What is more essential these days than an internet connection? And who doesn’t love Free WiFi? Rising rap group FREEWIFI knows that value very well and is here to offer something else for people to connect with — fun music.
The Minnesota-based trio consists of Tha Rift, Daddy Dinero and J. Plaza. All of them had met briefly within the local rap scene, but officially connected on their first song, “Ego,” produced by Angelo Bombay. Bombay worked with Tha Rift on the initial idea, then sent it out to Daddy Dinero and J. Plaza.
“We didn’t even know we were going to be on the song together,” Dinero says from the Rostrum Records office in Los Angeles.
The song turned out to be a hit, but the group had to learn to be fans of each other first.
“He didn’t like my music,” Rift says of Dinero’s first impressions of him, “AKA this nigga was hating.”
“I support anybody doing they thing,” Dinero laughs, “but I wasn’t a fan of his music. But that specific song that he sent us, I had to call him right away to tell him, ‘That shit was hard.’ But before that…”
“We joke about that still,” Rift says. “We had to get on the FaceTime. I had to confront him about that. He’s like, ‘No, no I just didn’t fuck with your music, man. It’s got a different sound it’s different.'”
The members of FREEWIFI met in person for the first time on the set of the “Ego” music video, and even then the group didn’t get to gel all the way because Dinero and Plaza shot their parts of the video in different cities.
“We met at shows before,” Plaza explains. “It was just a ‘Hi and bye.’ We never worked with each other. That song was the first song we did something with each other.”
The infectious tune caught the attention of Rostrum Records, the label that helped nurture the careers of Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller. The label signed the group, who didn’t have a name yet, and propelled them onto a national platform.
“It kinda reassures that you’re on the right path doing the right thing,” Rift says of Rostrum’s support, “that you’ve got what it takes to make it because somebody else believes in it behind you.”
At first, the guys weren’t sure if they wanted to submit their own artistry to a group. They each have a distinct sound and style, with Rift’s high-pitched voice holding down the melodies, Plaza delivering fierce bars in a deep baritone and Dinero sitting right in the middle.
“All three of us were individual artists popping individually around the city,” Dinero explains. “All of us had egos so it was kind of hard to let it go. Then we sat and talked about it and realized that this could be a better move or a better power move or a strategic move. It might be beneficial for us all. We realized it’s actually bigger than us. Hip-hop, it’s for the culture. So why not put our pride and our egos aside, come collectively together, build something great and pave the way for other people behind us.”
After conceding to the idea of a group, Dinero is the one who came up with the name FREEWIFI, after much prodding from Rostrum. All three members were racking their brains for what they wanted to call the group and were striking out.
“I’m trying to tell you, man, there wasn’t really that much inspiration,” he laughs. “I was laying down in the hotel room, we were in a group chat trying to figure this out. Rostrum Records needed the name. We was throwing out a bunch of names that made no type of sense. I look to my left and I saw a sign that says ‘Free WiFi’ and I thought, ‘Well, that might be a good name.’ Threw it in there and they was rocking with it. Literally, that was it.”
Friends and fans started having fun with the name, sending over pictures of Free WiFi signs from McDonald’s and saying, “Hey, look you guys are here!” Fun and play are key elements that went into crafting the trio’s first album, Connected, which dropped in February.
The 14-song tracklist, which includes “Ego,” of course, is laced with silly skits performed by Plaza and Dinero. Plaza plays a woman asking a worker for the Free WiFi code and getting frustrated at all the work she has to do while Dinero tries to politely calm her down.
“Every time I hear that shit, it crack me up,” Rift says of the skits. “I think it kinda ties into the theme of everything, the whole message that we’re trying to give off. Life is serious. People got shit to do, people got stuff to pay. They stressed out. Let ‘em be free, man. Who doesn’t like Free WiFi? Who’s not trying to be connected?”
The catchy album intro “Made,” the looming bass of “Ghost,” the twinkling sounds of “Took Off” and the fierce “Outta My Way” will keep the party raging with braggadocious bars while softer cuts like “Recruit” show the group’s softer side, reflecting on balancing love and ambition.
Although there’s not a lot of depth to the content on Connected, FREEWIFI has a clear purpose in wanting to give fans something positive to relate to.
“Staying connected with their inner strength and believing in themselves and stuff like that [is what we’re all about] because that’s what it takes for us to do what we do,” Plaza emphasizes. “We believe in ourselves and we’re just confident. So we want everybody to feel that way in whatever they want to do in life and then also just stay connected with everything that’s going on in the surroundings and disconnect with the negative shit.”
In many ways, the group has come full circle before fully taking off. For all three members, music has been a great influence in their personal journeys, and they’ve drawn inspiration from one of the main artists that Rostrum is known for.
“[The fan reaction] feels good because that’s how I was when I was listening to my idols growing up,” Rift shares. “Wiz Khalifa is one of my idols and to be on one of the labels that he started on is a huge milestone. Especially for me personally, because half the reason I’m rapping is because of this nigga. Just everything he brought to the table, the whole vibe, the energy, everything.”
FREEWIFI performed a high-energy homecoming show a few weeks after Connected dropped and then showcased their skills at several SXSW events. They also got to rap for Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg and are even getting their modeling on, doing a shoot for Champion and Carhart. Each of the members has come a long way from Rift living on a studio floor in Hollywood and Dinero rapping over his own beats with a USB microphone he bought off Amazon. But where do they go from here?
“We going to the top,” Dinero promises. “We wanna be the best. I’m actually glad that we did it the group way because that’s a whole other lane itself. Rather than just being individual artists and competing with each other.”
FREEWIFI is building a family to bring with them as they keep rising in the rap game. They want to be examples of what it means to live life to the fullest.
“We just want people to be in tune, not only just with us, with the music, but just to get the overall point of you can do anything you fucking want, man, out here,” Rift chimes in. “If you want something, just go do that shit, man. Don’t let this negative energy bring you down. Don’t let all the stress of every day bring you down, man. Don’t forget why you’re living. Don’t forget why you’re alive. Because at the end of the day, if everything goes to shit, what you gonna have? You’re gonna have yourself and the people that you’re around. All that stuff don’t mean nothing. But that’s as deep as I’m gonna get.”
The rest is saved for the next album.