Actor Edwin Freeman is best known for his portrayal of Mister Cee in the 2009 film ‘Notorious’, a film about the life of slain rapper “The Notorious B.I.G.”. Growing up in New York City during the 80’s “The Golden Age of Hip Hop”, Freeman saw firsthand how the emerging hip hop culture was beginning to shape how those within and outside of the culture began to express themselves not only through the music, but through what they wore as well. In an interview that I recently did with Freeman, he discusses when he began to notice how hip hop influenced people’s style, how The Notorious B.I.G.’s image helped influence modern hip hop clothing styles, and how the youth today are using modern hip hop culture to express themselves through style.
Kadeem Lundy: So for those of us who aren’t familiar with your work, could you please tell us a little bit more about yourself, and what films you have appeared in?
Edwin Freeman: It’s an interesting story because prior to my career in film/television, I was in hot pursuit of a career in music (laughs). I got into the film industry a little over 12 years ago, when a friend of mine’s introduced me to film/television producer Mark Skeete. Together we filmed the direct to dvd comedy ‘Da Mission’. I’ve since appeared in movies and television shows including ‘Conviction’, ‘Across the Universe’, ‘Word on the Street’ and ‘Notorious’. I gotta tell you, it’s been one heck of a ride, but I’m enjoying every minute of it.
KL: So now you appeared in ‘Notorious’ and as we know The Notorious B.I.G. was not only known for his music, but for his sense of style as well. What is your view of his style and how do you think it influenced the urban culture at the time?
EF: The Notorious B.I.G. came out at a time when the urban youth was more into the rugged style of dress. Timbalands, Army Fatigues, Carhartt Jean Suits and clothes along those lines. He helped redefine fashion for the hip hop generation. Where prior to him coming out and introducing us to brands such as Versace, Coogi, DKNY, Armani and Moschino to name a few, we would wear whatever we wanted to, just as long as we looked good in it. He helped change the game and make us more fashion conscious.
KL: Growing up in New York City in the 1980’s and early 90’s besides being introduced to different styles of music, as well as the rising hip hop culture, what did you first notice about how the music of the time was affecting the way those who identified with the hip hop culture expressed themselves through what they wore?
EF: When I was growing up in the 1980’s we were into high top fades, rope chains, two finger rings, suede Pumas, shell toe Adidas and acid washed jeans (laughs). In the 90’s it was Starter caps, 8 ball jackets, Triple Fat Gooses, Timberlands and Filas. These were all popular brands and fashion styles due to hip hop. Hip Hop artists and their videos served as sort of fashion commercials for the urban youth. They had a major impact on the urban trends of those eras. Even down to the kinds of cars that people drove. This still continues today, everybody wants to know what the urban youth is into. The hip hop generation influences the urban culture of the entire world, it’s a global thing now.
KL: How would you describe how hip hop influenced your personal style growing up during the ‘Golden Age of Hip Hop’, as it was referred to?
EF: It made me fearless when it came to fashion. I was never afraid to try something new and be different from the crowd. Hip Hop is all about expressing yourself on every level. The way you walk, the way you talk, down to the way that you dress. To be a leader and not a follower is the principal that hip hop is based on and this includes urban fashion.
KL: In the late 90’s and early 2000’s we saw hip hop icons such as Jay- Z, Diddy and Russell Simmons launching clothing lines such as Roc-A-Wear, Sean John and Phat Farm which over time became very successful, do you feel that if it weren’t for those types of names who are well known in the hip hop community backing the brands, the brands might not have achieved the status that they maintain today?
EF: We were doing our own thing with fashion anyway. It only made sense to capitalize off of fashion and build our brands while putting our names on the clothing that we wore. That’s one of the smartest moves that the hip hop icons did in my opinion. Why let those who aren’t apart of the hip hop culture make all of the money and define our fashion trends for us? They don’t fully understand where we’re coming from. Who better to set our trends than those who are from amongst us? Jay-Z, Diddy and Russell Simmons were brilliant for launching their clothing lines, as were the founders of FUBU and ENYCE. It just shows the rest of us that we need to move the same way. To be owners as well as consumers, you feel me?
KL: Now the style of “sagging pants” although it is very controversial in terms of view between the older generation, and the younger generation, in which many in younger generations identify with the style due to what they have seen in hip hop videos. What is your take on that whole style of sagging and do you feel that it really is apart of hip hop or a entirely different cultural expression?
EF: From my understanding the sagging pants style started in jail. When an inmate went to jail, they would take their shoe laces and their belts, so their pants would sag. A lot of people who spent time in jail brought the sagging pants and no shoe laces style back into society when they were released. That’s why you saw both the no shoe laces and sagging pants style prevalent during the 80’s. Why do people still sag their pants, although they wear shoe laces in their shoes today? You got me on that one! I’m still searching for that answer myself (laughs). A lot of people still do it, but that’s never really been my thing.
KL: So now Edwin what can we expect from you in the future?
EF: I recently completed a film with Bill Pullman and Arjay Smith entitled ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Made’, that’s produced and directed by David Letterman and Rob Burnett. I’m currently working on a television pilot called ‘Just Another Hu$tle’ and I’m also in the pre-production stages of a film that I wrote entitled ‘It’s Better to Marry’, that goes into production in Atlanta, Georgia next month. I’m just working hard, staying busy and having a good time while I’m at it (smiles).
KL: Thanks Edwin and we look forward to speaking with you again.
EF: Thanks a lot!