Pierce Freelon

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Pierce Freelon
Musician, Professor, Afrofuturist
Pierce Freelon

Years active2004–present

Pierce Freelon is a professor, musician and social entrepreneur.[1] He is the founder of Blackspace,[2] a digital makerspace for Afrofuturists. He is also the co-founder/host of Beat Making Lab,[3] an Emmy Award winning PBS web-series. Freelon also founded Blackademics, an online community of young black thinkers[4] and is the frontman of Jazz and Hip hop group the Beast.[5][6][7] He has worked on music and social justice projects internationally in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Kenya, Panama, Senegal and South Africa, with partners including the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, (MoCADA), IntraHealth International, /The Rules, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Global Voices and the United Nations Foundation.

He has taught in the departments of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, Music and Political Science at North Carolina Central University and UNC-Chapel Hill. He is also a former board member of the North Carolina Arts Council.


Musical Education Career[edit]

As an undergraduate at UNC, Freelon earned highest honors, for creating a Hip-Hop curriculum for high school and university students. This curriculum has been implemented in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Ghana.[8] After graduating from Syracuse University, Freelon developed the Bebop to Hip Hop program for the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz. He co-founded Beat Making Lab, a web-series with PBS Digital Studios in 2012, and taught beat making and song-writing around the globe. His curriculums and grant-writing led to the development of Next Level - a $1,000,000 collaboration between UNC Chapel Hill and the US Department of State, teaching hip hop diplomacy and conflict resolution internationally. Freelon currently teaches beat making and film at Blackspace.

Music career[edit]

He has performed internationally with jazz artists Nnenna Freelon (his mother), Herbie Hancock, Bob James, Earl Klugh, Patti Austin, Robert Glasper, Chris Dave and Derrick Hodge. He has also done arrangements and rapped for Nnenna Freelon's album, "Home Free".[9] He has also performed with hip-hop artists Doug E. Fresh, Grand Master Flash, The Last Poets and Dead Prez.[1] His band The Beast has released two albums and three EPs.


He is the son of Grammy nominee Nnenna Freelon and architect Philip Freelon.[10] He is the brother-in-law of M.K. Asante, Jr. who is married to his sister.



  • Language Arts - Language Arts[11] (2004)
  • Language Arts - Undergrad (2006)
  • The Beast - Belly[12] (2008)
  • The Beast - Silence Fiction[13] (2009)
  • The Beast - Freedom Suite[14] (2010)
  • The Beast - Guru Legacy[15] (2011)
  • The Beast - Gardens[16] (2013)
  • The Beast - Stories[17] (2014)
  • Pierce Freelon - Chronic The Hedgehog (2016)


  1. ^ a b "N.C. Arts Council - Board Biographies". Ncarts.org. Archived from the original on 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  2. ^ "Blackspace Durham".
  3. ^ "Beat Making Lab". 5 January 2013.
  4. ^ "About Blackademics". blackademics.org. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  5. ^ Ashley Melzer (2010-05-20). "Gimme Five! Pierce Freelon of The Beast | The Mill". Carrborocitizen.com. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  6. ^ "The Beast | Durham, NC | Hip Hop / Soul / Jazz | Music, Lyrics, Songs, and Videos". ReverbNation. 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  7. ^ Freelon, Pierce. "chapelhillnews.com". Thedurhamnews.com. Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  8. ^ "Contributors". blackademics.org. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  9. ^ "Cincinnati's Fox Sports 1360". Foxsports1360.com. 2010-04-20. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  10. ^ "Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz: Nneenna Freelon". NPR. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  11. ^ "Language Arts (debut album)".
  12. ^ "Belly, by The Beast".
  13. ^ "Silence Fiction, by The Beast".
  14. ^ "Freedom Suite, by The Beast and Nnenna Freelon".
  15. ^ "Guru Legacy EP, by The Beast".
  16. ^ "Gardens, by The Beast + BIG BAND".
  17. ^ "Stories, by The Beast".

External links[edit]

Media related to Pierce Freelon at Wikimedia Commons