Why South-West Sydney's Freesouls are trailblazers in the Australian scene
Western Sydney’s growing wealth of hip-hop and R&B talent has long been distinguished by the versatility and individuality of their voices. Moreover, with the Australian hip-hop scene characterised by a slow momentum shift in mentalities towards local artists embracing what makes them truly unique, Freesouls have succeeded as a local trio unafraid to go against the grain and to be themselves from the very beginning. The group represent their Liverpool home with pride and intertwine a laidback, tongue-in-cheek West Sydney humour that is a staple of the often-misunderstood region.
Down-to-earth and rarely self-serious, the South-West Sydney trio are made up of KingTheFreeSoul, Jamel and Jords, each of whom refuse to be anything but their adaptable selves across their stacked discography. Whilst the trio strut their confident style at the forefront, they’re supported by a wholly aligned team that includes Malek (owner of the independent 1LANE record label), BAESSIA (AKA DJ BUSY), and producers MRLVS (pronounced ‘marvelous’), Sezan, FS NiiCK, 2K2 and Tzantza.
Photo by @obnlife
Admittedly there are local groups honing their own sound in a distinct fashion such as The Riot and Melbourne’s 3K, but in an Australian context, there is no group or individual akin to Freesouls sonically. KingTheFreeSoul’s bluesy, multifaceted and haunting vocal talent (checkout his seriously underrated solo effort ‘Feel’ for this exactly) differentiates him as an unmatched vocal presence, which is not to take away from his capabilities as a rapper, where he is expertly equipped with a knack for quick-witted wordplay. Jords’ hoarse and raw voice is a signature component of his straight-talking performances across the trio’s discography, and it makes it feel like he's always speaking to the listener with genuineness as he espouses little need for covering up his personal struggles. Furthermore, Jamel’s wavy flow and smooth delivery accentuates his no-fucks-given attitude that cannot (and frankly shouldn’t) ever be reined in, and much like the rest, he wears Liverpool directly on his sleeve by infusing the West Sydney lingo that is distinct to the area.
Freesouls have steadily evolved since their official debut release ‘Voodoo Child’ in 2018, breaking boundaries along the way and assuring their desire to evolve the Australian scene. Even as early as the ominous ‘Voodoo Child’ their intention to take on Australian hip-hop in a manner where nothing feels borrowed is expressed as Jamel says: “Watching money flow in both accounts, we’ve been looking for the newest sound”. From there they split their time between collaborative effort with fellow West Sydney acts Cult Shφtta and Elijah Yo, as well as Brisbane-based artist and producer Muller Made, and further strengthening their qualities as artists. From Jamel’s trap wave flow on ‘Money Talk’ to the cool-and-calm bravado of ‘Living legends’, and even to the late-night drive feels of ’15 Minutes’ which further highlighted their propensity to never stay in one lane for too long, their ambition has always been to set trends, rather than follow them.
Their rise culminated in a late-2020 collaboration with Wollongong’s Huskii entitled ‘Time Off’, a track dedicated to juggling relationship trouble that expertly balanced KingTheFreeSoul’s chorus, Jamel’s clean delivery and Jords’ earnest refrain with Huskii’s heartfelt emotion in his verse. The track not only echoed the group’s potential for procuring an instant classic, but it further reaffirmed their ability to mesh well with any artist that they join up with. ‘Burn It Slowly’, the last single the group released prior to merging greater focus on to their solo careers in 2021, is driven by each member’s authentic performances and further indicates their comfortability across melancholic and high energy songs by equal measure.
As their name suggests, the group embraces a free-thinking and open-minded attitude to their music which allows them to create with one eye on originality and the other on procuring quality art in a fearless fashion. Their latest EP ‘FS Type Beats’ signifies this as it saw them embrace an electronic club music aesthetic across their tracks whilst blending in that distinct Freesouls rap energy. The 3-track EP includes ‘Molly Meldrum’, which infectiously samples electronic music pioneers Swedish House Mafia (specifically their iconic hit ‘One’) to create a dynamic and uncontainable oomph that is led by Jamel’s catchy opening. ‘ABGz’ features KingTheFreeSoul’s vocals which interchange effortlessly between high and low, a chest-thumping beat and a final verse from King that is sublime. The final track, ‘Need You’, sees Jords takes centre stage both in an offhand phone call to prelude the track and a raw opening verse packed with unfiltered punchlines and wordplay. And not to say that bridging the gap between rap and electronic music hasn’t been done before, but to do it in the manner they do – where their stylistic differences and West Sydney origins are embraced wholeheartedly – reaffirms Freesouls’ long-lasting and timeless appeal.
What makes listeners instantly resonate with each of King, Jamel and Jords is how little they care for emulating the fakeness and boasting often attributed to the rap game. They are simply themselves, through and through, and that allows the music to surprise listeners and subsequently push the scene out of its comfort zone. In addition, the way in which they’ve evolved to further encourage KingTheFreeSoul’s head-turning vocal performances as a central component to their tracks has been undeniably instrumental to their growth. Moreover, it’s a credit to their own foresight in actively working to balance all of their best attributes and allowing each member to thrive on a track. Truthfully, there is no force quite like Freesouls, and their expansive discography rings true of that in spades.
Photo by @deepcvr
Words by Matthew Badrov