While Fredwreck’s Northridge home, about 30km northwest of Los Angeles, boasts a widescreen TV large enough to obscure one living room wall, there is also evidence that this hip-hop heavyweight has other cultural influences: Cushions positioned on the floor around a shisha (water pipe), an oud (Middle Eastern lute) and tabla (drum) resting next to the guitar rack.
To many of his big-name clients – Snoop Dogg, Xzibit and Mack 10 among them – Fredwreck is the go-to producer when preparing a new album. While most of his peers hail from South Central LA, Fredwreck’s roots lie farther east.
“My father was born in the Israeli part of Jerusalem, my mother was born in Bir Zeit,” says Fredwreck, born Farid Nassar. “[In Jerusalem] my father got to work in a machine shop. During those times General Motors was looking for machinists so that’s how he got to come to America.”
Fredwreck’s father left after the 1967 Middle East war and managed to bring the rest of his family from Palestine to settle in the apartment block he had purchased in Flint, Michigan.
Fredwreck was born Farid Nassar
The US-born Fredwreck recalls how parties back in Flint usually ended with each family member playing an instrument, his mother on the tabla, a cousin on the violin.
In those days, he says, buying a radio was beyond their budget, so music had to be made at home.
“People were always around making music and playing music. That’s where I think I got it from.”
Fast forward through breakdancing at high school, creating mix tapes and being a disc jockey, to the moment when Segal, Dr Dre’s engineer, passed some of Fredwreck’s music to that architect of West Coast hip-hop. Dre liked what he heard and Fredwreck’s career took off.
Along with music, there is another recurring theme in Fredwreck’s life.
Growing up political
The producer’s first brush with activism was at age five when his parents came to collect him early one day from kindergarten.
His memory is hazy, but he believes it was after the Sabra-Shatila massacre. His father and uncles planned to march to the mayor’s office and, as Fredwreck recalls, “have some words with him”.
“I was a kid at the time thinking ‘This is cool’,” he says of his first involvement in political protest. “But people were driving by and throwing stuff at us and my uncles had to throw rocks back. The next day I was at school and all my friends said, ‘Hey man, I saw you and your father on TV last night!'”
“After 9/11 happened and I saw they wanted to go and take out Saddam Hussein [and I thought] ‘You’re turning one thing into something else'”
Rap producer Fredwreck
Fredwreck’s interest in politics never left him, but it was piqued by the Iraq war.
“After 9/11 happened and I saw they wanted to go and take out Saddam Hussein [and I thought] ‘You’re turning one thing into something else’.”
His conversations with friends about the war made him realise he needed to create some music to reflect his feelings.
While socially conscious rap music may be blossoming in the Middle East, with acts emerging from Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine, the days of American hip-hop when Public Enemy urged the world to “fight the power” have been replaced by a rap movement which is more about partying than politics.
Fredwreck, himself a big fan of party jams, as he calls them, was not deterred and believes there is a place for political rap music in the United States.
Inspired by protest singers from the 1960s, he got to work.
“You see what music did in the sixties,” he says. “Music is just a vehicle to send a message out. You can’t tell me Bob Dylan didn’t have an influence on how people thought about policy and war.”
But he says that the industry is so commercially led, artists are scared of taking risks. While swearing and showing bikini-clad women is acceptable, politics is not.
Letter to president
“Dear Mr President” is Fredwreck’s reaction to events in Iraq and attempts to ask questions that he thinks are not being addressed in the mainstream media.
“Everybody has got to take a bit of responsibility”
It is a protest song of sorts, one that brings together the talents of the big-name rappers Fredwreck works with, including Cypress Hill’s B-Real, Evidence from Dilated Peoples and KRS-One.
But this was no “We are the World” get-together.
Financial constraints meant that Fredwreck recorded the track one part at a time, whenever one of the rappers was passing through.
To record Mobb Deep, he took his laptop and set up a mini studio in their hotel room.
Not all the participants were that eager initially, some worrying that they might be perceived as anti-American. Fredwreck says he tried to put them at ease.
“It’s not anti-American. Each person is saying what their thoughts are. Every person got to put their own message across, and all their separate messages was the message I wanted to put out there.”
The track, which clocks in at over six minutes, is breezy and laid back, with the haunting refrain of “There’s blood on all our hands” forming part of the chorus, courtesy of former House of Pain frontman Everlast.
Everlast, whose real name is Erik Schrody, says he is not a political person but this track presented a good venue to say something about the war.
“Everybody has got to take a bit of responsibility,” says Everlast. “I’m a Muslim also, so I have this whole dichotomy of things I have to deal with. … I feel that more Muslims need to stand up and say, ‘That extremist stuff ain’t right.’
Everlast: Everybody must take
“America ain’t done a lot of great things lately, but it doesn’t make cutting off innocent people’s heads right. There’s nothing in the Quran that tells me to take it (violence) to innocent people,” he says.
“There’s people dying,” Everlast says. “They don’t show us any dead soldiers at all, any dead Iraqis, because they know if the American people saw that stuff on TV it would be a mess. The average American, show them any dead baby in the street and it’s going to mess with them.”
Everlast and Fredwreck say their concern comes from a love of country, not a hatred of it. They are concerned about the direction their country is taking.
“The people of America aren’t the government of America,” says Everlast. “I think they (people in the Middle East) would be shocked about how many people really aren’t down for what’s going on.”
Fredwreck is encouraged by the new hip-hop acts coming out of the Middle East and is already sending music – at no charge – to one group in Gaza.
“It’s like 1988 all over again,” says the producer. “It’s NWA in Palestine. They’re rapping about oppression and their message is getting out.
“And you got Israeli Jewish artists that are doing the same thing. And that’s cool. That’s what it’s supposed to be about. Every person has a view.”
You can download the S.T.O.P. Movement’s free tracks at http://www.fredwreck.com/