Cut through the coarse edges of ‘Independence Day’, the latest album by west London rapper Fredo, and there lies another statement project. After his pop-leaning tendencies of 2020 – namely, the saccharine ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’, which has now disappeared off streaming services and been disowned by him – the 27-year-old rapper doubles down on his road-rap roots. Throughout the 14-track album, Fredo spits bars upon a tightrope of taut tension yearning to be taken seriously again.
The album is much starker than ‘Money Can’t Buy Happiness’, which was released earlier this year. Given that this is his second record of 2021, it doesn’t sound rushed. Instead, the marriage of incisive lyrics and careful curation demand close listening. Although the production isn’t outstanding or memorable, that does allow Fredo’s lyrics to shine: “Paid for the four, I might drop you the daughter / Slice up the opps, I get lots of them torture / Then flew past some opps, I got lots of them awkward,” he rhymes on the Headie One-featuring ‘Wandsworth to Bullingdon’.
The lyricism of ‘Independence Day’ finds Fredo sticking to road-rap’s quintessential topics: violence, drugs and prison. He takes shots at the next generation asking questions like, “How you drillers when you only done one stabbing?”. Moments of sadness are allowed as Fredo states on ’14’: “I was 14 when I stopped going shop with my mum / She said ‘Why?’, I said ‘I got beef’ / She’s like ‘What have you done?’.”
Throughout the album, Fredo doesn’t necessarily get as deep or introspective as audiences may demand. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does create superfluous tracks across the project. Namely, ‘Talk of the Town’ and ‘Mind’ fall flat and feel passable, betraying the fact that ‘Independence Day’ has few stand-out tunes and is better ingested as a whole from start to finish.
Having made a name for himself on ‘Funky Friday’ – his chart-topping collaboration with Dave – as well as two Top Five albums, Fredo delivered one of the year’s stand-out projects in January’s ‘Money Can’t Buy Happiness’. Whether it was the fall-out from his 2020 singles or wanting to give his critics a stark reminder of his grit, on ‘Independence Day’, Fredo pops and fizzes with menace. Ultimately, it results in a project that he’ll be proud exists in his oeuvre – but it won’t be remembered for much else.
Label: Since 93/RCA Records
Release date: August 6, 2021