(Photo courtesy of Tim Larew)
Tim Larew looks around his apartment on Park Drive in Boston – the floor, tables, and bed are littered with shoebox balanced on top of shoebox, CD cases open, the odd music magazine tucked away here and there, and amongst all his chaos, he can’t find a place to sit.
“It’s usually cleaner than this,” he said, moving three shoeboxes off a black leather chair in the corner of the room, “Today has just been a busy day.”
“Today,” for Tim, was no exception.
A junior film major in Boston University’s College of Communication, Tim stands 5’10 with a crew cut, long basketball shorts, and a baggy black sweatshirt. He’s the founder of the Fresh Heir Blog, a Boston based website dedicated to the latest news in the worlds of hip-hop, sports, and sneakers. Between school and the blog, he can barely find a minute to breathe.
“I think I’ll have some free time in about three weeks,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not sure though.”
The blog, which Tim started in June of this year, averages just under 1,000 hits per day and has just recently hit 50,000 unique visitors. The website is starting to gain national attention, as well, as rappers from Brooklyn to San Francisco have sent mix tapes to this white kid from a small town in Connecticut hoping to get recognized.
Born in Chicago, Tim moved to Ellington, Conn., when he was 2. The first of three children, hegrew up in a typical small-town fashion. His dad was an insurance salesman; his mom spent part time working as a college professor, accountant, and graphic designer. Most of his childhood was spent in Ellington.
“Everyone knows everyone, and you literally can't do anything without everyone in the town talking about it within three or four days,” he said, “I loved growing up there, though.”
His strongest memories from home come from lazy summer days he would spend doing nothing.
“A group of about 10 of us that just hung out, played sports, did whatever all day every day. All good kids, and every summer we'd literally be outside at 8 in the morning and wouldn't go inside until 8 or 9 at night.”
Basketball became an obsession, from rec leagues to school leagues. He fell in love with the pace, rhythm, and style of the game.
His parents would build a half court with lights and a sound system for him and his younger brother, and he estimates that “just about everyone in Ellington and the three surrounding towns have been over to the court at one point or another.
As basketball became more a part of his life, he started to become infatuated with words – poetry, novels, and newspapers, essentially whatever he could get his hands on, whether it was the Tree House Books, Christopher Paul Curtis, or Harry Potter. His favorite subjects in school were English or creative writing, and soon he found his voice.
“Any type of writing that allows me to tell my own story, whatever that may be, is what I enjoy,” he said, “It was just natural; putting words down on paper felt good, therapeutic. I realized I could affect people through writing and sometimes get things across more clearly and passionately than I could through spoken word.”
As he grew up, he always had an outlet for his basketball obsession; there was always a game he could jump into and it was always on television.
But writing was different. He couldn’t find a way to share it with other people. In fifth grade he had a revelation; something hit him and hit him pretty hard. It was hip-hop.
“It was like I finally fit in,” he said, “The words, the beats, the rappers. Everything was drawing me to hip-hop.”
His first album was Ludacris’s “Word of Mouf,” and from there the obsession would grow. It culminated when he got to Boston University in fall 2009. Ellington didn’t allow him to get the sort of exposure to the hip-hop scene that he sought, and a big city like Boston finally provided just that.
“I had never been to a concert before college. The first one I went to was Wiz Khalifa at the Middle East Club in Cambridge the spring of my freshman year,” he said.
Wiz Khalifa was a small artist back then, and the Middle East only packed about 500 people in the venue to hear him.
“Now he's one of the most famous rappers in the world, so getting to see him at a small venue was fun; that kind of got me hooked,” he said.
He estimates that since he has been to more than 50 concerts and packs his iPod with everything hip-hop – from Wiz Khalifa to more obscure artists to songs he only gets because of the Fresh Heir.
The blog was an idea for a long time, and finally reached fruition last June.
After a few days of starts and stops, the site finally got on-line with a post called “And So It Begins,” where he kicked everything off by writing “There are tons of hip-hop blogs and sneaker blogs and sports blogs floating everywhere around the Internet, so I’m gonna have to find a way to make this one just a little more worth reading than the rest.”
His posts have gotten longer, more detailed, and stronger since he first started writing. To try and elevate his site he started doing something that not many other hip-hop blogs do – provide quality writing with the videos or links he was posting.
For instance, he posted a 3,000-ord reaction to a concert announcement by Mac Miller, a nationally recognized artist, while other blogs would only provide a link for Miller’s tour dates.
He found his niche in the hip-hop world. The audience started to grow and then started to grow even faster. When he would go to CD signings by some he would get recognized not only by other fans but also by the artists.
Mix-tapes and press requests started to pile up in his e-mail and all of a sudden he realized that the small project had become something substantial.
Rap Genius, a site with more than 70,000 fans on Facebook and one of the premier hip-hop blogs on the Internet, started to feature his work. He quickly become a part of record label networking, as labels like Leedz Edutainment and Amalgam digital have reached out to him.
The future for Tim and the Fresh Heir is unknown, but he isn’t putting any limits on it; in fact, he really isn’t looking toward the future at all, he’s just hoping to learn.
“It sounds cliché, but the real learning and growth really does take place outside the classroom,” he said, “I'm just hoping to continue to take advantage of any opportunity that comes my way.“
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.