The Upful LIFE Podcast- Episode 007: DERRICK SMOKER (SOUL Brass Band’s Derrick Freeman)

Episode 007 of *The Upful Life Podcast* comin’ atcha with special guest Derrick Smoker, NOLA’s own drummer/emcee/singer-songwriter/jazz-cat/lightning rod. Back in late October, the man they call D-Free was kind enough to meet me midday, somewhere near the Bywater, for a colorful stroll thru his career & journey.


Embarking from Houston to NOLA to study Jazz at UNO, we revisit all the people, places, and experiences that life as a Crescent City working musician will manifest. AKA Derrick Freeman, who you may know from Soul Brass BandSmokers WorldKermit Ruffins and the BBQ SwingersLow End Theory Players, or even way back in the Crönk days, as well as the HBO David Simon docu-drama Treme, and (my personal fave of the Smoker legacy), 2012’s seminal hip-hop/R&B/Comedy album Blurple Pain.


Image result for Derrick FreemanBlurple Pain album

I asked this dude to rap for a reason, & Derrick brings the goods in his atypical no-holds-barred/frank AF fashion, with recollections dipped in both humor and the realness. We keep things mostly music and mostly NOLA, as Smoker covers career-spanning relationships with luminaries, legends and locals alike, including (but not limited to) Ellis Marsalis, Walter Payton, Ed Peterson, Shannon PowellKermit RuffinsDavis RoganCyril Neville, and many, many more. Smoker gets very poignant and reflective when recalling the myriad ways in which the late, great Theryl Houseman DeClouet (formerly of Galactic) put him on game. We get into Derrick’s various projects thru the years like CoolBoneAll That, Mass Hysteria, the all-too-short-lived NOLA funk gangstas Crönk. Of course his current gig, SOUL Brass Band, as well as solo albums like Blurple Pain and DWB (Driving While Black).


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Theryl “Houseman” deClouet The HOUSEMAN Cometh! album cover

With regard to The Upful Life Podcast‘s intention to shine a light on human resilience, Derrick discusses the ups and downs of the music biz, especially in NOLA, and how he almost quit altogether. Later, he reveals how fellow drummer Nikki Glaspie put the battery in his back, her inspirational words motivation to get out and really do his own music. Inevitably during the chronological telling of his career path, Derrick also touches on his experience surrounding Hurricane Katrina, when he was overseas with a who’s who of NOLA music, watching the storm footage and Superdome via Fox News. The aftermath and his wayward path back to the city, which took him from Brazil to Miami to Dallas to Alabama to Canada before he finally returned home to NOLA, while now-wife Carolyn held him down the whole way through.

Later we get into the swamp of Jazz Fest politics – again from a local working musician’s perspective- and why it’s important for both Jazz Fest fans AND promoters to have the best intentions when returning to NOLA each and every spring. From where I sit (and what I do), this was an important dialogue to have with a brutally honest cat who is really living this on an authentic & local level. We wrap things up in the now, with SOUL Brass Band, his project with James R. Martin, Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown, and a krewe that came together pretty much by accident. SOUL is now a white-hot book, taking Smoker & company global. We finally get hip to The Low End Theory Players, a local-to-NOLA live hip-hop ensemble that recreates the greatest works of titanic artists like OutKast, A Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z, and more.  A thrilling conversation with a musician and personality in the middle of all things New Orleans.

Big thanks and praises for your time and contributions, Mister Smoker. #LargeUP

Image may contain: 3 people, including Derrick Smoker, people standing, ocean, mountain, outdoor, nature and water

Derrick Freeman (front) with SOUL Brass Band

All That Smoke plus B.Getz’s usual ramblings du jour, & shout-outs to the good folks at Euphonic Conceptions.  Closing (2:03:35) with the *Vibe Junkie JAM of the Week* : “I Get Lifted” by GALACTIC featuring the late Theryl “Houseman” deClouet

This past week, though still reeling from the July 2018 passing of their iconic former frontman, the five full-time members of Galactic purchased the legendary venue Tipitina’s Uptown in New Orleans ! So this 2002 Galactic rendition of a K.C. & the Sunshine Band cut, with Houseman at the helm, culled from Live at Tipitina’s: We Love ‘Em Tonight, is our *Vibe Junkie JAM of the Week*.

*Vibe Junkie JAM of the Week*: LISTEN HERE!

The Upful LIFE Podcast is available on iTunes!

Theme Song: Mazel Tov by CALVIN VALENTINE

Thanks to all for tuning in!