists from the Brooklyn area, and gives them construction jobs, teaching them the importance of learning to use tools and build for yourself. Freedom explains his love for building ” Working with your hands is like working with the tools of God. Construction is rhythm and poetry”. One of the things that has not only been a part of his branding as a artist, but also a source of maintaining spiritual balance is maintaining a healthy lifestyle and fitness regime. He looks at fitness and lifestyle choices as very interrelated ” You get the most out of training when you eat well, meditate, have healthy relationships and think about something bigger than yourself to keep going. You must clear your mind of the clutter to be a quick study and succeed”.
Freedom Williams is also a study in strength of character and endurance. In 2004 he filed papers with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for ownership of the name C&C Music Factory, and began touring around the country for the past 15 years. Freedom who is currently on tour internationally, exclusively shared with me his recent win of the trademark to the rights of C&C Music Factory after a nearly 20 year feud with Clivilles for the creative rights and royalties. Freedom spoke to me for the first time publicly about the historic win and his battle for creative ownership “Clivilles tried to say I was not a member of C&C Music Factory when I was there from the beginning. Clivilles was telling me that I could not use the name C&C Music Factory even though Clivilles retired from music years ago and never toured. The U.S. Patent Office declared that Clivilleshad no case because he never filed trademark papers and could not show cause when he was asked to by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He never reached out to me directly to discuss things. Instead Clivilles cyber bullied me for years, and was harassing my manager for many years. I never addressed it publically because I felt my work spoke for itself. When I wrote the lyrics for Sweat, Here We Go and Things That Made You go Hmm it was from my historical timeline and you can’t claim that. I feel that this victory will give other artists hope. We all have a cross to bear and no one gets anywhere in this business without paying dues. Never giving up is so important”.
Now that Freedom Williams has won the trademark case he has the full power to do what he wants with the brand. In the next chapter of his career he has many exciting things on the horizon. Freedom shared with me exclusively during our interview that he is currently working on a book titled “Lip Sync” which will give a inside view into the music industry ” The book address how the music industry controls how and why we sample music, the dysfunctional business values of the music industry, and how the consumer pays for it culturally and monetarily, as well as how race is an underlying factor in it all”. In addition to his busy tour schedule, recording and producing new music, he is also currently focused on his recent cryptocurrency marketplace XAIBE which is the first online digital platform to use cryptocurrency to buy and sell goods in an open marketplace. When asked what he wanted the legacy of Freedom Williams to be he expressed ” Artists express humanity through performances and relationships with the audience. Musicians are in tune with the vibrations of the universe. You know where you came from and where you are going. I would like people to remember me as a decent guy who was fun to be around and that I didn’t take myself to seriously. In life remember to work hard but laugh about it. Everything is a teachable moment. As human beings we need checks and balances. Understanding the checks and balances in life is the key to finding balance.”
Freedom Williams is not only a dynamic artist and performer, but he is also a important part of the foundation of the cultural movement of Hip Hop. You can hear the influence of Freedom Williams and C&C Music Factory in many of today’s musical artists. Despite his many accomplishments Freedom remains charismatic, humble and very approachable. To have the opportunity to speak extensively with an artist that was an intricate part of our musical history and culture was a truly enriching experience. To find out more about Freedoms Williams touring, music and other ventures visit his website freedomwilliams.com