You’ve probably heard of Streetbeat. It isn’t just the name of that party you went to. It’s also the electronic music radio show that broadcasts nightly from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on WNUR, Northwestern’s student-run radio station, reaching about 3 million people in the Chicagoland area.
Two students in particular have attracted more than a few listeners in the electronic music scene on campus and beyond. Communication sophomores Lorenzo Gonzalez and Cameron Smith perform as a rap duo, respectively assuming the stage names zorenLo and Freddy Mümmix.
Their first collaborative project, an album called Melanin Stained Lover, garnered attention on campus after its release last winter. Gonzalez and Smith expect to complete their next album, whose working name is Greens, this spring. The title has multiple meanings, they say, including a reference to the millennial generation’s version of the blues as well as to the sensation of being high.
“We definitely found our sound,” Gonzalez says. “Melanin Stained Lover was kind of Cam’s statement as a rapper coming to college and my first experience with producing an album, but now it’s like Cameron and Lorenzo making an album together, 50-50.”
“You kind of have your own language of describing how you want a song to sound,” Smith says. “I’ll be talking to Lorenzo like, ‘Man, this bass should sound crunchier,’ or, ‘This synthesizer should sound airier,’ and most people wouldn’t understand that in the slightest, but it’s really cool that Lorenzo always understood that.”
Both describe their sound as experimental, a term consistent with WNUR’s mission to feature underrepresented music.
“I definitely prefer the more underground stuff, but I’m not gonna sit here and criticize it and be a hipster because I recognize that it is essential for EDM to be successful,” Gonzalez says, adding that most electronic music fans, including himself, find their love of the genre through mainstream artists. “You have to appeal to people, and you have to show them who you are and show them why they should listen to you...You’re making [your music] for other people.”
In fact, Gonzalez and Smith’s friendship was born through a mutual love of Kanye West. After being introduced to each other during Wildcat Welcome, the two bonded over a conversation about the artist, who both consider to be a musical influence.
“It was one of those first classic college nights, where we really hit it off,” Gonzalez says, adding that the two began their collaboration the same day. “That’s pretty much how we became friends because, hey, we made an album together. How could you not be best friends after that?”
Since that night, the duo has performed regularly throughout the Chicago area and often broadcasts their original music on Streetbeat. Communication sophomore Marc Chicoine, who serves on Streetbeat’s executive board for media design, sees the show’s goal of showcasing underrepresented artists like Gonzalez and Smith as an important component of WNUR.
“It’s really cool because it gives all these different genres of music and artists [opportunities] to get airtime when they normally wouldn’t as often,” he says. “It’s really cool to have such an artistically and culturally diverse group of people.” Smith and Gonzalez both hold positions on Streetbeat’s leadership board. Smith is Streetbeat’s apprenticeship director, while Gonzalez serves as media director.
Their passion for Streetbeat is evident: “It’s pretty much all I do,” Gonzalez says.
Streetbeat has also helped him succeed in the music industry through gigs and mentors in its Chicagoland network.
“Streetbeat has done so much for me,” Gonzalez says. “I didn’t really know going into Northwestern that there was this huge ... community, but now looking back on it, it makes me even more happy that I go to this school.”