“There’s a cat named Mickey from out of town…” begins the Rare Essence hit song, “Go-Go Mickey,” a remake of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles “Mickey’s Monkey” that has immortalized R.E.’s percussionist, Milton “Go-Go Mickey” Freeman. Freeman is known for his fast hands on congas and for his raw beats that have become a staple for many area conga players. The legendary Freeman won “Conga Player of the Year” in 2006 and 2007. In addition, he has won two individual “Wammies” from the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) and five as a member of Rare Essence along with a spot in WAMA’s Hall of Fame.
Freeman hails from Washington, DC and is the son of two musical parents, his mother Chicquita, a pianist and singer and his father, Milton, was a guitar player and lead singer in Mickey and the Blazers, a rhythm and blues group. The elder Mickey bought his son a drum set when he was two and taught the prodigy how to play. “Like father, like son” continued when Freeman’s own sons Lil’ Mickey and BJ learned to play by watching and listening to their father.
After watching then Rare Essence conga player Tyrone “Jungle Boogie” Williams, Freeman taught himself to play congas when he was just 14. Citing percussionist Sheila E. as an inspiration, Freeman was also inspired by local legends Jungle Boogie and Ricky “Sugarfoot” Wellman. He joined Reality Band in 1980 and followed that with stints in Redds & the Boys, Ayre Rayde, and several other go-go groups, before joining Essence in 1984 and rising to legendary status.
Mickey released a solo instrumental album on Liaison Records in 1991 titled “It Gets No Rougher,” and in 2008 he created No Rougher Productions. Freeman spends his time playing with Rare Essence and developing his sons’ musical talents. He has also contributed to the upcoming project 1 City, 1 Sound, 1 Movement.