<div>kid fresino is japan's young rapper on the rise</div>



The story of Kid Fresino’s debut on the scene is as sensational as his music. Only 19 years old at the time, the young beat maker and DJ for the hip hop group Fla$hBackS had never rapped in his life—let alone written any lyrics—when he recorded his first track, Come In. It was only ten short months later that he dropped his debut album, 2013’s Horseman’s Scheme; bursting with the raw, untamed energy of youth, the record conveyed a kind of exhilarating vitality that garnered him widespread acclaim.

“The first time I ever rapped was during a recording session. I just suddenly thought ‘hey, why don’t I try rapping on this track?’ Listening to it again now, I realise that I really couldn’t rap at all, but I do think I had some kind of intuitive sense of how to match the flow of my lyrics to the beat, y’know? Since middle school, I’d been going to stores and getting them to put out CDs of my beats, and I always used to go to this day event at Bed in Ikebukuro called Refugee Market (established by the hip hop crew DOWN NORTH CAMP). I feel like I kinda subconsciously absorbed a lot of the stuff I saw and heard there, and in a way even absorbing the people I met, and even though I didn’t know how to rap I think I just picked up how to do it through immersion. You have to be exposed to cool shit before you can figure out what ‘cool’ is, right?”

It’s easier now than ever before to start making beats and spitting rhymes with just a few basic pieces of gear, upload them to the web, and connect with people you’ve never met; even in Japan, where the hip hop scene is still largely an underground subculture, it’s easy to find people making music anywhere these days. But nevertheless, Fresino might be an unusual case; not content to remain in the virtual realm, he was determined to immerse himself in the real, adult scene of music makers. Finding a place in a community that accepted him with open arms, without forcing him to “pay his dues” in any sort of cliquey hierarchy, he was able to develop his skills in a real-world setting and follow his creative impulses wherever they took him.

“Back in high school, when everyone else was figuring out what they wanted to do in life, I mentioned to one of my classmates that I wanted to make music. He said, ‘what, do you think you’re living some kind of special life, or something?’ And I mean yeah, I was just some short-ass loser who could never stick to anything for long, and I wasn’t much good as a student either. I’d never even had a girlfriend. I felt like I had nothing going for me, so I couldn’t really say anything back to him. But I always used to dress the same way back then, and I got complemented on my dress sense by Issugi, the rapper from the hip hop group monju. He said, ‘you’ve really got your style figured out!’ I’d never been praised like that in my life. A few years later, I saw the movie Kids, and noticed that Justin Pierce’s character Casper was dressed just like me: an Independent shirt, baggy Dickies, and Converse. His character’s life was a total wreck compared to mine, but still… how you dress is a really big part of how you express yourself, and it made me happy to think that even though our lives were so different, we still shared that in common.”

Fresino’s ostentatious and plainly-stated style also has something unusually old-school about it; unlike many of his contemporaries, who tend to share everything about their private lives through vlogs and social media, he keeps a sense of distance between himself and the audience.

“I’m not on any social networks, and I don’t have a cell phone. People can only get in contact with via Skype or email, but I can still keep in touch with the people I need to, and that’s all I need. I mean, I think it’s important to have the strength to keep some things to yourself, like difficult experiences or memories. On social networks, everyone just says whatever they’re thinking, right? Sharing your grief in public, or clinging to other people… it’s not cool. If you have something important to say, you should stand up and put yourself out there, even if you’re the only person saying it. It’s the same with rap. Most rappers these days are all about sharing all their deepest, private shit as frankly as they can, but I think it’s better to keep some things hidden. It means that the people listening get to enjoy trying to figure out the deeper meaning of a track, so that’s why I don’t reveal every little part of myself.”

In 2014 Fresino released Backward Decision — a collab album with the beat maker Arμ-2 — and a free download album called Shadin’. His second official solo album, Conq.u.er, came out in September last year, and this year he dropped Somewhere, a collaboration with rapper C.O.S.A. His acclaim grows with each new release, thanks to his ever-developing skills and his increasing prowess as a lyricist. As a track maker, too, he has taken the traditional hip hop approach of sampling soul music to an entirely new area, carving out his own distinctively modern style. A year and a half ago he set out on a solo musical pilgrimage to Harlem, New York, immersing himself deeper in the world of hip hop than ever before. “I really just felt like it was time to go. I decided that I wanted to learn how to be a recording engineer, and set my sights on New York. But I suck at planning, so I’ve just been figuring things out as I go along… to be honest, even I worry about myself sometimes! I don’t mean that I don’t have enough confidence in myself, though. I’m seriously just getting totally caught up in the music, making tracks and going to shows, and I feel like recently I’ve been developing my skills to the point where I can really properly express whatever it is I have in my head. So I want to keep making stuff for another four or five years, and then create something really definitive and final. That’s all. I think the thing about hip hop is that you have to make something transient and brilliant into a work of art, carve your name in history, and then disappear, so I’m not thinking about anything beyond that at all.”

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