Published Sep 06, 2017In January 2017, Raz Fresco went from vividly rapping about life on the streets to living out a gangsta parable, one that left him in the hospital recovering from an attempt on his life. The Toronto-based MC recalls how that incident has since affected his music, telling Exclaim!: "When it happened I grabbed my chest and thought, 'Yo, I'm not dying now! This is not how I'm trying to go out. I still have so much shit to do.' So I'm definitely grateful now."
After making a full recovery, Fresco is appreciative of being able to write, record and perform new songs. In fact, he recently embarked on a tour of Japan to promote #HUSTLE (How U Survive Through Life Everyday) (released August 25 on the Black Light Conglomerate). Though he calls it a mixtape, the release has sturdy enough instrumentals and refined enough lyrics to rival any of the year's major releases.
Prime example: the anthemic "Honey Brown/Money Brown." It has enough rapid spitting and atmospheric synths to galvanize any listener trying to get their hustle on. Fresco takes that sentiment a step further, saying the song makes him "Feel like a doctor when he heals a patient. It's a different medicine — music and vibrations — but being able to give people the right energy to do what they want to do, I'm thankful to do that."
That might be even truer of #HUSTLE's more subdued and introspective tracks. Take, for instance, the hushed, hand-drum-sample laden "PSA #2 (All My Niggaz Know)." He describes it as "me looking over this city, looking at what niggaz are doing."
Those observations can sometimes sound harsh or, as he explains: "When I rap 'move slow, move dro' on that song, I'm not talking about how moving slow in a car looks cool. I mean they're slow, they're not advancing. But I'm not trying to preach or glorify, I just want to show the mind state of people with that background."
And while Fresco has been wary of such a stagnant lifestyle since he was inquisitive high school student, surfing the internet for ancient history texts about the root to modern black people's struggles, he was given an all too painful refresher in January.
"When I got attacked I realized: you gotta watch who you be around. I'll just say that. You gotta keep the right energy around you, because you don't know when things can go wrong," he says. When pressed for further details, he replies: "I don't want to comment on it further than that, I'll just leave it there. But it made me rethink the time and energy I'm giving to certain people."
He now wants to tighten that circle, be free of distraction and employ the work ethic that was quickly instilled in him after the attack. Or, as Fresco puts it: "One fear I had was dying with a bunch of songs I knew were dope, but I hadn't recorded yet. I thought: 'I gotta get my music out, because time waits for no man.'"
Editor's note: The original version of this story indicated that Raz Fresco's injury was by gunshot; he was stabbed in the January 2017 incident.
Check out the video for "Honey Brown/Money Brown" below.