Freddie Dredd and the Doomshop Counterculture
About a month ago, an important conversation occurred, one that scrutinized a beloved realm of the music industry, one that disclosed a fundamental problem. On November 4th, the founders of Doomshop Records / Sixset sat down with Roger Gengo, the host of the Masked Gorilla Podcast. The night before, the members of Doomshop / Sixset performed at Rarehouse, and the Los Angeles venue was bursting at the seams, filled well over maximum capacity. Although this show was quite an accomplishment for the group, Roger had far more important matters to discuss with its founders.
— #RAREHOUSE (@RAR3HOUSE) November 4, 2019
Anyone who is familiar with this collective of rappers and producers understands that they are different from the rest; their sound is like no other, and the identity of the group remains mysterious, exclusive, and altogether fascinating. As Roger delved into the history and details of the group, a considerable level of paranoia began to surface. Amidst a discussion of the genesis of their trademark sound, one characterized by a distorted, lower than lo-fi iteration of phonk music, the founders admitted that Doomshop / Sixset is “blackballed from the underground.” The conversation quickly moved to a realm of remarkable seriousness. The duo, Cursed and MC Holocaust (a name that we’ll discuss later,) disclosed their vigilant caution when collaborating with other artists. “Nobody sounds like us,” they acknowledged; “if we’re not careful, people are going to take our sound and run with it.” The motivation for this ongoing concern became apparent as the interview pushed on, but their contempt for the music industry was clear as day in that very moment.
After elaborating on their discretion, the inevitable question was asked: “what are your thoughts on the current underground?” With little hesitation, Cursed and MC Holocaust unequivocally denounced the underground with a tidal wave of sobriety, deeming it “out of hand,” “dying,” and (how could I forget) “fucking weird.” The two began trading off, thoroughly explaining the rationale behind their assertions. To give a more concise synopsis, they feel as though the underground is plagued by a lack of originality; artists no longer strive to create their own style. In fact, they do quite the opposite, often seeking to embody the cookie-cutter “trap” rapper—you know, the ones the salty old heads refer to as “mumble rappers.” Although this opinion is perhaps a bit overemphasized, there is a significant degree of truth to their harsh words; further, there is a lot to be learned from the Doomshop / Sixset collective and their refreshingly passionate members.
We live in a comprehensively connected world, and the music industry exemplifies this nouveau characteristic of the networks that unite us. For quite some time, SoundCloud has been the central hub for musicians that belong to the underground, mainstream, and everything in between. In its early days, underground legends were the backbone of all content that had yet to permeate the membrane of the mainstream. Artists like Lil Ugly Mane, SpaceGhostPurrp, and Black Kray, to name a few, paved the way for countless artists to come. It was a beautiful era, one perpetuated by the pursuit of individuality and never-before-seen content. And, if you’ve been paying attention, you won’t be the least bit surprised to learn that Doomshop and Sixset have been around since the dawn of this revolutionary era.
Initially, the groups were founded separately—Sixset in 2012 and Doomshop in 2014; but they joined forces shortly after and began a collective that would grow significantly in the following years. Today, the group stands strong at roughly twenty members: MC Holocaust, Cursed, Apoc Krysis, Lil Kaine, DJ Akoza, Ned Bundy, Da Menace, Soulzay, Freddie Dredd, and many more. The artist you’ve most likely heard of—and the one who has the largest following by a landslide—is Freddie Dredd, a young and impressively skilled artist with an unmistakable sound.
Freddie Dredd—Doomshop Records’ young, Canadian rapper-producer—has made a breakthrough in the industry as of late, even though he’s been making music for over four years. Although MC Holocaust and Cursed are impossibly cautious when adding members to the group, Freddie was a no-brainer. He indistinguishably embodies the Doomshop mindset; his music aligns perfectly with the lo-fi, cassette-esque, Memphis-Houston-underground-inspired sound; to put it simply, he exudes Doomshop culture.
With the Doomshop platform and support, Freddie has undoubtedly gained well-deserved recognition. He has roughly 150k followers on Instagram; his most popular songs have as many as 20M plays on Spotify; and his two profiles on Soundcloud have approximately 50k followers each. But there’s something peculiar about this scenario. Freddie’s music is unlike anything you hear on the radio or on the billboard charts; evidently, it doesn’t embody stereotypical popular music at all. And since gaining this popularity, Freddie still makes lo-fi, underground, Doomshop music.
As we delve deeper into this interesting phenomenon, it will become apparent that Freddie Dredd is truly one of a kind; there is something spectacular about this rapper-producer extraordinaire. In a musical climate where originality is on the decline, where “everybody wants to be somebody else,” Freddie exists as a standalone exception. Freddie Dredd is everything contemporary artists, underground and mainstream alike, ought to be. He is an exemplary creative mind, and there is a lot to learn from him. In order to convince you of these lofty accomplishments, we need to go back to the beginning.
Of course, Freddie did not set foot on the scene with the exact mastery he exemplifies today. As most artists are, and as MC Holocaust admitted, “Freddie was a progression.” If we go back four years and examine Freddie’s early content, though, one might argue that his sound has largely stayed the same, with the exception of some key developments. To fully delineate Freddie’s simultaneous growth and consistency, one must parse through his comprehensive discography; for this exact purpose, I have carefully curated a series of playlists that foreground the various aspects of his music—surfacing his technical advancements and stylistic stability.
First and foremost, I must address a peculiar convention that Freddie has utilized since the beginning. Freddie hasn’t been the most straightforward with his fanbase; he operates behind a double identity—each representing the two components of his music. When he is rapping, he is known as Freddie Dredd; when he is producing beats, though, he uses the pseudonym Ryan C. This designation is the root of much confusion for his fans; there are entire Reddit feeds devoted to speculating whether or not Ryan C. is in fact Freddie Dredd, and fans tirelessly argue their speculations. The introduction of the opening track on his most recent album, VARIETY PACK EP VOL.1, features a brief conversation between his two identities, a humorous skit that perpetuates the confusion about his cryptic nomenclature.
The motivation behind this protocol isn’t entirely clear. What is rather apparent, though, especially when listening to his music in chronological order, is that his production has always been his strong suit. He is astonishingly gifted, with an ability to employ samples that would be rendered useless for most artists, creating otherworldly beats that span a myriad of genres. If you wish to experience this for yourself, just shuffle the playlist below; whether it is an instrumental from one of his early mixtapes—DA MONSTAH TAPE VOL.1, for example—or a hit single from this year, you will immediately recognize the description I have given.
Ryan C.’s undeniably impressive ability to select and utilize peculiar samples is one of the most concrete distinguishing factors of his sound. He frequently juxtaposes serene, mellow, and oftentimes vintage samples with distortion and hard-hitting 808s. Some of my favorite Ryan C. tracks, where such coalescence is discernible, are Wont Go Far, La Madrague, and NEVERFUCKWITHMii, where he comically combines diametrically opposed sounds. These lightheartedly sinister melodies are Ryan C.’s trademark, and listening to his production throughout his entire career demonstrates his long-standing ability to fully customize his sound. It is safe to say that no one makes beats like this.
Ryan C. beats are easily distinguishable upon listening, but another surefire way to tell is if the album art looks like this.
It is clear that Ryan C. created his own lane from the beginning, a sound that he can undoubtedly call his own, but what about Freddie Dredd? Freddie has been rapping since Ryan C. developed the sound that fans have become hooked on; but his voice has certainly changed over the years, a progression that nearly all vocalists experience. To get a sense of this advancement, the playlist below, titled Early Freddie / Ryan, serves as a chronological reference. The playlist spans the first three years of Freddie Dredd’s discography, and listening to songs at its beginning will give a clear baseline of his initial vocals. One of his earliest songs—Shoot 2 Kill, a collaboration with Baker—appropriately encapsulates his starting point. From a lyrical perspective, the discrepancy of subject matter is minimal in comparison to his modern vernacular; evil themes of murderous intentions, communicated through blunt, straight-to-the-point lines, were always an aspect of his lyrical identity. The key difference is Freddie’s delivery. Initially, his demeanor was less potent; softer, less direct vocals are often heard on verses from his early days. Regardless, these ancient verses are still damn good, and his rapid progression will become evident shortly.
A cautious analysis of his early vocals, one that materialized through comparisons of tracks from different time periods, suggests an initial lack of confidence or comfort. Freddie tended to stay within the realm of monotonous pitches, and experimentation was sparse. But I struggle with criticizing his early work, mainly because it’s still pretty impressive to this very day. What’s more impressive, though, is how quickly Freddie got a firm grasp of his voice. In less than a year, his voice was nearly at the level it is today—borderline flawless. When Freddie released DEATH VALLEY EP roughly three years ago, tracks like SNAKE certified his reputation as a skilled vocalist. Freddie began to really take control of his delivery; with this newfound ability, his initially unintuitive rhyme patterns became addictive for listeners. After less than a year of rapping, he became visibly consistent with his verses, unlocking a new dimension of his signature sound.
Once Freddie locked down his delivery, gaining the necessary confidence to perform to the best of his abilities, music was released like clockwork, and his discography grew spectacularly. At the two year mark, he was making a killing as a rapper-producer phenom. Some incredibly noteworthy albums were released at this point in his career; that year, he released two collaboration albums with skateboarding-influenced titles, Casper Flip EP and Ghetto Bird EP, both produced by Sixset’s JAK3. These albums feature riveting vocal experimentation—unearthly mixing and extreme distortion that push the boundaries of the lo-fi sound; he had entered uncharted territory.
This time period, wherein collaboration with producers became frequent, is where Freddie grew substantially as a vocalist. Further, his familiarity with his trademark sound became deeply ingrained in his mind; when he doesn’t rap over Ryan C. beats, he is able to curate instrumentals that are a spitting image of his brand. Gifted producers like Soudiere and Sixset’s Apoc Krysis provide him with the materials to maintain what he knows best; the Fade EP of 2017 demonstrates this crucial self-awareness.
One of the most noteworthy projects from this era, DREDD, is a compilation of singles produced by himself. This 13-track playlist is chock-full of hits, each with hundreds of thousands of plays today. On songs like Ain’t No, an extraordinary synthesis of production and vocals is demonstrated. The spacey beat fluctuates between pitches as the unforgettable hook (“creeping in the motherfuckin’ dungeon”) repeats; this dynamic is an exemplary instance of the fully immersive Ryan-Freddie experience. I can listen to this entire playlist without any interference. The production is bewildering; the vocals are sinister and riveting; it’s impeccable.
It is important to remember that we still haven’t reached present-day Freddie Dredd; there is still more growth to acknowledge; after all, the song that catapulted him into the public eye has still yet to be made. As such, the playlist we will now reference is called Contemporary Dredd, a compilation of songs released in the past year. If you’ve recently become hip to the Freddie Mane, you’ll certainly recognize some of these tracks.
So Freddie is entirely in his bag; his vocals seamlessly fit the framework of his production, and something crazy is about to happen. Eight months ago, Freddie Dredd released CHA CHA, a laudable single with an impossibly catchy hook. Ostensibly, this song is quite similar to a multitude of his tracks—a hypnotizing multi-genre Ryan C. beat with lo-fi vocals. But this song created a certain impetus that wasn’t triggered by the dozens of songs with similar structures and general sound. To belittle the actual magnitude of the phenomenon, CHA CHA went viral. It went insanely viral; and, of all the platforms that could provide such widespread publicity, it went viral on TikTok…
It was a glorious day for underappreciated artists everywhere; every kid with the app was blessed with Doomshop excellence—whether or not they were even aware that SoundCloud (or underground music, for that matter) existed. When I discovered this occurrence, I had a similar reaction to MC Holocaust’s: “what the fuck is TikTok?” Much of Freddie’s devoted fan base was outraged by the internet sensation; perhaps they saw this widespread display as a threat to their sense of accomplishment from finding such an incredible talent before the mainstream did. Regardless, I was delighted to see an exponential increase in Freddie’s followers on social media; and I was proud of Freddie for getting the recognition he deserved. I am not going to let this internet frenzy distract from the point of this article, but I want to pose a question before moving on: if asinine videos are what it takes to expose raw and undeniable musical talent, then what does that say about the world we live in today?
Back to the Contemporary Dredd playlist… After blowing up on TikTok, Freddie released about half a dozen tracks in a short period of time, and something interesting was occurring in these singles. BITCH MADE and AINT NO RMX feature tranquilizing samples that will bring a smile to your face. But instead of pairing these instrumentals with analogous vocals, Freddie is generous with the distortion. Another single with fabulous sampling and an unusually strong cadence is WITNESS, released with a trippy and entertaining music video; again, this song is considerably lo-fi. SLANGIN, an eerie and intense single was released around the same time, and this one is so distorted it sounds like it was recorded on a walkie-talkie (in a good way, though.)
I’m not sure if this is attributed to coincidence, but after releasing CHA CHA and subsequently gaining tons of followers, Freddie seemed to have increased the intensity of the lo-fi sound. Of course, this modification of his voice is not unusual for Freddie; if you like this style, and want to hear other tracks of this nature, give the SupaLo-Fi Ryan C. playlist a spin. As you can see from the timestamps on the songs, this playlist is mostly a subset of the Contemporary Dredd playlist—a recognition that supports the increasing nature of the lower-than-lo-fi sound over time.
Perhaps this was not intentional, or maybe I’m just trippin’, but if this increased distortion was in fact deliberate, Freddie is a mastermind with an excellent sense of humor. As the mainstream was getting a taste of Freddie, he was deliberately digging himself deeper into the underground, an act of resistance—which is hella cool, to say the least. Nevertheless, these singles are mind-boggling, and they served as a delightful interim period for listeners before the release of his latest project, VARIETY PACK EP VOL.1.
This EP is the culmination of years of hard work and growth for Freddie and Ryan, and it slaps. As you likely intuited, similar themes are present in these seven songs. The beats are off the hook, and the project sounds most professional. Tracks like MOVING TO AMERICA, ABUSE, and NO MORE are most interesting to listen to, in my opinion, and they’re indicative of Freddie’s most admirable qualities. I highly recommend listening to this album front-to-back; it will give you a good sense of how talented this man is. At this point, we’ve nearly covered everything in his expansive discography.
Just a month after the release of VARIETY PACK, Freddie is wasting no time, still demonstrating that highly commendable work ethic we’ve been applauding. His most recent song, WEATHER, was released two months ago, and it displays a performance that is rarely heard from Freddie. On this melodic track, he is stepping out of his comfort zone, but the quality of the song doesn’t reflect that. Not only does he leave out his beloved talking point, murder; he is fully singing over this quintessential Ryan C. beat. Although he’s dabbled in the art of melody before, heard in parts of REDRUM (one of my favorite songs of his,) the complete nature of this song is out of the ordinary. But this delightful single is doing numbers, with nearly six million plays already—an accomplishment that instills excitement for future songs that will push the boundaries of his genre.
WEATHER is incontestably a more marketable song than the majority of his heavy-hitting, lo-fi tracks, which surfaces a foremost effort from Freddie to cater to a more broad audience. This is the first time Freddie has refashioned to this magnitude, and in the Masked Gorilla interview, MC Holocaust speaks on this innovation, admitting that he’s “adapted a bit.” I can see where this point is coming from, but in listening to these playlists, I’m more inclined to believe that Freddie’s evolution of sound has mostly stemmed from his general progression and discovery of himself. Regardless, Freddie has once again demonstrated that there are more dimensions to his music; there’s far more than murder-themed horrorcore, and I’m looking forward to what’s next for him.
Another dimension of his music that we have yet to discuss is his collection of comedic rap, hilarious tracks that are tastefully sprinkled throughout his discography. With a striking internet presence and a propensity for creating content that is like no other, this realm of music is right up Freddie’s alley. A cursory glance at his Instagram, twitter, or music videos—and, of course, the fact that he led many to believe that his elusive other half was a producer named Ryan C.—gives the impression that his identity is somewhat of a “meme.” If you don’t believe me yet, listen to JUDGE JUDY WANTS TO FUCK—you’ll get the picture. There are a couple of music videos that demonstrate Freddie’s sense of humor. YOU KNOW’s music video is filmed alongside 3pac’s famous “Chedda Mama;” if you know, you know, and (of course) rest in peace, 3pac. Also, Freddie and some humorous comrades recently released the NO NUT NOVEMBER music video, which has over a million views in just a few weeks. If you don’t find these tracks amusing, I feel sorry for you.
So we’ve nearly analyzed his entire discography, and I hope you’ve gotten a thorough taste of our devoted underground creative. Through this process, though, it is crucial that we don’t forget Doomshop Records / Sixset; after all, they were an integral part of Freddie’s growth and success over the years. MC Holocaust eloquently admitted that “progression is a drug;” and its only fitting that progression is what Doomshop is all about; its the Doomshop mentality. The group’s mission is to provide a platform for talented underground artists: “that’s the whole point of this shit.” And this is exactly what they’ve done with Freddie. Also, interestingly enough, Cursed and MC Holocaust even made it clear that they wouldn’t take it personally if a member of their collective were to blow up and stop repping Doomshop, a noble display of selflessness.
But this would never happen, as Doomshop members clearly have their priorities in check; and the culture they created is to be respected and recognized, especially by its members. They’re so devoted to music that the amount of content on Spotify and Soundcloud is difficult to fathom; its enough to satisfy the most voracious of listeners. To get a sense of this sheer magnitude, take a look at this regularly updated playlist by Apoc Krysis. MC Holocaust wasn’t lying when he said, “no one puts out as much music as us;” I think seventeen hours of content should do the trick.
Doomshop’s purpose is to foster the values of creativity and individualism by working against the grain of the mainstream. They lead a counterculture of sorts that works towards dismantling the largely homogenous music scene. This is exactly why MC Holocaust uses such an in-your-face moniker, one that has made it difficult to get his content on some streaming sites; the name, MC Holocaust, is a direct and deliberate “fuck you” to the industry.
It is noticeable that this mentality has rubbed off on Freddie. And I would argue that Doomshop is making a necessary point: it’s way more impressive and contributory to create your own lane, to have your own sound and style; after all, this fundamental mindset is how we all got here. Doomshop implores you to be yourself, and this is exactly what Freddie has done. For the most part, he is staying true to the sound that birthed him, and it’s a beautiful demonstration of Doomshop integrity.
I like to believe that Freddie has one foot in the mainstream and the other foot in the underground. Without compromising his sound, Freddie has been able to market himself to a broader audience, while still remaining true to his roots and sense of individualism. In fact, he’s making the most of the unique situation he’s in. Some say the mainstream doesn’t deserve Freddie Dredd, but I think the mainstream needs him more than ever. In a sense, he has bridged the gap between the mainstream and the underground in an inspiring way. There is a lot to learn from him, and more publicity will hopefully encourage young artists to be themselves, dissuading the emulation of preexisting sounds.
Freddie Dredd is the renaissance man of the underground. His unprecedented style and sound promise him undeniable longevity in the rap game, and I wish the best for him. If Cursed and MC Holocaust were right, if originality is dying or already dead, then Freddie Dredd serves as a galvanizing aberration, a truly original artist with a sound that is entirely his own. So perhaps the underground isn’t foredoomed after all…
These playlists are simply songs that I felt best portrayed the certain periods of Freddie’s career; they are by no means his entire discography, so I implore you to search for more content—if you’re so inclined. There are some incredible collaborations that he’s participated in.