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Finger Lakes rapper makes it to the national stage

Felix Free
Felix Free
Felix Free
Felix Free

The music scene around the Finger Lakes has produced artists who have come to national and even international acclaim. Legendary bassist Scott LaFaro is one artist who comes to mind. So does the band Gym Class Heroes.

A Finger Lakes rapper has recently enjoyed some national attention. It started with an appearance from Matisyahu who appeared at Lincoln Hill Farms outside Canandaigua. Matisyahu asked for recommendations for a local opening act. Lincoln Hill Farms recommended Felix Free. Matisyahu liked his sound and the gig was booked. Day of the show, there was a lightning storm, a delay, and a shortened playlist for Felix.

“Every five minutes, taking a song off my playlist. I hadn’t talked to anybody. Their manager let me know that they liked the sound. Matis even came out and gave me a pound and was like, ‘Yo, man. That sounds great.’ I got some confirmation that they liked it. But, we played, crowd loved it and it went well. Like, four days later after I declared that I would never try to travel again. This is so frustrating booking shows here. This is a headache, people don’t appreciate what I do. I’m just going to record in my basement. 7:30 the next morning, I get a call from Matisyahu. ‘Hey! I got four dates in Florida. You want to come?’ I’m like, yes. Let’s go. It’s on.”

Felix went from taking the stage to crowds in the hundreds and sometimes dozens to audiences numbering in the thousands in Pensacola, St. Augustine, Miami Beach, and eventually St. Petersburg.

“That was the biggest show. Close to two thousand people, singing along. It was a real Florida rain. Shout out to everybody in Tampa right now that may be dealing with that storm. I hope everybody’s well and safe. I send our love. But, they gave me a lot of love. Hands up, front to back. You know how I do at the shows, it’s hip hop, get your hands up! They turned the lights on, front to back, it was amazing. And then I also got to go on stage and do some stuff with Matisyahu as well.”

Those dates in Florida arrived as part of a 30 year musical journey for Felix Free, who didn’t always call the Finger Lakes home.

“To take this journey, going from Los Angeles, California, the biggest market, to Canandaigua, New York. It’s been an experience, man. It’s been hard to get a show. It’s hard to get a show. People don’t even call you back when you say hip hop. I don’t know what it is with it. To get this shot, it’”

When Felix Free toured with Matisyahu, he performed solo with his laptop, but when you catch him performing around Finger Lakes venues like Lake Drum Brewing or the Linden Social Club, you’re more likely to catch him performing with a live band.

“The computer is...I’m in a box. I’m literally in a box. To be able to stretch it out with a live band and have the other instruments. All the instrumentation, I see colors and, you know, can break out of the shell. It’s a different experience and especially with hip hop. I can freestyle and improvise for a long time and vibe with the whole crew.”

Felix Free kicks off an East Coast tour tonight (09/30) at The Linden Social Club in Geneva with Free Creatures and St. Vith. From there, he goes on to dates in Pennsylvania, New York City, New Jersey, and Washington D.C.

Kelly Walker started his public radio career at WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1985 and has spent some time in just about every role public broadcasting has to offer. He has spent substantive time in programming and development at KWMU in St. Louis, WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, and Troy Public Radio in Alabama before his arrival in Geneva, New York. In addition, his work has been heard on many other public radio stations as well as NPR. Kelly also produces The Sundilla Radio Hour, which airs Sundays at 1 p.m. on Finger Lakes Public Radio and is distributed to public radio stations all over the country through PRX.