(Photo Credit: Aaron Rhodes/Shuttlecock Music Magazine)
Throughout its history in Hip-Hop, The Bay Area has always been the mecca for musical independence and entrepreneurship. Many of The Bay’s popular artists formed their own labels leading them to tour small markets in order to promote their music with Kansas City becoming a frequent stop. Because of this, the culture of The Bay Area began to seep into the soil of Kansas City producing a deep-rooted connection between Northern California and Western Missouri.
Yet, the 2005 killing of Kansas City’s most popular artist, Fat Tone, who was believed to have murdered iconic Vallejo Rapper, Mac Dre, only six months prior, led to a severance of ties between the two regions. With their exodus, The Bay took with it a strong musical culture leaving only a heavy gang presence and a few distinct slang words.
This lack of musical guidance left Kansas City searching for an artistic outlet. The city became a blank canvas where many rappers have tried to paint a distinctive, but marketable picture of the area to no avail.
This tide, however, seems to be turning.
In an interview with RESPECT.’s Country Grammar Series, emerging Kansas City artists, Rory Fresco, speaks about the new sound of the city and how he intends to use it has the backdrop for his creative impact on the music industry.
RESPECT.: “What has been your experience with Kansas City?”
Rory: “I been all over the city between living with my grandparent, dad, and mom. I have been in the worst parts, best parts, and the not so bad places. I don’t know, Kansas City is a blessing and a curse. It’s a one of a kind type of city. There’s a lot of negativity but there’s also a lot of great stuff here too. There’s potential but that potential is overshadowed by the negativity.”
RESPECT.: “How did you start making music?”
Rory: “I started making music in middle school, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was around 15. I was really a producer before I started rapping, but I couldn’t get anyone to rap over my beats. So I was like: ‘I know my sh-t hot, let me go ahead and rap on them.’ And it went from there.
RESPECT.: “So, do you enjoy rapping more or making beats?”
Rory: “Man, I just enjoy creating. I can’t really say. I do enjoy making beats, but it’s so second nature and comes so easy. Like when I make a fire ass beat I don’t really get the thrill of it that I do when I make a nice song. But, they’re neck and neck. I enjoy them both. I just like creating.”
RESPECT.: “What other things do you create? Other than music.”
Rory: “I write scripts, I act, I make cover art. Almost everything you can think of honestly. I’m a creative. I just like creating.”
RESPECT.: “It kind of the ‘SoundCloud Generation’ when it comes to music. You got popping that way with your song being randomly placed behind Kanye West’s ‘Only One.’ What do you think about that?”
Rory: “Man, I can’t really say it was random. Even before that, I was on the blogs and all that. I had a few labels talking to me and stuff even before that sh-t even happened. But, when it did happen it kind of boosted me up. It went from one or two labels to now every label was trying to sign me. But, people already knew who I was. Really the only thing it got me was a hit for real. That got me the attention from major labels. But, it was destined to come regardless of that. It just made it happen faster.”
RESPECT.: “Being a newer artist in the city, how would you describe the music scene in Kansas City right now in comparison to the past?”
Rory: “I feel like there is a divide. Like you have the thug/gangster rap of the past, but now you got kids that know how to do more sh-t. Now you got kids that know how to design, mix and master, all that, in high school. You got people who have a Rock Start level stage presence at like my age. Back then it was more about the rapping, now we got kids moshing and all that at our shows. So there’s a divide, but also kids just got smarter and figured out how to do it on their own so that they don’t have to fit into the mold. And that’s not even in Kansas City, that’s worldwide. Kansas City just gotta start believing in themselves and know that it’s not for these old niggas to change the culture. It’s for us. Like Soulja Boy and people like there were the first to show kids they can do it young and by themselves. So now that they can see they can do it young, they’re gonna do it while being themselves and it’s going to take off from there.”
(Photo Credit: Rory Fresco)
RESPECT.: “Historically, Kansas City has been a dangerous city and that violence has spilled into the music scene. Has that changed? And if not how has that hindered the city’s musical success?”
Rory: “I mean, Kansas City has real issues, not just music sh-t. Young kids have an issue with finding themselves. There’s not established ‘culture’ here that can be grasped by the outside looking in. Not too many people make it out so they can’t look at them and be like: ‘this who Imma be.’ And that leaves some of us lost turning to other things that are productive. But we trying. That’s all I can say, for real. We’re trying.”
RESPECT.: “This lack of popular culture could be a good thing though, right?”
Rory: “Yeah, it’s good and bad. I’m glad we have a lot of young kids in the city smart enough to see this music sh-t as an avenue and working to perfect their craft, but we’re so behind. You look at other cities and they’re so ahead with like who they are and finding individuality within that. Places like Atlanta where people come together in music, it’s like a big ass family, out here it’s not like that. But, like I said, we’re trying.”
RESPECT.: “So, as far as your next step in your career as an artist what do you want it to be?”
Rory: “I want to tour off this project, Teen Spirit. I want to get this short film off that will be a visual interpretation of my tape, so I can show people that I am skilled in different areas. That’s basically the main reason I do what I do. I show people I can produce, I show them I can make melodies, that I can rap. I show people I can design art and now I just want to show people I can direct videos and sh-t. Because I’m going to direct it and star in it so it will show people I can act as well. I eventually want to direct movies in the future. I just want to showcase my talents in all areas.”
(Cover Art For Rory Fresco’s “Teen Spirit”)
Rory’s desire to project himself through his art has a clear origin in Kansas City’s need to be solidified as a cultural staple. This urge has prompted Kansas City’s youth to utilize their skills in order to perfect their talents and neutralize their city’s disadvantages. Out of this has emerged a litany of talented artists who are putting not only their skills but also themselves up for exhibit. These youths are hungry to turn Kansas City into a musical hub that will house legendary artists. And Rory Fresco might be the creative to soothe this rumbling.
With the world in front of him and Kansas City on his back, Rory has the talent to lift his city to its deserved height. He has the ability to impact the trajectory of not only his hometown but the music industry as well. This type of potential, if honed and supported properly, can garner Kansas City the positive attention it needs so desperately.
Check Out Rory Fresco’s Teen Spirit Below: