West London, the depths of which lie on the ends of the city’s arteries; it’s the aptly coloured central line that carries its natives across the capital to ensure London’s vital signs keep ticking over. Usually I’m accustomed to travelling to the heart of the city to pick the brains behind the bars of the scenes’ finest. This time was different, I needn’t stray too far from home.
The proposed location of my meeting with the ever elusive Fredo was the plush Sony offices in High Street Kensington. Fredo is of course a fellow West Londoner; like myself the West London he knows is worlds apart from the one we now found ourselves in; where corner shops, Bookies and off licences have been replaced by embassies, private hospitals and four star hotels. Although this affluent area of West London is where some of the biggest conglomerates in music call home – the region itself has been somewhat marginalised.
East London has of course been the nucleus, North and South have also been vital parts of the scenes’ eco system. This is not to say West has not produced great MCs – but until now there haven’t been any mainstream juggernauts bulldozing their way through. Rather oxymoronically, the juggernaut in question has thus far evaded capture by camera lens and the fastidious keystrokes of music journalists across the country.
It’s clichéd to say, but Fredo definitely prefers to communicate through his music; although with the release of his debut album Third Avenue, this certainly seems like the perfect time for him to break the silence.
It’s the two cutting edge projects, Get Rich or get recalled and Tables Turn; that Fred already has under his belt that have made him a discernible voice through all the noise that clutters much of the airwaves today. It was around this time that Fredo says that he knew he could take music seriously, “After “Like That” dropped I thought you know what? Imma keep going with this music ting, see where it takes me”. In a climate where a lot of the music is starting to sound the same, Fredo’s tales of the trials and tribulations of the trap stand in stark contrast with the increasingly watered down product being pushed by many of his contemporaries.
Fredo’s musical offerings aren’t the only thing that separates him from the pack, it’s undoubtedly his dogged tunnel vision on self-improvement. This came to light when we spoke about not just the lack of features on the album, but about his reluctance to collaborate more generally: “I don’t put myself out there like that, even though the offers are there – I’m focusing on me still in this music ting. I don’t feel like it’s the right thing to do, I’m still proving myself, I don’t feel like I’ve proven myself”.
It seems crazy for someone with a number one single, Rated Award winning mixtape of the year and one of the most anticipated albums of the year to feel like they haven’t proven themselves. I pressed him on this, and asked him what benchmarks he’d set himself: “Until I have a lot more music out there that I like, I won’t be satisfied. Get Rich or get Recalled was made in Jail and so was about four songs from Tables Turn. Until I feel like I’ve got a lot more projects out like my album, I won’t have proven myself yet”.
One of the few calls to arms that Fredo did respond to was of course Dave’s, an unexpected collaboration which birthed one of the songs of the year – “Dave hit me up, sent me a beat – the beat was crazy. “Funky Friday” was made during one of my final Tables Turn studio sessions. So the tune is already over a year old, we just held onto it until the time was right. The Dave collaboration just felt natural, it didn’t feel forced or like “it was the right thing to do”. Fredo also revealed that he’s got songs with Mostack, Loski and Tiny Boost in the pipeline.
Fredo is now a long way away from Harrow Road, and the red bricks of Mozart that once entombed him. Although, it’s those life changing experiences that he had on those dimly lit streets that would ultimately fuel the ink spillages that would propel him into the rarefied atmosphere he now finds himself in. This hasn’t come without an adjustment period though, Fredo candidly explains some of the more negative side effects that have come with his success – “I’ve realised that I now I can’t go to a lot of places without people recognising me. Obviously this wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for certain issues in my life, and being from the place that I’m from”.
The good definitely outweighs the bad, Fred says that one of his greatest achievements thus far is “Making my mum proud, having shit in my name and legal money you know? Not having to hide shit from the Feds. Money comes and goes, but its stuff like this that seemed impossible not so long ago”.
Third Avenue doesn’t offer “wavey” music in the same linear melodic rap format that has flooded the scene over the last 18 months. Instead, for the 40 minute run time Fredo’s lyricism brings us ever closer to the choppy waters that he has so adeptly navigated – “I’ve improved on how I’m able to spit and explain myself, I’ve brought more honesty and more of an insight into Fredo compared to the last two projects”.
Despite being happy to have escaped his previous life, Fredo does not understate the impact those experiences have had on him “I learnt everything on them avenues. I’m here today because of them avenues, called my album Third Avenue in honour of those times”. The album cover even features the actual road sign, not just a replica – Fred is keen to point out that this was his idea and he always takes the reigns when it comes to the creative direction of his music “I’m in full creative control of all of my shit, I aint ever done an album cover that I didn’t plan, and I aint even done a video that I didn’t plan, I don’t leave it to other people, I always know what I want”.
Like many ambitious people from the ends, Fredo’s next goal is to start his own imprint and help bring more of his people into the fold – “Next I wanna become a CEO of PG ENT and bring everyone through”. Music has long been the escape route of choice for council estate kids across the country.
These musical liberations often involve cathartic paroxysms of the life they’ve so narrowly left behind. This has often resulted in a lot of negative press, I quizzed Fredo on what he thought about the media/politicians who place the blame on the music for glamorising violence and the impact this has on a young audience – “That’s bullshit. From time you sell alcohol, games like GTA and put crazy films in the cinema? They can’t talk shit”.
With a European tour, and what looks like a second sold out UK tour pending and a number of appearances across the festival season; 2019 is certainly looking like the year Fredo well and truly spreads his wings and soars into the realms of rap superstardom.