Unless you have no internet connection and haven't spoken to anyone for a year or are stoically, irreversibly east coast, you'll have noticed that the vaguely new wave of blunt-smoking, skateboarding rappers from the west coast are pretty much dominating the hip-hop scene at the moment, and FreedMinds, or FMFU – an acronym for FreedMinds Fuck U – as they sometimes refer to themselves, are right at the center of it all. Kumasi Sadiki is the man behind the Oakland-based label that's dressing Odd Future, Casey Veggies, Stalley, and Main Attrakionz, et al, and he kindly dragged himself away from his high, high-grade to chat to me about weed, t-shirts and Cali-living.
VICE: First off, tell me about the name. FreedMinds seems like it's saying a lot about you guys generally, as well as the brand. How does it apply to both?
Kumasi Sadiki: I feel like people are only limited by their thoughts. In order to transcend your current surroundings, you must first imagine something. It’s simple, really – "I think therefore I am". An individual must take personal responsibility to define their reality. You can’t worry about the bullshit and all the people telling you why you can’t do something. You gotta focus, make a plan, execute and refine.
That's a good outlook. How do you think of the brand, then? Is it a very current company in terms of the ideas and graphics you're putting out?
It's a very current company, yeah. We weren’t born yesterday, obviously, so most of our influences are from the past, but what makes us current is that we're active in our lifestyle and in the streets. We're defining the culture that we were once just happy to be a part of. Before, we'd consume all this shit – listen to the music, buy the t-shirts, etc – but now we're the ones making, creating and forming the culture, which is a cool position to be in.
What is that culture in your eyes? Like, what defines and shapes FreedMinds and the culture you're talking about?
Hip-hop is a big influence – music generally is huge for us, actually. Movies, hustlers, porn, photography, weed, conspiracies, African culture, royalty, craftsmanship, success and struggle are all some of the influences that shape us. Anything can be an influence, though. I’ve come up with good ideas while taking a shit or sleeping.
Ha ha. Yeah, weed seems to be a big one. The vibe in the lookbooks is super-Cali – all 40s and blunts and hot people chilling. Did you consciously try and get that across in the lookbooks or is that just you?
That’s just us, man. I fucking love weed. Like, seriously, I’m a huge weed aficionado. In Cali it’s basically legal, so I stay with some dro, and I just wanted the lookbooks to be a direct reflection of our lifestyle, you know? I wasn’t trying to do anything special, just give a glimpse into how we do it.
Nice. Why did you start a t-shirt company in the first place, actually? So you could keep on living the lifestyle but making some cash at the same time?
Nah, graphics have just always stuck out to me. I used to read magazines for the ads and I always saw shit as logos, but I was never the best artist. As I got older, I started hating school more and more and everyone was telling me, "If you don’t go to school, you won’t be shit". Eventually I said "Fuck it", took a chance, and went for it. Before this I was a regular kid, chilling with my friends and trying to get at girls.
Are t-shirts the be all and end all? Or do you want to branch out into other types of clothing?
The t-shirt is an awesome medium. Excellent for getting messages or something cool in front of an audience quickly and I still think there are a lot of aspects of the shirt that I have yet to dive into. But fuck yeah, I wanna make other shit! A more well-rounded lifestyle brand is my vision, including stuff like jackets, hats, pants, belts, socks, whatever. I just want to be able to think of something and have the ability to bring that idea into fruition.
You seem to have endorsement from this new breed of skater, stoner, rappers like Odd Future, Main Attrakionz, Casey Veggies, Stalley etc – is that an affiliation you've worked on or is it all organic?
Odd Future happened real organically. I met Vyron – Left Brain – at art school and he was in my first lookbook along with my girlfriend at the time. I made a few more shirts, he fucked wit' 'em, then I made the first small run and he shot the lookbook. He told me he was in a group called Odd Future and showed me a couple of videos, which I liked, so I told him we should throw a party with them as the headliners and we did. Simple as that. Hodgy lived in San Francisco for a summer and we got chill running the streets. Casey is the homie, man. Shout-out to that whole Peas & Carrots international crew, actually. Anwar and Josh, that’s all fam.
Cool. What about the other dudes?
Main Attrakionz was a random one. We got invited to a studio session, burned a few, chopped it up, and realised we was similar, but we were just on two different hustles. We was fucking with Kreayshawn way back too. She was in a lookbook and we put her on a shirt. Most of our relationships happen organically – smoke a blunt or something, you know? Never really trying to force nothing. We don’t need Weezy or Soulja fuckin' wit' it, that's for sure.
So all that shit happens naturally, but how do you choose your collaborators when you have other people contribute art to the shirts?
Most of the people we have design for us were my friends before we worked together, like Susan Wu, who I know from going to art shows during my getting-drunk-for-cheap-and-going-to-dirty-house-parties phase. She’s talented as fuck, like a real artist. I was honoured she was down to do art for my brand. PEMEX also played a big role in helping design a lot for us. I knew him from raging and we had a lot of mutual friends. Oscar Santos is my nigga and a great photographer. Reginald Sylvester also does a lot of design work for us. He’s a fucking beast. He used to live next door to me when I lived in The Tenderloin, San Francsico. I just want to use the brand as a platform for the people I feel are truly talented and deserve to have their work put out there.
Do you usually give them a remit? Or just take existing work of theirs that you're feeling?
Yeah, I usually have a theme or concept I want them to run with. I’ll try and get some references or we’ll sit down together and brainstorm a clearer direction. We create all original work with whichever artist we're working with.
How about the The CIA Put Crack In The Hood t-shirt? Is that a dig at conspiracy theorists or do you think there's some truth in it?
That’s a throwback, there. That shirt's from before there was really a FreedMinds, but it was the first shirt that made me think I could do it. But yeah, it's definitely a conspiracy theory shirt. It’s only a theory because its hard to prove, but I believe it to be true. When I first started I wanted to be more satirical, kinda like The Boondocks on Adult Swim. I stay true to that today, still, but back then I was an angry black man.
Ha ha. And the High Quality Contraband shirt. What's that one about?
Well, selling apparel is like selling drugs. I wanted to move cotton like some niggas move weight. Also, I wanted the shirts to provoke thought, inspire rebellion – that idea of a government not wanting such a message to be heard interested me. The craftsman in me wants everything we do to be of high quality, thus, high quality contraband was born.
Awesome. Thanks, Kumasi.
Nah, thanks to VICE for this chill interview. Thanks to weed for sticking with me through it all. Thanks to my nigga, Kahim. That’s my right hand man, he's done a lot to make this FreedMinds shit a reality. Thanks to Paulo, thanks to Katrina, free my nigga Jonathon, RIP Keaton, thanks to anybody who let me sleep on their couch, and fuck that art teacher who smashed my clay car when I was seven. Question everything. FMFU.