Chris Shreve (aka C.Shreve the Professor) is a Deep Gap, North Carolina MC and founder of the award winning hip hop collective Free The Optimus (FTO). A senior lecturer at Appalachian State University by day, this veteran emcee brings unique and dynamic perspective to both the studio and the live stage. C.Shreve defines Free The Optimus as “a call to action—to set free our optimal ability & our optimistic perspective, and to transform the world around us.”
In this interview spotlight, I chat with C.Shreve about motivations, challenges, the latest project and more.
Links, music, and the full Q&A below.
Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)
I am originally from Mouth of Wilson, Virginia but I spent time growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee and Salisbury, Maryland. I’ve spent the last 10 years living in Deep Gap, North Carolina. I am a lyricist and MC. I take great pride in my raps and tend to choose production that speaks to me. I love classic boom bap and love wavy spaced out trap as well. I try to push my own boundaries with the songs I create so that I can have a wide variety to pull from on the live stage.
What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to keep going?
I’ve always felt drawn to hip hop, since I first heard Rakim and Slick Rick. Something about wordplay and rhythm, storytelling and energetic vibes just drew me in. I was a listener and pure fan for a long time. I watched and listened to 2pac, Biggie, Outkast, DMX, Wu Tang, KRS, Common and The Roots in awe prior to hearing something in Q Tip, Kanye West and Snoop that told me I could do it.
The fact that I can continue to make music, that I have an audience, and that I can continue to tour all over the country and have people come rock with me is pure motivation. The raw challenge of figuring out the messages you want to convey, and what people respond to the best is so motivating. Making and performing music is my favorite thing to do.
How is this new release different than previous ones? Were you trying to accomplish anything specific?
This release is me just doing me. I’ve done concept albums previously, and they can help you focus, but this concept was really just “I love to rap and I’m gonna pick the beats that I want to do that on, and then execute.” It’s also the partner release to an EP I put out a couple months ago titled “Mommy Love To Dance”. That one was me making a project for the people up front who love to dance, but still just slinging bars. I kind of wanted to branch out and gain some new fans (I was thinking it would be super dope to get pushed on a dance blog) but also wanted to push the limits of what my core audience was used to. I almost wanted to set them up, like “what is Shreve up to now? He needs to get back to the raw raps”. On this new album, DLTR, I’m kind of back to my bread and butter and really just expressing where I’m at in life (which is currently focussing on being a dad).
Name one or two challenges you face as an indie musician in this oversaturated, digital music age? How has technology helped you (since we know it does help)?
Just getting out there. I actually enjoy a lot of the challenges though. Things like: How do you truly connect with your social media audience? How do you not just RT the crap out of all the blogs and mentions and find a way to truly engage them? How do you get people out to shows, when you do shows all the time? How do you navigate all the hustlers and make real connections (PR, managers, etc) when everyone has a convincing profile page and most of them are full of shit?
I know I wouldn’t have been able to do this without twitter, soundcloud, facebook, bandcamp, etc. Plain and simple. I don’t live in a market at all. Boone, NC isn’t gonna break a major hip hop artist. But Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville, etc might. The ability to connect with all the different markets through social media has been a game breaker for indie musicians like myself.
Where is the best place to connect with you online and discover more music?
I’ve really tried to put everything everywhere, so if you have spotify or apple or amazon or tidal or itunes or you like soundcloud or bandcamp or just youtube. It’s there. I like bandcamp because a larger portion of it goes directly to funding what we do, but bottom line go listen wherever you listen. FTOlife.com is our main hub with all the new happenings. Search “C.Shreve the Professor” or “Free The Optimus” on an internet near you and you should be off and running.
I’m pretty active on twitter and IG and tend to keep all the feeds current. One great place to start with my music might be with this video playlist (we’ve invested a good bit in videos that last couple year): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLH3uRUeG-7YVR_hPm4OQyv0wiJ82JgKqO
Anything else before we sign off?
For all your readers: Support dope artists on the come up! They need you now more than ever. For an indie artist, putting your friends on to their music or taking some friends out to see their show is everything. The social media sharing is incredible too, but really just spread the word. However y’all do that. Huge THANK YOU to y’all for doing that with this interview!