Exclusive Interview: Raz Fresco Talks Producing for Mac Miller, Big Sean, High School, Air Jordan Commercials, Bakers Club & more
photography by Neva Wireko @nevawireko
RESPECT. Online writer Peter Marrack caught up with 16 year old Canadian producer/rapper Raz Fresco before he hit the stage to open for Royce da 5’9″ the other night in Toronto. Raz has produced for the likes of Mac Miller, Big Sean, and Wale, and plans to drop two projects this year, Cakey Pocket$ and The Popcorn Tape. Raz heads his own music collective called the Bakers Club.
Read the full interview after the break, and click here for all the behind-the-scenes goodies
How many performances have you done in the city?
This is my second, I think. I did the Smokers Club Tour with Curren$y when he came last year, when they did their stop in Toronto.
Yeah, not this year, last year. Not the recent one.
How was that?
It was dope. I got to meet him, chill out with him. Big K.R.I.T. and Mac Miller were there, so I got to meet Mac for the first time. Before that I had produced a beat for him.
You produced the record before you saw him.
Yeah, so we got to meet up for the first time.
Which track was it?
“Trippin Out”, he released it on Halloween as a special joint for XXL.
When you produced for all those other guys, like Big Sean and Wale, was that when they came to the city?
Naw, naw. All of those are different. Like the DJ Holiday one was when Holiday was working with Sean. It just depends.
Holiday hooked you up.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
He’s a nice guy. What part of Toronto are you from?
Ah, well, I used to live here in different parts of the city when I was a kid, different neighborhoods and stuff. But then my dad left and we began to move gradually away from the city, so first we moved to Mississauga.
I’m from Sauga.
Oh, word. Where?
Hurontario and ————— [omitted so the block doesn’t get shot up].
Oh, we used to live near South Common.
Like South Common Mall?
Yeah, literally like five minutes from there.
What high school did you go to there- or was it before that?
Before, yeah, we moved to Brampton after that. That’s where I’m at right now with my mom.
You’re young, right, just 16?
So you go to high school?
Do you actually go?
Yeah, I try to.
That must be a little weird…
Not really, you know, people at the high school aren’t really crazy like that. It’s not overwhelming or any shit like that. There’ll be like one or two people who come up and are like, “Yo, I mess with your music.” I’ll be like, “Yeah, I appreciate it,” and then just keep it moving.
What about the teachers?
Some teachers know and stuff, some teachers have been like, “Oh, I heard you’ve done this and that.” But it’s nothing too overwhelming. It’s just regular school.
Do you take actual music class?
Oh, naw, naw. I don’t do that. I don’t do that at school. I just go to school for other stuff, because I do music outside of school, so there’s no point in me doing the clubs where they make beats and stuff because I already make beats on different stuff anyway, so it’s kind of a waste of time.
[laughs] I was talking more about you teaching the class. In a couple years when you graduate, what’s going to happen then? Is there pressure from your parents to go to college or anything?
Naw, because I do music, that’s what I do. I’m just going to keep doing music. That’s basically my plan, you know?
But are they supportive of that?
My dad is. My mom is really on to school and stuff, but at the end of the day I have to do what I have to do. I made a lot of progress with music so far. I’ve done a lot of things. It’s not like it’s a waste of time. There’s a lot of potential. I’ll just go with that, because for me- Other kids are different, they have to go to university and other stuff to try and find their path, because it’s all about finding your path, and I do music so I’m just glad I found that early so I can continue to do that. That’s basically my plan.
Are there moments now when you actually have to defy your mom in order to benefit your music?
Oh, all the time! All the time. I’ll be in the studio late and I have school the next day, so I’ll come back late as hell and I have to wake up early as hell to go to school.
She texting you? [laughs]
All the time. She’ll get mad. It’s so gradual and continuous now that it’s not as bad as it was at the beginning, because this has been going on for a while now. I work on this every day. It’s been going on for a while. It’s not as bad as it was before, but there’s a definite butting of heads all the time. It’s like a tug of war. She wants me to do this and I’m doing that.
It’s important you find your own way, and you said your dad is supportive, so… Where are your parents from? What’s your heritage?
I’m straight Jamaican.
Oh yeah? Both of your parents?
Both of them.
Are they from there?
Yeah, they were born down there, and then they came up. But I was born here.
But they met in Jamaica?
No, they met here in Toronto.
Uh, I don’t even know to be honest. They must have just bumped into each other somewhere.
What are your goals for this year, musically?
One of my main focuses right now is finishing this Cakey Pocket$ project. We’re in the mixing process right now, trying to get the sound right. We basically do that the whole time but right now we’re just- like I finished recording on the last day of last year, all the rough stuff, so this year is working on mixing it, I’m trying to push that project. I have a project with Chill Will, another member of the Bakers Club.
The Popcorn Tape?
Yeah, The Popcorn Tape.
You’ve been talking about that for a while.
Yeah, I’ve been working on both of those. Actually Chill Will was just down here, him and P. Blackk, and we shot the first video for The Popcorn Tape.
You did the video with P. Blackk for-
Yeah, it was a good one. I liked the heavy synths… when they come in?
Yeah, word, Iyeball is the guy who produced that, from Fly Union.
P. Blackk’s got some crazy shirts.
Oh, word word word word.
[pointing to the epaulets on Raz’s cap] What’s that hat?
Oh, this is just- you know, I’m not going to say too much. It’s a little stuff…
What do you mean? You got all this old Polo shit on too.
Oh, yeah, it’s the Polo Sport with a little hat.
Where’d you get this stuff?
Oh, you know, I’m not going to- [laughs]
You can’t say? What?
Naw, naw. [laughs] I get it, you know.
I think that old Tommy stuff is coming back.
Oh, word. I be rocking it heavy. Tommy Fresco, Raz Fresco, same thing. I be coming hard with that. I’m a real sneakerhead too. I really mess with Air Jordans. I have a tape called Laced Up.
That’s what The Popcorn Tape’s all about too, right?
Oh yeah, The Popcorn Tape is based off the old Jordan commercials where they had the commercials ‘MJ retired’, and one of the commercials was like ‘MJ retired but he came back as fake players with fake names and one of them was Johnny Kilroy’ and then they’re like ‘one of the only footage of Johnny Kilroy that we have is a fan’s home video called the popcorn tape’, and that’s where it came from.
No, no, no, this is all a commercial. It’s all fake. It’s a Nike commercial for Jordan.
Are they on Youtube?
Yeah, they are! That’s where we found them and got the whole idea for the mixtape. It basically shows some footage of a fan holding popcorn and he’s watching Jordan playing. It’s like that tape, but we’re doing The Popcorn Tape. It’s the whole Air Jordan tying everything together type of thing, like I’m a sneakerhead and Chill Will’s a sneakerhead, and it’s tying it all together.
Is it 19+ tonight?
Yeah, I’m pretty sure.
Is that weird? How do your fans-
Some events are all-ages, some aren’t. I have to get out to the people, you know, I have to connect with the people and stuff, so part of that is going to the older events and doing a lot of shows, like Royce da 5’9” is an old artist with an older crowd. I can’t let that be a barrier. I have to try and get out to all audiences.
Do you have anyone in the crowd tonight?
Oh yeah, some people came through, for sure.
They’re older than 19 though?
Yeah, like the whole Prime (sp?) crew are family, and they’re all older than 19.
What about the Bakers Club, what exactly is that?
Oh, it’s a music collective I made. It has seven artists at the moment, me, The 6th Letter, P. Blackk, Chill Will, Lo Thraxx, BriskInTheHouse, and-
How’d you come up with that name?
The funny thing is, it came from a rap line. I had this rap line from way back, this is like from before my first mixtape, and it was like, “I’m all about that dough, welcome to the bakers club.” And I was always like, “Hmm, Bakers Club, I like that.” So then I thought I’d name my team Welcome to the Bakers Club, and it became a whole collective. That’s how that came about, and I kept expanding and making it bigger and bigger and adding different flavors.
And what kind of rapper do you want to be, like a Kanye-
I don’t necessarily want to be like another rapper.
I know, I know-
It’s funny you should say Kanye West first though, because he’s one of my main inspirations. But do you mean which artists influenced me?
No, like do you want to be in the spotlight, or do you want to be an underground guy?
I feel that my music and how I go about marketing myself and branding myself, that will determine where I end up. Because I’m not trying to be underground. I’m trying to be as big as possible and take it to the next level every time. Every project I’m trying to get more and more fans. I don’t look at it as underground or mainstream. It’s just about the people in general, reaching the people. I’m just trying to get the biggest following possible, and if that means some people will label me a mainstream artist, then so be it. I’m cool with that. I’m still me as an artist. You can put a label on it but it’s still my music at the end of the day.
You’ll let the music take you wherever it wants to go. That’s cool. I don’t know if you think about money at this point, at your age- do you think about money?
I mean, my next project’s called Cakey Pocket$ so… Bakers Club, bake cake, money…
But is it a priority?
At the end of the day it’s music, but it’s also a business. I’m definitely, definitely trying to be proactive on the business side when it comes to educating myself and trying to implement that. Because you have to have a business plan. You can’t just be making music. You can be making music, that’s cool, but you have to be business minded as well. So I’m definitely thinking about the money when I’m thinking about these releases. With Bakers Club, I try to keep the communication real tight, because some of the artists are from America-
Do you do that stuff independently or do you have people who help you?
Basically it’s me, I have my manager, I have my managers, Soze from Canada.
I thought he was a chick at first. I just saw the name.
[laughs] Naw, naw.
I think I offended him.
He’s a standup guy. But yeah, Soze, my Canadian manager, and I have Stix Malone as my American manager.
So you’re trying to branch into the States.
Yeah, definitely, the Bakers Club from the beginning has been artists from the States, because Lo Thraxx is from down South, Little Rock, Arkansas, P. Blackk’s from Columbus, Ohio, Chill Will’s from Seattle.
I thought they were all Canadian.
Oh, naw, naw. From the beginning I’ve been trying to take it to as many people as possible, by finding the dopest artists.
You think you can make enough money by just staying in Canada?
Naw, it’s just smart business. When it comes to Hip-Hop, Canada is not the dominant Hip-Hop market in the world. The U.S. is, so you definitely want to go and capitalize on that market.
You’re starting early, man. That’s sick. Anything else you wanted to shout out?
Yeah, the Bakers Club of course, all the fans and the supporters.
[Soze interrupts to advise Raz to shout out his Twitter and Youtube accounts, as well as the sneaker business.]
[to Soze] We already got the sneaker stuff. [laughs] I thought he was trying to pull a Johnny Drama and throw the hat on Vince- but with sneakers instead. You guys watch Entourage?
[Raz] Naw, I don’t watch the show. But follow me on Twitter @RazFresco and on the Bakers Club blog, the two new Bakers Club releases are available at lothraxx.com, that’s the Highlight Reel, and on pblackk.com for P. Blackk’s Blackk Friday which is also available on iTunes.
Special thanks to Soze Brooks for setting up the interview.
– By @petermarrack