Meet Robel (pictured on the left) and Caleb (pictured on the right) Negussie, the twins from the Twin Cities, and co-creators of the music duo FreePlanet. (Image by Sakke Overlund)
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
BlackBoard: Where did the name FreePlanet come from?
Caleb: People always just called us the Negussie brothers, so for a while we were like, all right, we actually have to come up with something, but we wanted it to be more of a feeling rather than a name you know? We were really inspired by group names like The Internet or Odd Future, things that kind of give you this feeling of something, so both of us combined things we were really interested in at the time.
Robel: Yeah, cause Caleb was always talking about how the word freedom was a big thing for him. Then for me, at the time, perspective was really big. I was into astronomy. Just in general like looking at the world and it being much smaller than we think, and there being a lot more out there. I just combined those two and FreePlanet came out and I just thought, yo, that works.
BB: How would you describe your music?
C: We make Hip-Hop, if you are talking about genre, and R&B as well. But if I were to describe how it sounds, it sounds like not giving a f*ck honestly. Billy Maze is one of the first songs we dropped officially, with like a release date, and that is basically like an ‘I’m here’ type of song and you’re going to listen to this. Then we have Cali Cash, which is more a catchy song, and way more Lo-fi, but has that summer time feeling.
R: We are very chill people in real life, but our music is a different side of us. If you are ever curious to find out what’s going on in our heads, our music is the perfect way.
BB: Who inspires both of you?
C: We are really each other’s biggest inspiration when it comes to making songs. One of us will present something new, and the other will be like ‘Yo, I love that direction, let’s take it there’. But people’s spirits inspire me, so Tyler the Creator and Donald Glover really inspire me. Both of these artists are examples of people who don’t like fitting into ‘boxes’, and that inspires what I personally want to do.
R: Caleb started rapping first, so what pushed me to start rapping was seeing Caleb do it, and then also Kid Cudi. Kid Cudi showed me that you could rap in a different way, like you don’t have to do what most people expect of you. You can put emotion into it, you can sing, you can do a lot more, you know what I mean? But Caleb’s definitely my biggest inspiration, listening to other people rap doesn’t inspire me unless I hear him do it too.
BB: How did you guys first get into music?
C: When I was like 12, I was like ‘I wanna be a rapper’, and that was my secret goal. We’re Ethiopian and our parents were like ‘Y’all are gonna be doctors’, and part of me was like yeah that’s cool, but on the side my biggest inspirations were rappers. I loved Chance the Rapper when I was a kid and Childish Gambino. They were people that looked like me.
R: There was a talent show happening around our city, and Caleb was already rapping, but then I decided to freestyle along, and he encouraged me. The whole experience felt so much more enjoyable too because collaboration to us is really huge, that’s what makes the whole thing worth it.
BB: Obviously it’s rare to have a twin duo, so what does it mean to be who you are doing this thing together?
C: Being a twin does inspire a lot of the things we do. Now we are in a culture that is calling out misrepresentation way more and there are finally platforms to see things in a truer light. But I see twins in media and there is nothing different, and media informs people on the way they think, especially about groups of people they don’t know.
R: But it’s definitely an honor. Having identical twins represented in a more honest way and more truthful to what it actually feels like is something that really matters to us. I mean twins on TV are just not represented correctly. They’re just clones of each other, and do everything together, and eat off the same plate or some sh*t–
C: And finish each other’s sentences.
R: Yeah! And act like it’s okay when people make them do that.
BB: And finally, when you both dream about your futures, what’s your biggest goal?
C: For me one of them is to just help my family. Growing up and emigrating from Ethiopia our parents worked a lot, so I’m trying to have my family taken care of. Because when we were young, we didn’t have much but when we had music or a TV show that we really liked, it made us feel like anything was possible. And second to that, honestly, just having people resonate to stuff that I make. Hearing someone say that what you did helped them is enough for me.
R: Yeah, I agree, security for those we care about and having something we make mean something to somebody is all that matters.