October 6, 2018
STRANGERS: Pierre Phipps & Terrance Wilson
LOCATION: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, 234 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, California
THEME: A gay rap duo discusses making their mark on the music industry
“I want us to be the first gay rappers to be number one on the Billboard charts” says Terrance Wilson, one half of gay rap duo Freaky Boiz, as we sit down to dinner.
His singing partner and close friend, Pierre Phipps, nods and smiles, adding “I want us to be international superstars and to perform at the Superbowl.”
Press coverage of the duo signals that Terrance and Pierre, both 29, are on the way to achieving their dreams. And it’s a lifestyle neither imagined eight years ago, when one day they made a video rapping salacious lyrics about gay sex over Gucci Mane’s “Freaky Gurl.” The singers boast about their sexual conquests, with funny rhymes and bawdy stories.
If I come up in the party better guard your man
Cause I ain’t leaving that bitch without a dick in my hand
All these bottoms want this dick, all these tops want this ass
But all I wanna know is where the fuck is my cash
They made the video out of boredom and uploaded it to YouTube, not expecting much reaction. It quickly gained hundreds of thousands of views, and they started taking rapping seriously.
Jump forward to present day, and they’re in high demand as the Freaky Boiz. Their adventures have taken them to headlining concerts and pride events across the country, and even overseas to South Korea. They’ve released a mixtape, EP, and several videos with extremely high production values including a couple that are inspired by the movies Friday and Bring It On.
And there’s more to come. They’re busy putting the finishing touches to their next mixtape, and they’re eyeing more touring. All the while, they’re aware of the attention they attract due to being gay and singing about it, but they say reaction to Freaky Boiz has been mostly positive.
Surprisingly, given rap’s reputation as a heterosexual-dominated industry, the duo say their biggest backlash has not been from straight people or rappers, but instead from gay people.
“Somebody said we’re pushing the gay agenda back 100 years,” says Pierre, with a laugh and a theatrical roll of his eyes. “Gay people are our biggest critics, because a lot of them aren’t happy with themselves and they find comfort in mirroring heterosexual people, so anything that doesn’t mirror heterosexuals they find an issue with it. And the Freaky Boiz do not mirror heterosexual people.”
They certainly don’t with their sometimes x-rated lyrics and ultra-confident gay personalities in their songs and videos. In person, the pair come across as easygoing yet dedicated musicians, serious about their developing craft but quick to joke and tease each other (and me). We’re laughing from within seconds of meeting for a dinner interview in Pasadena, and their energy is contagious.
“Some gay people don’t want us living our dreams and being comfortable in our bodies, they say we’re doing the most, but we’re so free and so happy,” Pierre adds. They’re throwing that exuberance into their shared goal of becoming international superstar rappers.
We’re dining at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse in Pasadena, a high-end sports bar. Massive television screens dominate the wall above the bar. Chandeliers hang from ceilings as high as those you’d find at a country estate house in England. And the dining room is split between a cluster of bar stools and tables and rows of dark-colored booths.
Terrance and Pierre are sitting across from me in one of those booths. Terrance, in a green t-shirt, looks younger than his age, often flashing a bright smile, and quick to laugh.
But Pierre puts us both to shame with a sharp suit decorated with gray and white dots, covering a crisp ironed shirt and topped off with a pair of stylish glasses. He’s dressed up because he’s just come from the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, a fancy event where he says people eat and drink a lot of champagne and don’t really bother watching the big polo game it’s centered around.
“It was the best event in the world, I can’t wait till next year,” he says.
“No invite? Wow,” responds Terrance.
They both laugh, the first instance of what will be many times throughout the meal when the duo engage in good-natured teasing. They act like best friends, sometimes finishing each others’ sentences, sometimes finishing a sentence at the exact same time with the same words, and that’s because they are great friends, having first met when they lived in Chicago.
They grew up in the Windy City and went to separate high schools. “Our schools were across the street from each other, they were rivals,” says Pierre. They met when they both joined a dance company for which students from several different schools would take part.
But it wasn’t a harmonious meeting from the start, says Terrance. “I didn’t like him, he was loud and it was too much for my being,” looking his partner up and down.
“I didn’t like him because he was quiet,” Pierre snaps back in jest.
Terrance says his quietness was due to dealing with several identity issues at the time, including his sexuality and fear of being outed as gay. “So when I talked to Pierre and he was outgoing, I was like, oh yeah, that’s over the top, he’s gonna get me caught.”
Pierre tells me he’s always had a big, outgoing personality and that these days Terrance is also more of an extrovert — it’s just that side of his rapping partner was “compressed” in the closet back then. “So that’s pretty much why he didn’t like me, because he wanted to be me” Pierre says with a smirk.
Being in the dance group helped the duo form their tight friendship, traveling all over the country to perform in a host of competitions for which they routinely came first place. They also found out that even though they went to separate high schools, they lived close to each other.
“We couldn’t get away from each other,” says Terrance.
Pierre nods. “Nope, he tried.”
The start of their music career happened when they both went to university.
“Southern Illinois University” they both say in happy unison. Pierre studied television, wrote poetry, and performed in theater. “I just loved attention, I was an attention whore basically.” Terrance did a business administration and accounting course. Although he loved performing arts and was a dancer, he didn’t have a desire to make any music. So what changed?
In 2010, Terrance was feeling down one day and Pierre was looking for ways to cheer his friend up. They were listening to music, so Pierre starts rapping over the tune, just thinking of random things to say, including about his sex life. Terrance starts to join in, and they keep spitting out verses about the whatever came to their minds. A friend was in the room cracking up with laughter, but said it actually sounded good and that they should record it and upload the video to YouTube.
“So he started recording and we just got to rapping and freestyling and just playing around. We reviewed it and we laughed and we put it on YouTube, that’s it. We just thought it was gonna be out there in the universe, lost in space,” says Pierre, then pausing. His eyes bulge. “Woo!” He smiles and continues the story, saying the next morning their phones were blowing up with notifications about the video, which racked up hundreds of thousands of views overnight. “We went viral!”
It was fans in the comments section of the video that called them “freaky boiz” and they liked the name, so they adopted it. The video quickly bounded around the internet, featuring on mainstream blogs and websites, garnering even more views and comments.
“It was a very intimidating moment,” says Terrance. It was a time when being out out on the internet was still not a popular thing, particularly not for rappers. The pair say they got some criticism, but were pleasantly surprised that most of the feedback was positive.
Despite the acclaim, and now having a name to perform under, they didn’t take Freaky Boiz seriously and instead just kept making songs and videos on an irregular schedule for their own amusement. But every time they made another track and posted it online, it became viral. They started to build a following online and in person. People on campus were asking for selfies with the duo. And then they got their first request to perform their music in person.
“I’ll never forget” the first concert, says Terrance. “It was in Louisville, Kentucky. The promoters were African American — the establishment was very hillbilly-ish, but it was a random hip hop night” he adds. The couple had been used to traveling around the States and performing as part of their dance group, and even with this gig they didn’t think about a Freaky Boiz album or career.
And they were still “poor college students,” says Pierre, so as more gig requests came in they had to fit that around their study schedules, as they were determined to graduate. “Once people started booking us we would literally fly out right after class and then fly back for class.”
I wonder how two friends who started Freaky Boiz for fun developed the business savvy to know what to charge for performances, but before they can tell me, our dinner arrives.
Pierre’s having the boneless wings tossed in barbecue sauce and served with celery sticks and ranch.
For Terrance, the herb-roasted grilled chicken alfredo with fettuccini pasta, steamed broccoli| and parmesan cheese. They both seem to enjoy their food, and say they’ve been here before.
I can see the appeal when the waitress sets down my dish, a hearty serving of spaghetti and meatballs. The meat is fresh, the sauce tangy and and the pasta perfectly cooked, but the huge portion sitting is front of me is way too much to finish in one try (or even two).
While I make a valiant attempt to consume my food, Pierre picks back up the narrative of how the Freaky Boiz figured out the financial side of rapping. He credits Terrance’s knowledge gained from his business degree for helping with the ins and outs of the financial issues.
“We based it off our means for transportation, we had to get outfits, we had to book dancers, so we basically we made [the budget] to the point where we felt comfortable where we would want to perform. Sometimes we would ask people what’s their budget, and sometimes their budget was way more than what we wanted, and we’re like, we’ll take it, we’ll settle for you,” says Pierre, laughing.
Pierre and Terrance continued to perform and were enjoying growing notoriety as the Freaky Boiz, but they told me their main priority while in college was to finish their degrees. They had started to work toward their first album while in college, but found balancing that with the touring and their studies to be stressful. It wasn’t until after graduation that they were able to devote the necessary time to putting together an album of original songs.
In December 2012 they finally found the time and released the 14-track mixtape Unleashed. A mixtape is typically a free promotional collection that’s shorter than a traditional album, or half-album known as extended play, or EP. Unleashed featured songs including the peppy “Bounce,” the lascivious “Freaky Tales,” the slower-tempo, emotional “One Life to Live” about a suicide, and more. “It was our first project to show people that it’s now more serious than the little funny YouTube videos,” says Pierre. “We wanted to show people that we were able to rap and able to keep up with the artists that are famous now.”
What’s the message they want to send with their rap?
“We just wanted to be ratchet as fuck,” jokes Pierre.
Terrance follows up, saying, “We grew up listening to so much music that influenced us but it didn’t represent us. So we wanted to have music that represented us, the things that we talked about in our first mixtape were things that we experienced or heard about being in the LGBT community. We didn’t care if people listened to it, we just felt good about producing it ourselves.”
For the mixtape they chose different songs from artists they liked (including Missy Elliott, Nicky Minaj and Bubba Sparxxx) and remixed them with their original vocals. “One Life To Life” stands out as the heart of the mixtape, a song Pierre wrote based on someone they knew from their social circles who had committed suicide in Chicago. Terrance says, “People love that song, they still hit me up today to say how it –” and Pierre finishes the sentence “– saved their life.”
“Bounce” was the duo’s first official single, and it’s the first one for which they shot what has become a series of high-quality music videos involving a production company. “The songs that you heard before ‘Bounce,’ they were other peoples’ songs and we remixed them, so basically we had to put it out for free,” says Pierre. “But ‘Bounce’ was our song, the beat, everything was original.”
Pierre’s college education in radio and television helped him find “the best of the best” to produce the video for the song, says Terrance, adding that they had a blast making it, getting their family members on set. “It felt so real, like we’re really rappers now.”
At that time, the Freaky Boiz were still living in Chicago, but they had plans to move. They just happened to be looking at relocating to opposite ends of the country.
Terrance was looking to move to New York to become a businessman, working in management. Pierre was set on developing a television career and thought Los Angeles was the natural place to move. It was a dilemma that shifted once Pierre simply decided to move in February 2013, and it took Terrance by surprise. He lasted nine more months in Chicago before joining his best friend in the City of Angels. What prompted the move? “This crazy person” says Terrance, looking at Pierre.
His friend gasps in fake shock. “Why would you say that about me?”
“On top of other things, I was just tired of Chicago, plus I wanted to be with Pierre, he’s one of my good influential friends, and I needed that back in my life,” says Terrance.
The Freaky Boiz were reunited and since then they’ve doubled down on their rap career, with ambitious goals of touring the world and topping the Billboard charts. They’ve already got the South Korea box checked on the international superstar list, as they were invited by Absolut Vodka to headline a show there in summer 2015. “During the whole flight I’m thinking they booked the wrong people,” laughs Pierre. “But we got there and they knew every word to every song.”
Freaky Boiz is a time-consuming project, he adds. “Music is hard and it takes up everything,” he adds. “I can’t even go to the Polo Classic, I’ve got to come interview with you,” he says with a comical sigh.
Every week the pair are writing music, looking for videographers and dancers, performing, traveling, doing print, online and radio interviews. “We’re tired,” says Pierre. And that’s on top of day jobs that they still have to keep the lights on, with Pierre working in screenwriting and screen editing for television and Terrance working as a behavioral therapist.
They have a big task given that they’re independent artists. Terrance says, “We pay for our studio time, our beats, our wardrobe, our dancers, our staff, anybody who has anything to do with the production of our videos, location, we’re managing ourselves right now.”
But their goal is to make Freaky Boiz their full-time job, and they say they’re established enough now that any initial backlash or prurient curiosity over their x-rated lyrics about gay sex has disappeared. I bring up a radio interview they did back in June 2012 for The Breakfast Club show on Chicago’s Z107.9 in which the hosts keep peppering Terrance and Pierre with borderline ignorant questions that make a number of lazy jokes about homosexuality. For example:
Host #1: When did you all realize you were gay?
Host #2: When they took a shower together
“I’m so glad that interview happened because everyone could see how stupid they looked doing that,” says Pierre. “It doesn’t have to be stupid, we’re just two people, we’re like the same people they interviewed the day before, they didn’t have to do all that. But it helped because every interview after that we had no issues,” he adds. And since their appearance, he says, The Breakfast Club has had other gay artists on and avoided the awkward attempts at humor ever since.
“I took that experience to educate them on things,” Terrance says. “I didn’t mind them asking certain things but I would look at them sideways, are you really asking these questions? They made themselves look ignorant. We always tried to redirect it back to the music.”
Their music developed into the original EP Category Closed, featuring a wide range of styles that they say was deliberate, to show off their diverse music-making skills. Pierre tells me the title of the album stems from the ballroom culture popularized in the movie Paris Is Burning and the FX show Pose; categories for dramatic, pretty boy, sex siren, and more. “So for this EP we wanted to touch every single category so that people can know that we can do it all.”
That’s why a listener will hear the hardcore “None” followed by the very sexual “Savage” and then the poppy “Make It Hot” — they ace every category, and the category is closed.
Dinner is coming to an end, so I ask whether the Freaky Boiz have more music in the works.
Terrance says they’re putting together another mixtape, Unleashed Part 2, that they hope to release in the coming months. “For this one we’re going above and beyond. For Category Closed we held back a little bit on being ourselves, making the music that we want to make and the things that we want to talk about. In Category Closed we talk about things people can relate to and want to listen to. In this one, I want to talk about some real shit, I want to talk about what’s going in the world, in my life, what I do personally and maybe somebody else can relate to it.”
Pierre adds. “I want to get back to the roots, to sexual songs, because we kind of grew out of that. I want to take a step back to that because our fans used to love it, even though we got criticized for it.”
That criticism has largely subsided, save for the occasional online attacks they told me earlier that they still get from some members of the LGBT community. Nowadays, if the duo is walking down the street in Los Angeles, they might get stopped for photos by straight people. Pierre laughs as he remembers there was even one time a fan recognized him while using the bathroom.
The hardworking duo is planning a tour to promote the next mixtape for their fans. “We definitely have to tour because our fans miss us in every city,” Pierre says. “We’re coming, y’all!”
As we get ready to part ways, I ask them whether their ultimate goal is to join a record label. They both nod. “We are, but first we are focusing on being better artists, putting on better music, more music, more videos – everything we’re planning on doing with our next album,” Terrance says.
They’re here, they’re queer, and they make songs that will stick in your ear. And once their next mixtape is unleashed, there might be no stopping the Freaky Boiz from achieving their dreams.