Humor, music help rapper cope with turbulent journey

DOWNTOWN WEST – Humor is a characteristic that rapper Eman Slumpert, real name Emanuel Freeman, has mastered.

With his self-titled debut album garnering much support from the city’s art scene, this characteristic is likely to be a factor as he continues to develop his hard-hitting sound painted with quick flows.

The album’s cover features Slumpert with a serious face plastered over a stock image of NBA player Iman Shumpert in a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey. The joke: Shumpert hasn’t played for the Cavs since 2018.

Jokes aside, Freeman is using humor as a coping mechanism as well as making him a unique figure on St. Louis’ music scene. He is as persistent and mentally impenetrable as he is funny.

Before moving to Ferguson when he was 8, Freeman lived on St. Louis’ north side near Wehner Park. His family lived across the hallway from his grandparents in a building they owned.

“Once my grandparents’ health went down, the family quality went down,” the rapper said.

Fearing what the city could do to his children, Freeman’s father moved his family to Ferguson.

Freeman’s experience in Ferguson at first was a bit odd, to say the least, but he grew to find his path.

The rapper’s first encounter with making music was when he received a Scion beats CD at a local car show, and wrote verses off of the beats. From there, he slowly grew into being fluent with writing, producing, and engineering – sort of.

“We wasn’t good at engineering, but we were definitely recording ourselves,” said Freeman, breaking into laughter.

When he went to college, he stopped working on his music. But he dropped out after his first year and returned home.

When Freeman moved out of his parents’ house to the Canfield Green apartments, he got back into music with new friends and fellow members of their collective, 4Deep. Along with several tracks with the collective made as well as some remixes he made that went viral, the rapper began recording songs that would later become his debut project, Eman Slumpert.

Unfortunately, he also was the victim of multiple robberies in a very short amount of time. The first time was in the middle of the Ferguson protests, when someone broke into the rapper’s home while he was working at a furniture store. With Freeman living on street where the shooting took place, he was close enough to live-tweet the entire situation and confirm Michael Brown’s death. Unfortunately, the place of the shooting and its aftermath happened to bring some uninvited guests.

“When the Ferguson protests happened,” he said, “people ended up being outside all the time. Not just like a few people, like 30 people, strangers,” he said. “[The shooting] happened in front of my house.”

What seemed to be a one-time misfortune eventually became three within a few years. Freeman was robbed the second time at gunpoint when one of his friends sold weed out of his house. Later, Freeman was assaulted yet again and carjacked.

Many people would have given up, but Freeman is still in the city, making music with a new perspective on life.

“You don’t know when this sh-t will happen again,” Freeman said. “So it brings me back to me needing to work on this music and getting myself into a better position.”

Along with using his musical palette as a kind of self-therapy, the rapper looked to his father for a sense of clarity when things were rough.

“You stood your ground, I thought you would have gave in,” Freeman’s father says in his “30 for 30: The Story of Eman Slumpert” documentary, mentioning the three robberies his son endured.

Eman Freeman announced recently that he had started therapy but that he planned to use humor to get people to his music as well as help himself.

“I think people take themselves too seriously,” he said. “I feel like me being comfortable with who I am will make people feel comfortable with who I am.”

Vance Brinkley

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