How a New Video Series with Pittsburgh Rapper Frzy Fights National Book Bans
The Carnegie Library’s “From Books to Bars with Frzy” features the rapper reading from a children’s book that embraces themes of diversity, inclusion and identity.
Emmy Award-winning rapper Frzy is combining his passion for lyricism with his love for reading.
The 37-year-old musician has partnered with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to bring attention to national book bans with a new video series. “From Books to Bars with Frzy” will feature 31 videos, one for every day in May, each with Frzy highlighting a new book. The project hopes to shed light on inclusive stories and center around Black, Brown and LGBTQIA+ authors and illustrators.
The videos feature Frzy sitting by a fire, reading different passages aloud and connecting the lyrics and wordplay through a bar, a unit of measurement in hip-hop and rap. Each book was specifically chosen for their rhyming pattern to be incorporated into the bars.
“Before we started filming, we read every single book and picked out four bars,” Frzy says. “We picked out things that would make you think, things that have a cool way about it, and we had to make sure every book rhymed.”
Frzy is known for his work with WQED on a hip-hop cover of Fred Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He also set a Guinness World Record for longest freestyle rap at 31 hours. The rapper had noticed recent book ban legislation in states such as Florida and wanted to make an impact on how children and adults perceive different types of literature.
“I want to be a shepherd to a lot of the sheep out there right now,” he says. “It’s important to give that knowledge.”
Growing up in East Liberty, Frzy says his local library influenced his love for literature.
“The library card was everything to me, because it gave me my first real sense of power, where I was able to control what I took in,” he says.
President and director of the Carnegie Library, Andrew Medlar, says the library partnered with Frzy because of his engaging personality and his dedication to literacy. Given recent book bans, Medlar says it was important for the library to emphasize its message of community.
“Our main library, it says ‘free to the people’ over our door, and that means all people,” he says. “Our library has always had a commitment and always will have a commitment to every single one of our neighbors.”
In addition to Frzy, Grammy Award-winning producer Delroy “D-Roy” Andrews contributed beats, or music, for the project, and British voiceover artist Mark Ryes provides the introduction.
Frzy says he wanted to make the videos personal and entertaining.
“I wanted it to be this experience of, you’re coming into this intimate space of my home, and we’re just reading children’s books to you,” he says.
Frzy and Medlar say the public’s reception has been better than they imagined. Frzy says the authors and illustrators behind the featured books were not notified of the videos until they were published online, so it’s been fun to see their reactions.
As videos continue to be posted during the month of May, Frzy says he wants children to see it’s fun to read and how it can be powerful. Most of all, he wants children watching to know that it’s OK to be themselves.
“I want you to hear me read this, and I want you to know that it’s OK to be you,” he says. “Not only can you be anything you want to be, but who you are is good enough.”
The video series can be found on Frzy’s Instagram and TikTok, as well as the Carnegie Library’s YouTube Channel and at carnegielibrary.org.