The Free Radicals are rebels from Houston with a cause. Fighting against white supremacy and the violence of bigotry.

By Cy White, Photos courtesy of the Free Radicals

There’s nothing quite like a group of rebels raging against the racist, misogynist, capitalist machine. The Free Radicals have been on a rampage for nearly three decades. Spreading their message loud and clear: “Get your heads out of the sand and stand up for what’s right!” Their bringing their jazz-infused hip hop and Public Enemy-esque activism to SXSW. With fists raised in the air and music like an 18-wheeler to the chest, they’re ready to give Austin something truly powerful. Drummer and Free Radicals Founder Nick Cooper and latest Free Radical Karina Nistal answered a few questions ahead of their SXSW performance.

Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Nick Cooper: For 26 years, Free Radicals has been performing at street protests, break dance competitions, funerals and parties. Meanwhile putting out tons of music. Now we’re collaborating with hip-hop artists, poets and vocalists to take on white supremacy.

Karina Nistal: My name is Karina Nistal, Latin hip-hop artist from Houston, TX. I’ve been performing for over 20 years and collaborating with Free Rads for almost three years now. 

What are you most excited about during SXSW?

NC: We love to see the other incredible bands that are always at the Elephant Room, the hippest spot!

KN: I’m excited about exploring some new bands, making connections and promoting our new project. I’m most excited about performing at Elephant Room on the 19th! 

What’s the message you want to give people coming to SXSW?

NC: We are a loose coalition of artists that very rarely get to share the stage together on the same show, but we’re gonna make that happen at SXSW!

KN: SXSW has evolved so much since I started attending many years ago. It has always been a great opportunity to come and promote your music. Now there’s other exciting opportunities happening during the conference that can enhance the festivalgoers’ experience. I’m so glad it’s in my backyard! 

What do you want audiences to take away from your showcase and music?

NC: Either they had an incredible experience; they are ready to overthrow capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy and the oil economy; or both!

KN: I want our audience to enjoy the performance, since most of us have been performing a long time. But I also want them to be reminded that the topics we’re discussing are still major issues that get overshadowed by the media. It’s our job as artists to use our voices to express the injustices of the world. 

Can you tell us about your upcoming single, “Bipartisan Baby Jail”?

NC: We got duped! Biden and Harris said they were going to set the children free, but instead they took Trump policies and said, “Eh, actually, those are good enough for us!” We didn’t vote for that BS!

KN: When thousands of migrants started coming to our southern border through Mexico, it was obvious that our country was not prepared to deal with this and looking for a “quick fix.” These “baby jails” were created to detain them for the time being. Instead of reconnecting them with their families, they have been held “in care of” ICE in some unsafe and inhumane circumstances. The detention centers can now legally hold them until they are 18 years of age, then deport them back to their countries. We decided to write a song about it and visit two of the detention centers in the Houston area to create a video for our song. 

Final thoughts?

NC: The non-male voices on our new album have a lot to say. We got Krudas Cubensi, Lindi Yeni, Karina Nistal, Hadit from Versopesado, Brian is Ze, Michele Thibeaux, Cherria and Marium Rattler and Tandiwe all on one album. We’re so proud!

KN: Thank you for listening to our music and taking the time to help us bring awareness to some of these issues. We operate from our hearts to bring justice and peace. The music from Free Radicals makes a unique and memorable experience for diverse audiences. 


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The Free Radicals are playing at the Elephant Room on Saturday, March 19 at 11:oo p.m.

In the meantime, check out their latest single, “Bipartisan Baby Jail.”

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