Peace Raz! Thank you for your time and availability. It’s really appreciated ! Man, where could we start from ? You have such a fascinating story and career despite your young age… In fact, You were born in 1995 from Jamaican parents, in Brampton, part of the Greater Toronto Area (Ontario-Canada), started a career as a rapper/producer since you were a teenager and, in the meantime, you have been through a lot of stuff during your life… Please, tell us something more about your background to understand who Raz Fresco is. Who was Raz Fresco as a kid and how your Jamaican roots influenced your growth? Where did your artistic inspiration, motivation and “hustle” come from?
RAZ FRESCO: As a kid I was very inquisitive. I don’t remember my life without music. Music has always been with me: I started writing raps so early, I only have a few memories being alive and not doing music. As long as I’ve been alive it feels like I’ve been doing music. I had books full of rhymes since the first grade. I used to play soccer from grade 6 up until high school. Aside from that, I was constantly learning about things online, asking questions and just doing the knowledge to things around me. I got very good grades in school. Always a leader
As far as my background, I am very proud about my Jamaican heritage. I take pride in the culture. From a young age, I strived to embrace the values my parents instilled in me as best as I could.
Culturally, it was always Hip-Hop though. From music to fashion, that was my biggest inspiration. I was exposed to Hip-Hop so early, I can’t pinpoint an origin of the story.
I was fully immersed in the culture, since a child.
My older bro, Jerome, put me up on a lot of dope music early too. I used to run home everyday to watch “Rap City” in the basement, I mentioned that on the last issue of Magneto Was Right….
I just loved HipHop. From the early days I would do my research online, studying the culture like it was a school subject. My hustle was sparked from regular shit like seeing your moms handling bills & going through life. Just wanting to be in a better position when you’re older. That right there was the spark for me
In fact, in 2010, at 15 y.o, you released two mixtapes, “Welcome to Bakers Club” and “Laced Up”: was there already a local buzz around your name at that time?
RAZ FRESCO: As early as the 3rd-4th grade, I would record raps on the little cheap computer mic over some beats I got on Kazaa or LimeWire. I would literally just search rap / hip-hop instrumental and just download ‘em, then rap on the ones I liked. Then I would burn little CDs and sell them to people in my neighbourhood.
When I was in the 8th grade before I got to high school, I would put freestyle videos up on Facebook and things like that, but I didn’t start getting real traction, until the middle of the 9th grade; start of 2010.
That’s when I started shooting music videos for a set of songs I was putting together for an album, one of the videos I sent into WorldStar and from that DJ Holiday and his management reached out to work with me. That video “Layin Low” that would become my “Welcome To The Bakersclub” mixtape.
One of the videos, “Layin Low”, that was sent into WorldStar, was shot by Tory Lanez who was still another young up and coming local artist in the city at the time.
That summer I went to Atlanta, did a management deal and in October I dropped “Laced up”, my 2nd tape which was hosted by DJ Holiday
And since that moment, what were your most relevant steps in your early career? For example in 2011 you released a mixtape produced by Don Cannon (MCMXCV)… How did you already move so resolute and focused?
RAZ FRESCO: That project was actually produced by me, he only hosted it. By that time I was dead set in my mind with what I wanted to do with my life. I could clearly see visions of a future in my head that I wanted to bring into reality and I honestly felt like I could make it happen, so I kept on working on it every day. Also, like I said from a young age I had an intense love for the Hip-Hop culture. I knew deep in my mind if I stayed focused, I could make a living off my art. They say if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. I was working hard so I didn’t have to work if that makes sense”.
My father always told me if you have a dream no-one is going to build it for you, you have to build it for yourself. He put that battery in my back from a young age with his wisdom which was very powerful and resonated with me.
In 2015, you released your debut album “Pablo Frescobar”: How important was that album ? And how did you link up with a legend as Raekwon? You also produced and rapped with several American great rappers as the members of The Boot Camp Clik, AZ, Mac Miller, French Montana and others… How were you able to create such bonds in another country despite being that young and remaining independent?
RAZ FRESCO: EXTREMTLY IMPORTANT! I wanted to show the world I reached a new level with my artistry; rhymes and production. I was working on that album for a good 2 to 3 years. The Duck Down situation came to be during that time, because I was travelling back and forth to New York regularly to network with whatever industry contact I could make online. Hired a publicist and all that with all my own money. I was always good at reaching out to people and communicating.
Also, in 2014 I became a part of the 5% Nation. That same passion I had for music, I had for Knowledge of Self because, like I said earlier, I was always inquisitive and by the time I got to high school, I realized I was being lied to (not being given the full scoop so to say) by society and started to seek answers about the reality of life and history of myself/the planet/universe
Being an actual %er and a true student of the culture is what I feel gave me the respect of various legends overtime who were apart of or affiliated with the 5 Percent Nation. That’s how those collaborations happened. Also, my educator Born King be networking within the nation a lot, so he made the connection with AZ. Aside from the Gods I collaborated with, producing for French Montana happened through DJ Holiday (same thing with Big Sean, Wale and BOB).
For people like Mac Miller and Tyga, I reached out to them personally, made a connection, they liked my beats so we got work gone. The internet is a big place so I just reached out. To me, it was like a worst case scenario, they don’t like my beats. If they like my beats, maybe I can finesse a feature and then keep playing chess til I bring myself to a higher level, cuz I knew I had something to offer with my beats and that right there puts me in a position to work with people.
When the majority of your peers were homologated to the “trap” sound and autotune, you have stuck to your own and more “classic” sound.
Where did your confidence in staying true to your style come from? Later, in the last few years, we could say we have been assisting a comeback / renaissance of a certain underground culture and a “golden era” kind of sound within the Hip Hop game: how do you feel about that, considering that you have been there for years?
RAZ FRESCO: From the outside looking in, it may look that way to you guys but ,to be honest, I feel like from 2016-2019 I was going through life and figuring it out myself. The bulk of the things I put out during this time were I guess classic sounding, but I’ve done a nice amount of records that aren’t “trap” like the Migos, but it’s still the subject matter of hustling over some 808s and a faster tempo than your average boom bap record.
During these periods, I’m doing my thing trying to get money, cuz I wasn’t making no music money so I was outside a lot and I’m in the car a lot all day, going back n forth so I made music I could drive fast too on the highway and get a lil more hyped up too.
To be honest when you really check it out, I didn’t come into the game as a boom bap old school sounding artist. I flipped old samples and I tried to add some newness to it. It’s only people who have discovered me via the Magneto Was Right series and through pieces of music I released in that lane that would classify me as a “golden era” artist. My artistry is inspired by more than just that and just cuz i’m doing this series doesn’t mean all my music from now on is going to sound just like this. I’m an artist forreal meaning my expression can’t be limited like that.
With that being said, the classic sound golden era stuff is my main inspiration and in the past few years people have been taking elements from said era and bringing new life to it.
That was very affirming and motivated to see brothers selling vinyls again and getting money doing real Hip Hop. I remember I was in jail in 2017 and I was showing certain mans about Benny The Butcher and Westside Gunn. I knew I wanted to avoid getting caught up with a long sentence, so seeing guys that were doing their thing come up off doing that real hip hop, I’m like: “ok, let me go hard and stop playing around in these streets, cuz everything I did from a young age shows that you can make moves if you focus and stay consistent.
So I had to drop all the extra curricular stuff and lock back in with the music. These guys coming up off the raw stuff was extra motivation like: ok if I just do me in the purest form I can eat too, cuz all throughout the 2010’s I would hear certain people I use to work with tell me i’m trying to sound to old school etc etc and to experiment with different sounds. I feel like I fell victim to that, at times, and made a few records I don’t necessarily love looking back on it.
From 2020 onward tho, I reached a level of artistic, freedom and mental clarity, so I know what I want to do and I’m happy there are people coming out with stuff that’s inspiring and a fresh take on the music I love. People like Estee Nack, Al Divino, ANKHLEJOHN, SadhuGold, Fly Anakin, Futurewave. etc etc are bringing new life to HipHop in my opinion, not just bringing back an old sound. It’s mad people. Those are just a few names that come to mind real quick.
At a certain time of your life and career, you went through some personal issues, having even risked your life after being stabbed… How has it influenced your career and what are the most important lessons you’ve learned from? How did that negative stuff turn in something positive for you?
RAZ FRESCO: I learned a lot of lessons that I apply everyday with this music stuff just from hustling, going through life, almost dying, going to jail and, most importantly, from my 120 Lessons – Supreme Mathematics – Supreme Alphabets as a 5%er. Life is life. Having the right perspective, means you can learn from anything and anyone; even a bum.
Whatever happened in my life was caused by me for the most part, because all the above is caused by the son of man which is self. If something is called negative, it’s usually cuz it made you feel bad. At a certain point when negative things that make you feel bad happen, you gotta take the information from that event and use it to make better and wiser decisions that create positive outcomes you’re pleased/satisfied with.
Everything that happens is an event and it contains information, who what where when why and how. You can take the information from events that take place and apply them to the future events to put yourself in places that you wanna be.
Things only turn positive if you get back to a peaceful state of mind. Peace is important. Break that down that’s Proper Education Always Correcting Errors and that’s also Positive Energy Allowing Constant Elevation. That’s how you turn negative to positive.
In the last couple of years, you have put an amazing effort releasing a great number of dope projects… Aside from the “Magneto” series, what are your most defining projects and why?
RAZ FRESCO:My most defining project is mostly done, already, and on deck. MARVELOUS RIGHT WRIST: It captures my life at a crazy point in time, me really striving to transition out of a different way of life and it’s extremely personal, which is why I say it’s the most defining, cuz it really speaks to my life and experiences. I
bleed my heart out on that album
I listened to it ( MARVELOUS RIGHT WRIST ), while reflecting on these questions, and almost shed a tear on the intro, just cuz it’s so real and if you’re a human you will automatically relate to the shit I’m saying cuz it’s so real. I wrote most of the album in jail. I immediately realized I’m not big enough for it to be received the way it needs to be received, so I had to drop other stuff first to raise awareness before I deliver it, because the music is so personal, I didn’t feel right just dropping it like that.
That being said, this whole Magneto Was Right run and collection of albums is low-key a marketing move to gain awareness and then shift the attention I garner to the MARVELOUS RIGHT WRIST album at the end of the run. I have the painting done by my homie STOUNSON in my room now, it’s been on deck since before the first Magneto Was Right was created. I’ve been planning this all in advance.
So last year, you released this monumental series of 7 ( till now) tapes, called “Magneto Was Right”… Can you explain to us about its concept and where did you get the inspiration from? You also focused a lot on a well-studied marketing strategy for these releases and on its merchandising…What beliefs led you to move like this?
RAZ FRESCO: I don’t use the word belief, cuz it has lie in the middle and means shadow of a doubt.
Long story short, in the world of the men, the mutants have special powers and cuz of that they are feared and oppressed by the humans. You got Professor X who wants peaceful integration and Magneto who wanted to separate and do his own thing, cuz he knew the humans would always want to fear and control the mutants. The XMen show is a direct analogy to the civil rights movement and Magneto is based off Malcolm X, with Professor X being Martin Luther King JR.
Magneto Was Right Issue #1 Cover Artwork
Integration happened and we still got police brutality, the propagation of self hate. We are still dealing with white supremacy, so at the end of the day Malcolm was right, we better off doing our own thing instead of depending on the system to start treating us equally. Malcolm is based off Magneto. Magneto Was Right. It’s a more recognizable and digestible way of saying the same shit. I been saying for a long time: “Use your natural powers and free yourself.
What is and what represents “The BKRSCLB”? Who are the other members of it?
RAZ FRESCO: I only spell it BKRSCLB. 7 letters. No vowels. Sometimes stylized with BKR$CLB with dollar sign in the middle. It is a music collective, record label and brand that represents knowledge of self, fly hip hop music, style and art. It currently includes me, The 6th Letter and BriskInTheHouse, Lo Thraxx, and ChillxWill
They say “art inspires art”… We, as a graffiti magazine, are truly amazed by the Magneto Series artworks: for example, the 7th episode’s cover was a photo of an actual mural dedicated to your Magneto series… Who did those artworks and how did you choose them?
RAZ FRESCO: Artist name was @baoneknldge. He’s this spanish kid from London,UK. He followed me and I saw his art was following back for a minute. Then when I got the idea of actually doing a mural I hit him up, explained the idea, he was down, I paid for what he needed and he send me back the photo.
Originally another artist @lmf.buke sent me some art randomly from being inspired by the albums and I was like damn, this would be dope but if it was like in real life instead of a digital file, I wanted It to be something that existed in real life. So the cover is really art + the capturing of the energy it took to make it within a photo. That spot existed. Even if someone paints over it, that was there and its part of history now.
Ok, this is both a complicated and a fascinating question and a central theme in the message of your music: how would you explain the importance of the Five Percenters and the Nation of Islam teachings to those who are willing to hear out here ? How the faith in Islam and its knowledge entered in your life and how it lead it in a better way?
RAZ FRESCO: I’m a 5%er and I never was a part of the Nation of Islam. The founder of the 5% nation, Allah The Father, was a part of the Nation of Islam then he left the mosque and started teaching the babies in the street. I don’t subscribe to any religion. When we say ISLAM it means I SELF LORD AND MASTER or I SEE LIFE AS MATH, or I SINCERELY LOVE ALLAHS MATHEMATICS, or IN SELF LIES ALL MATHEMATICS.
This is not a religion, it’s a way of life. Life is all about experiencing. The more aware you are of what’s going on around you, the more aware you are of who you truly are, the more you understand your physicality and your mind, then the more power you have to control those experiences and the more you will get out of those experiences.
Knowledge of self allows you to experience and get more out of life and it also allows you to control and guide/direct your life, if you’re really living out the understanding of what these lessons mean. Once you’re aware that you’re in control, you lead yourself in a better way. That’s why I love being a 5%er. It’s not about being a 5%er. It’s not about the Nation. It’s about you gaining the knowledge of yourself and once a man knows himself, he can build upon the earth and preform the duties of a civilized person who is held responsible for the uncivilized.
What can we expect from Raz Fresco in 2021?
RAZ FRESCO:Issue 8 & 9 of Magneto Was Right, then MARVELOUS RIGHT WRIST the album. A lot of music from BKRSCLB RECORDS, dope merch, fly art, good vibes.
“MAGNETO WAS RIGHT” SERIES VINYLS WILL BE AVAILABLE SOON ON TUFFKONGRECORDS