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‘I will smack you myself.’
Like many local artists, Detroit rapper Brenton “B-Free” Freeman is just trying to make his music and maybe one day hit it big. And last month, the musician gained instant popularity overnight—though perhaps not how he had ever intended.
Waking up to a flood of hate mail one morning from seemingly out of the blue, Freeman was lost in confusion.
“My phone was just blowing up with all this hate mail,” he told the Daily Dot. For someone who averages about 20 likes per tweet, he couldn’t understand why he was suddenly receiving hundreds of malicious messages criticizing his music. However, a quick Google search provided the answer: It was his name.
Coincidentally, there happens to be a Korean rapper who goes by B-Free, and said rapper is in hot water for his controversial and disrespectful comments toward one of Korea’s biggest K-pop names, BTS. Cue the confusion.
Korean B-Free got into a mess with ARMY, BTS’s official fan club, when he dug up some old drama last month. About two years ago, the Korean rapper criticized BTS members Rap Monster and Suga for leaving the underground rap scene to become idol rappers, essentially calling them sellouts. Now, in 2016, he issued a belated apology via Twitter toward the K-pop group, as reported by Soompi.
But making such late reparations left BTS fans puzzled more than anything else, and some felt it was a ruse to ride the coattails of BTS’s recent explosion of popularity. Re-opening old wounds inevitably drew comments and criticism from the fans.
According to Allkpop, the overwhelming response proved to be too much for Korean B-Free, when he threatened to “bitch slap” BTS just a few days after apologizing. With fans in a frenzy to retaliate, it was easy to type “B-Free” in the Twitter search and accidentally pull up Freeman’s handle, @officialbfree, without realizing that @realbfree was the one they were looking for.
When Freeman began making music at 13, he chose the stage name “B-Free” since it combines his first and last names together. At 20 years old, the rapper still performs under that name. He recently released three new tracks in January via SoundCloud and continues to grind out results.
Aside from making music, Freeman also attends classes at a community college, balancing work and school like many other American college kids. He self-manages his music career, and his brother produces his music. His objective when performing is for he and his fans to have a “hell of a time,” even without the influence of drugs or alcohol. “If you end up coming to a Detroit B-Free show, it’s to leave all the negativity, all the stress, and all the wrong outside,” Freeman said, explaining that he hopes to promote that culture even if he makes it big.
But despite Freeman’s humble personality, angry fans were unable to see past the seemingly innocent stage name.
“I was waking up to comments like, ‘Yo, you’re garbage. Your music is trash,’” Freeman explained. “It caught me so off guard! I’m doing pretty good. I’m talking to managers. People keep telling me to keep doing what you’re doing.” Freeman regularly performs in the Detroit area and has even opened for big-name artists like Big Sean.
When Freeman realized who the hate was coming from, he was stunned to learn it was from fellow ARMY. “I’m so familiar with BTS, and for ARMY to [get] me confused with the Korean B-Free… Bro, I fuck with BTS,” Freeman said, expressing his own love and respect for the K-pop group. “I had to speak my mind and let them know, ‘Yo I’m not the guy. You got the wrong person.’”
Freeman released his own set of tweets to help clear up the confusion, sending words of support for BTS in addition to condemning the Korean B-Free’s comments. “As for what B-Free said, him saying the shit about the fans and the slap thing or whatever—bro, what? I will smack you myself.” Freeman said. “For him to low key just disrespect somebody who’s doing what they love to do… was just uncalled for.”
Nothing but love & respect for the ARMY
— B-Free (@OfficialBFree) January 31, 2016
Fans soon realized their mistake, and Freeman said they did end up apologizing, mostly via Instagram.
Ever since making his identity clear, Freeman has received a plethora of tweets. “Right now my Twitter doesn’t stop. It’s never been like that,” he said. People have been commenting on the comedy of the situation, stumping for American B-Free over Korean B-Free, or hoping for a possible collaboration with BTS themselves. (Freeman did tweet at BTS requesting to work together—to no avail thus far.)
Freeman still listens to and loves them, and even declares himself an ARMY. “Especially considering everything that just happened,” he said. “It’s like standing up for a little brother.”
Even though the rapper has known BTS and K-pop for awhile, the mix up with B-Free has given him a new goal to add to his list. While the exposure and opportunity to make people laugh at the situation was nice for Freeman, he emphasized that there was something bigger that he wanted from it. “Overall, all I wanna do—all American B-Free rapper wants to do—is bring K-pop to Detroit, really,” he said. “If there’s any way that K-pop can maneuver its way to Detroit, Michigan, it would just be amazing. It would be crazy, outta this world.”
While K-pop does make its way stateside, it’s very rare that concerts are held anywhere beyond New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago.
“If I ever get a call from them or a call from a company manager or whatever asking me to head over there, I’m droppin’ everything—school, work, I’m headin’ over there,” Freeman promised.
In the meantime, we’ll be waiting for that collaboration to drop.
Photo via OfficialBFree/Twitter
Sherry Tucci is a fandom reporter who specializes in Korean pop culture and anime. In addition to her work at the Daily Dot, her reporting has appeared in the Daily Texan.