Exclusive Interview With DJ Free Leonard

by | Sep 5, 2020 | Artists to Watch

DJ Free Leonard is a Recording Artist and decedent member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe, currently working with Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine on a new song. With over 10 years experience releasing, producing and performing Spoken Word Hip Hop music but not limited to an amazing DJ Set of Political Music setting the perfect tone for a protest or rally.

DJ Free Leonard took time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions in this EXCLUSIVE one on one interview…

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. It’s clear that you are very involved in social issues, like freeing political prisoners. Your name is, in fact, DJ Free Leonard. Can you tell us how you became involved in social issues, and what your name actually means?

The pleasure is mine to be able to reach your audience, so thank you as well. Yes indeed, Free All Political Prisoners, a social injustice issue that is not heard that much in the United States, as for a long time there was a denial that Political Prisoners even existed here on Turtle Island. But abroad is much different, the acknowledgement is popular opinion and people are generally more aware. I consider myself an Internationalist as opposed to just a Nationalist because I try to connect the common struggles for Human Rights going on everywhere. My stage name “DJ Free Leonard” is a musical protest advocating for correcting the injustice of the case of Leonard Peltier Vs the US, by curating and making music to raise awareness and create discussions, while balancing it out by doing work in the community like speaking at community events and gathering petitions to lobby Congress and the President for his Freedom.

You are a member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe. How has that cultural upbringing influenced your music, and your life, in general?

It has been a Spiritual journey to say the least. Unlike the many folks who claim Native heritage in order to skip the admissions line into college or become eligible for financial assistance, my connection with my ancestors is a buck(meaning authentic). Lol. I was born and raised in Oakland, California which would make me what they call an “Urban Indian” which is an emotional struggle to practice my traditional way of thinking and living. A part of me feels like I have to keep it real to the people I grew up with and the identity I once sought to establish myself as, learning by example of others what is considered normal and practical, which was then conflicted with being Colonized in the schools with exclusively a Eurocentric design. I am in fact a Decedent Member of the White Earth Chippewa (Ojibewa) Tribe due to the inaccurate assessment of my blood quantum. Long story short, each human alive today has at least 19 generations of descendants and if you were to do the math, that equals to over a million ancestors, so our blood is divided up by that number not just our great grandparents. But all technicalities aside, I love the good feelings I get when I am at a Pow Wow or Sweat Lodge and I have dedicated most of my adult life to advocating for Indigenous People. Unity is key.

You’ve worked with some heavy hitters in the rap and hip hop community, including Chuck D. How did those collaborations come about, and who is one artist that you’d like to work with, that you haven’t yet?

November 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of my first release “Free Leonard Peltier: Hip Hop’s Contribution to the Freedom Campaign”. I started working on that project in 2006 when I was using Myspace.com as a networking tool to contact Hip Hop Artists about doing a song. Previous to this time period, it was very difficult to reach musicians if you did not have their manager’s contacts information or knew someone at their Record Label. I used to always mail proposal letters and demo CDs to the labels but never hear back. I then created the best profile possible explaining the case of Leonard Peltier and then left comments on artist pages.

As far as Chuck D, I e-mailed him hundreds of times and was eventually welcomed into his camp. After meeting and opening up for Rakim, it would be awesome to produce a song for him.

Tell us about your new collaboration with Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine. How did that come about? When will the track be available? What can you tell us about it?

I am super persistent when it comes to reaching out to network with others, and Tom has been advocating for Leonard for many years already so it was a perfect match. I am hoping the record will be done later this month and then directly sent out to the People.

What’s next for DJ Free Leonard? What are your plans for the rest of 2020?

Just a day to day process to heal and take care of my health. As far as community and hip hop, I strive to be a bi-centennial warrior, meaning I am trying to understand what we are going through now connected with what our ancestors went through already. The less mistakes we repeat, the stronger we are. The idea that If only the new generation take their elders’ wisdom seriously, so much more progress would be made.

I have a new song out right now called “Freedom” with Ras Kass. It’s a powerful record breaking down the case. Ras did one of the best verses I’ve ever heard on this song. Visit the official web-site for Leonard Peltier at www.WhoIsLeonardPeltier.info! My music is available there.

Thanks again for taking the time and good luck with everything!


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