“I wasn’t really into rap, before. I was hoping to be more like an Émile Bilodeau, a Louis-Jean Cormier, a Daniel Bélanger or a Karim Ouellet,” says Fredz, an 18-year-old rapper who’s just released his debut album on the E.47 Records label, founded and owned by one Cyril Kamar (a.k.a. K.Maro).
This “before” of which the Longueuil-born rapper speaks was a mere three years ago. As a teen, the young musician was learning to play the guitar and discovering the Québec pop scene. Rap burst into his life through the likes of Lord Esperanza, LaF, Koriass, and, he admits sheepishly, Roméo Elvis.
Fredz’s first creative impulses manifested through composing music alone. “Hip-hop instrumentals were the only things within my reach,” he says. “I had tutorials to help me along. But since I didn’t want to leave them ‘empty,’ and didn’t know anyone who’d rap on them, I started rapping myself.”
Rather on the shy side, Fredz took his time before revealing himself online. In December 2019, an interpretation of what would become his first single, “Sara x Concassé,” was shared on the Instagram page of 1minute2rap, a French platform that has more than 900,000 subscribers. That’s where K.Maro enters.
“He saw me with my glasses and that pink toque,” says Fredz. “But since he was next to his girlfriend, who was asleep, he couldn’t turn the volume up. He recorded the video and listened to it the next day. He messaged me saying he was in Montréal and wanted to meet me. I didn’t even know who he was! It’s actually my mother who realized he was the guy who used to sing ‘Femme Like U.’”
But beyond his young-dandy looks, Fredz knows how to capture attention with a flow that’s quite hard-hitting, combining speed, flexibility, and harmony. “There’s often more comments on my haircut than on my music, but I’m fine with that. It helps me disappear in the masses,” he says.
His heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics offer sincere testimony to his heartbreak and vulnerability, and they, too, seem to contradict the naïve, reserved young man. This album, Personne ne touche le ciel represents “coming back down to earth, accepting a finality: miracles only exist in movies,” to quote the press release.
Is Fredz already disillusioned, at only 18 years old? “I’m still in awe of what’s going on around me, but I’ve concluded that miracles don’t exist and that to err is human,” he says. “I’m quite clumsy. Sometimes I say stuff I don’t mean. I’m also the type of person who rushes into love, who says the thing that I shouldn’t.”
Personne ne touche le ciel is without a doubt a breakup album. The type of breakup that upsets everything, especially during a period as pivotal as one’s teenage years. The name Sara echoes all over the place, each iteration sounding like a pitfall, a painful memory, a raw emotion. “Sara is not someone specific,” says Fredz. “She’s my muse, maybe even my alter ego. She represents many personalities that are part of my life. Sometimes, like in ‘Sara x Concassé,’ she’s overly joyous, whereas elsewhere, like in ‘Trop tard,’ she’s dead.”
A “real” person is, however, hidden behind the tormented story behind this debut LP. “I started writing the album just after a relationship, about a year-and-a-half or two years ago,” says Fredz. “It inspired me, but not necessarily lyrics-wise, it was more on the level of my motivation and my state of mind. That person did not believe in my music when I started… So I wanted to show them that I still made it.”
With more than 300,000 views on YouTube, more than half of which stem from Francophone European countries, Fredz is indeed experiencing an impressive early career. “Everyone is surprised when they hear me speak with my Québécois accent!” he says, explaining that his so-called “international” French accent when he raps came naturally, through his influences. “I’m quite convinced I would not have been signed on E.47 Records if I had a thick Québécois accent when I rap.”
Thanks to the productions of Moonkite Beats and Tayeb, who provided the trap pop signature, with guitar-laden folk and R&B highlights, Personne ne touche le ciel is perfectly aligned with the urban music scene currently the top of the charts in France. The result is an album that sounds much lighter than its lyrics would suggest.
A good example is “Bref,” a break from the album’s melancholy, like a promise of better things to come. “I wanted to close with that song so that the album didn’t end on a negative note,” says Fredz. “It’s basically saying that even though we’ll never touch the sky, it’s still worth forging on.”