Baton Rouge’s Fredo Bang deals in sincerity. His guttural raps chew through a palette of menacing productions. At 24, Fredo Bang has mastered the art of securing the listener’s attention. On his latest mixtape, Most Hated, released by Def Jam on April 17, Fredo delivers his nastiest effort to date. Most Hated is equal parts grimy and triumphant. “I’m out here overachieving,” Fredo raps to open the tape. “This music for fans,” he tucks into the latter half of “Get Even.” For all his bite, Fredo remains humble and grateful, something I pick up on in mid-December when the rapper and I speak on his relationship with his fans.
“They really be with me,” Fredo tells me of his fanbase. “I’m big on communicating with my fans. I write almost everybody back. I’m big on reposting when they [make fan videos].” Fredo Bang speaks with a calm tone. After coming home from jail in 2018, the rapper has a newfound clarity. “Jail showed me what’s important,” Fredo told FADER. “Let me make my music. Let me feed my family.” During our talk, he echoed a similar sentiment: “Put the gun down and go rap.”
And, man, does Fredo Bang rap. All over Most Hated, Fredo delivers with guts and an undercurrent of charisma. On the flexing “Saucy,” Fredo digs deep into his lighthearted bag. On “Traffic,” over a pensive piano line, Fredo gets nicely reflective of himself, his habits, and his environment. “They want me dead, but it’s too late, though,” he harmonizes. Fredo Bang makes engrossing pain music—he bleeds on the page, and his self-proclaimed perfectionism makes every quotable sit heavy on our hearts. Through a laugh, Fredo tells me he will redo lines upwards of 50 times to make sure they’re perfect.
Perhaps Fredo’s penchant for perfection comes from his 10 years in band, his vehicle for getting into music. “My mama told me to join, so I just signed my name on a paper,” Fredo recalls. “I ain’t know I had to be in a class and stuff! When I was there, my first instrument was a clarinet, and then they moved me on the French horn, and I became section leader.” It’s a sweet story, one serving to remind us Fredo Bang is heartfelt from top to bottom.
The Def Jam signee realized music would be his life when he returned home, too. “I ain’t have no way to pay my bills, fresh out of jail,” Fredo admits. “A DistroKid check came through, and I thought, ‘I gotta keep putting out music!’” Fredo’s drive has been nicely rewarded. Beyond having the catalog of a champion, he has a steady influx of numbers to back up his work ethic. Fredo consistently breaks the million mark with his music videos. He’s fast approaching a million monthly listeners on Spotify as well. Yet, even as his star rises and his breakout moment looms, Fredo remains thankful and cognizant of his fans’ role in his success.
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“It tells me I’m doing something right,” Fredo tells me of having fans. “I’m judgmental of my work, and I discredit myself a lot. When people rock with my music, it’s reassuring—I actually sound good… They don’t have to listen to my music; you know what I’m saying? They don’t have to give [it] a chance. You got a thousand other rappers they could be buying merch from, listening to they music… I’m thankful and grateful.”
Fredo’s relationship with his fans goes more in-depth than releasing music and merch. He frequently goes on Instagram Live to talk to the people directly. Communication is the best way Fredo can imagine giving back to his people. “Shouting them out and replying to them, actually talking to ‘em,” Fredo lists as ways he likes to commune with his fans. “I ask them, ‘Y’all want this song? Y’all want that song? Should I drop or not?’ At the end of the day, what they think is what matters, you know?”
To continue giving back to fans, Fredo Bang joined the Sweet platform. Sweet is a SoHo based app, aiming to reward fans for their engagement. “Fan engagement is valuable,” founder Tom Mizzone told me earlier this year. “With the Sweet app, we have paired fan engagement with fan rewards. Artists, musicians, and influencers are looking for deeper levels of engagement—whether that’s more Spotify and Apple Music streams, more follows and playlisting, or more shares of their latest single or music video. At Sweet, we have built a harmonious economy of consumers getting real value for their engagement, while materially supporting the artists and talent brands who are opting into the platform.”
On Fredo’s part, he participated in a Sugar Rush, a live game wherein artists essentially hold a listening party, upping their streams and interacting with fans. The aftermath of the Sugar Rush includes prizes—shout outs, hangouts, you name it—and a sense of closeness between artists and fans. In essence, everyone wins.
“We call it a live listening party,” Mizzone explains of the Sugar Rush. “During the game experience, we’ll spin the music of the night: a single or new track the artist wants the world to hear. We stream the music directly from DSPs, getting the artist all those valuable listens. Fans who react favorably to the music are invited to save the song, the album, and follow the artist. Throughout the game, fans are getting closer to the artist and chatting with other fans. Everyone gets Sugar (which is our in-app token) for playing. With that Sugar, users can access the marketplace. At the end of the game, we provide a report for the artist.”
Sweet gives Fredo Bang the chance to thank his fans for riding with him, for giving him that necessary encouragement, and for helping him take care of himself through his art. Fans are the key to Fredo Bang’s vision of success: “Paying my bills and being able to take care of my family.” That’s the beauty of this sordid music industry—it must be—how it can change lives from fans to artists, to families, and so on. Fredo Bang found his way, and we can all applaud him for his triumphs.