The undercover rapper [Video]
As dusk approaches the quiet Quinnipiac campus, most students are eating with friends, finishing work, or planning for events later that night. Tucked away in a corner of Larson College Hall is a student working methodically in low light, not on school work, but on something bigger.
It’s 7 p.m. and the setting sun is barely strong enough to illuminate the room. This is the way Tommy Frisina likes it.
“I like to be alone,” said Frisina in between computer keystrokes. “When I have quiet and calmness around me, I can feel the music.”
Without taking his attention away from the monitor, he continues to fiddle with various switches on his beat program. Sitting on the desk among the computer lay empty water bottles, a half empty can of Hollister spray, stained shot glasses, Xbox controllers, and a faded Vans wallet. A modern musician’s workspace.
From the tiny computer speakers come various instruments: a barrage of crashes, bangs, bells and beats. Stroking his trimmed goatee, the music-maker sifts through various sounds, waiting for the right one.
All of a sudden, a drum line comes on. The simple track repeats over and over, with Frisina cycling through different elements until finding an appealing addition. Sitting on his bed with his feet on the computer chair, he leans back for a second against his bedside wall. A vintage Godzilla poster looks down approvingly.
“Nah, too dark,” he mutters under his breath. After playing the work in progress out loud again, he pauses it, and mimics a beat out loud to his liking, then puts the track back on. After a few more final inclusions, he plays the track from the start: a simple and catchy tune, ready for vocal recording.
This has been the formula for freshman Tommy Frisina during his first year at Quinnipiac. Frisina, known by the rapping alias “Tommy F,” has brought his Long Island sound to Quinnipiac in a quiet storm.
“I’m kind of modest about everything I do,” Frisina said in an interview in his Larson room. “People don’t know I’m a rapper ‘til they accidentally hear a song.”
Rapping has been a part of Tommy’s life since the days of middle school in East Islip, Long Island. Citing 50 Cent as his main influence, Frisina has been slowly making his way through the underground lower New York circuit.
“[50 Cent] had this attitude like ‘I’m the man, and if you don’t like it I’ll kick the s*** out of you.’ I was 13 years old and I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he said in between computer clicks. “So I wrote some terrible rhymes, but it all led up to who I am today.”
From scribbling lyrics down in notebooks to a few talent show performances, Frisina started to make his own beats and come into contact with producers and other rap figures. Frisina’s current producer, Brian Daily, known by the alias “Born Dvine,” makes beats and produces for rap figures like Mobb Deep, Kool G Rap and multiple Wu Tang Killa Bees.
While creating songs on his own, Frisina began to find other friends with the same interest and shared ideals as him. Thus “The Intellectuals” came about: a collaboration with fellow rapper Anthony DeMario, known as “Tony D.” The two focus on bringing a different perspective to the rap world.
“Everything needs an opposite,” Frisina said. “We’re not from the ghetto or the slums, but the suburbs. Let’s go against the mainstream.”
The group has created mixes of popular beats from more famous and current rap songs, as well as creating their own tracks to record with. The songs have focused on traditional contemporary rap topics as well as personal experiences and issues. Most recently Frisina has released a Quinnipiac-styled remix of “I Love College,” Asher Roth’s popular 2009 hit. While Frisina did create the song with QU in mind, he admits that’s not the purpose behind the rap game.
“I guess it’s for me, and if other people like it that’s cool,” he said. “The purpose is for music.”
Along with rapping, Frisina plays the drums and bass, and is teaching himself guitar. While originally coming to Quinnipiac for film, he has changed his mindset toward public relations, referring to his skills with people and personas as a main factor in his decision.
“I realized I’d be a lot better in PR,” said Frisina. “I’m just a people person. People tell me they’re comfortable when they talk to me.”
Even though Frisina knows the rap game isn’t necessarily the way he wants to go with his life as much as a “fun hobby,” he’ll keep recording, mixing, and creating in his Larson bed room. It’s what he loves.