Friday: Out on parole with a new outlook on life [Interview]
Toronto, ON – I met Friday several years ago after he joined Empire; one of Toronto’s most infamous hip-hop collectives. The now-defunct group had released a ton of acclaimed mixtapes but Friday’s involvement brought in an added level of business sense and experience. Empire began working on their debut album, GET IT, and Friday played a huge role behind the scenes getting the business straight. While managing the group and their business affairs, he continued to build his own label, AWOL Records, releasing 8 volumes of his The Connect mixtape series.
But not long after GET IT dropped in 2009, Empire disbanded and Friday got caught up with various legal issues that landed him in Toronto’s Don Jail for almost a 4 year stretch. Now he’s home and armed with a new outlook on life. He’s tackled issues with alcoholism head on and has taken great steps to ensure he never finds himself behind bars again. A quick conversation with Friday will show you how serious he is about staying on the right track, and pursing his dreams.
Most recently he’s been promoting his Home But Not Free mixtape series but he’s got a ton of other projects in the works including a new record label with rapper Bunz, several novels he wrote while incarcerated, and his album debut which he’s calling Born 2 Win. There’s also a new installment to Home But Not Free on the way, so stay tuned for that.
Find out more in our interview with Friday, after the jump link below. Click here to download Home But Not Free Part 2.
Interview conducted by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett
HipHopCanada: Welcome back to HipHopCanada, Friday. You recently dropped the Home But Not Free Part 2 mixtape. What kind of response have you gotten from Toronto?
Friday: It’s completely been an online promotion and so far it’s been great. I’ve had the quickest/highest amount of views and downloads on Datpiff.com (compared to the last few releases) and the Euro sites that I mess with have been showing a lot of love. The video for “I Get It/Downtown” has been a great pushing tool and the response has been lovely! Big ups to Tek-Man and Limelight films for shooting it.
HipHopCanada: Before we jump into the current stuff, I wanted to ask about your earlier projects. There is a lot of speculation surrounding the dissolution of Empire. What happened to the group?
Friday: I knew this question was coming…Okay; there was an altercation that happened between one and the rest of the members of the group that became physical. In hindsight, the altercation started over something really miniscule but there were a lot of issues that were bubbling under that came to the surface once things set off that night. A few months after I was able to get the guys to squash it for the love of the fans and the GET IT LP that we were doing shows to promote. We were able to last that whole summer doing shows and then going our separate ways afterward. Then prior to the album coming out something really bad happened relating to my former involvement in the drug trade, and the tension became way too much.
By the time the album dropped in October of 2009, the group had more or less broken up and by December 2009, I was getting arrested for the charges that I’m currently on parole for. Now most of us still hang but the bad blood with that member has never been resolved and I don’t think ever will.
HipHopCanada: Thanks for breaking it down. What was the biggest thing you learned from the Empire situation? Biggest regret aside from the group disbanding?
Friday: Time management and putting out an LP is way harder and way more expensive than just dropping mixtapes. The costs were phenomenal; from the 3 videos to push the album, publicist cost, travel, mixing, mastering, production and even more. A full-length album is a hard project to finish. From start to finish the LP took almost 3 years to drop from the time I took on the manager/A&R/Executive producer roll for Empire. The biggest regret I have is that we didn’t combine our financial efforts enough. Most of the costs were covered by me and my hustle but if we combined the paper more often we would’ve gotten to higher places, way faster.
HipHopCanada: Is there any chance we’ll see an Empire reunion project?
Friday: I’m leaning more on no, but you never know what the future may hold. One thing I know for sure though, if there was ever another reunion the project would be a monster and the whole hip-hop scene out here would be on smash once again.
HipHopCanada: You mentioned the drug charges. What lead to your incarceration?
Friday: Back in those times I had a serious mental illness called alcoholism. I was what we call a functioning alcoholic. On December 10th 2009, I had just come off the plane from NYC. I went home and straight to the bar to get smashed. When I got home that night I continued drinking and I had someone come over to get some coke. After they left, I feel asleep and when I woke up I was sitting in my landlord’s office with the fire chief and someone from the vice squad with the sound of the fire alarm going on in the background. I asked them why I was the only tenant out of the apartment. They replied that because the fire was in my place! I was taken to the 14 division station and locked in the interrogation room. When the detectives came in they told me that they were alerted that there was an ounce of cocaine found in my apartment on the kitchen counter. They told me they got a search warrant and asked me if they went back to my place if they would find anything else. I told them no and they left. Two hours later they came back and asked “What about the loaded .44 revolver we found hidden in a computer tower.” Eventually I got bail, but by February 2010 I was raided and they found more coke. I was locked up in the Don Jail and eventually sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in the federal penitentiary.
HipHopCanada: Thanks for sharing that. So is music as important to you now as before you went in? What’s your biggest focus musically?
Friday: Music will always be important to me whether I’m responsible for it or just a fan. While I was gone I was able to release The Connect Vol. 5 with help from T.R.A. aka The Rhyme Animal. When I came home, I was sitting on about 3 mixtapes worth of material that I recorded before my bid. I started recording tracks for Home But Not Free and the combo mixtape with Bunz, Instant Classic. We released them and then in the summer we dropped a solo mixtape from Bunz called Fountain Of Youth. Now I still record but my main musical focus is making sure Bunz is all good. We just started another label called P.U.R.E. Entertainment which will focus on new artists and producers. It’s a combined effort with Bunz and I and an upcoming singer/song writer/producer Novakency. He did the bulk of the production and supporting features on Fountain of Youth.
HipHopCanada: Is AWOL Records still going strong?
Friday: For sure, it’s an incorporated company so that’s always gonna be my baby. Right now Bunz and I are the only artists but we’re still going strong. AWOL is still the team!
HipHopCanada: You were already working close with Bunz when we first started covering your movements years ago. How did that relationship come to be? Do you have any more collaborations in the works aside from the label?
Friday: As a lot of people know, Bunz is a basketball player and he’s currently playing overseas. Back in 2005, he was playing college ball and was in town for a short time. We met in front of Phoenix Nightclub while I was promoting The Connect Vol. 2. I gave him a flyer and he told me he was the hottest rapper in Canada. I told him to prove it and spit something. He told me to spit first, so I spit 16. Then he spit me about 6 bars and I stopped him gave him my business card and told him to come to the studio the next day. I re-released The Connect Vol.2 with a bonus collabo with Bunz and the rest is history. We are about to drop Instant Classic Vol. 2 and DJ Law is always doing the mixes for the mixtapes.
HipHopCanada: Tell us more about the Home But Not Free series. Is this something you plan on pushing long-term?
Friday: I dropped 8 Connect mixtapes and all that was real shit. I was the Connect back then and all those street rhymes were about things I was dealing with in the moment. Now I’m out of the drug game so I put The Connect series to bed and started The Home But Not Free series because even though I’m home from the pen I’m still on parole, so essentially I’m not free. I still talk about my experiences and still represent the streets but from the perspective of a survivor who made it out alive. I’m trying to be more positive and hopefully the young cats coming up can learn from my past mistakes. As far as the long term, this is just promotional material to lead up to my first and maybe only album.
HipHopCanada: We’ll have to touch base again when you start working on that album. I wanted to ask, do you feel you can ever truly be free again after doing time?
Friday: I think so. Don’t get me wrong, jail was no Cancun but even when I was locked down I was mentally free. Being on parole has a lot of restrictions. I can’t go to clubs or bars or anywhere where alcohol is the primary source of income. I’m subject to random urine analysis so that means no weed and alcohol. As far as the alcohol though, I would’ve stopped drinking even if I wasn’t on parole. I go to 12 step meetings and have a sponsor now, all by choice. I still have reminders of jail all the time though whether it’s seeing cats I did time with or dreams that I have sometimes. It will always be an experience that will stick with me for life.
HipHopCanada: Can we expect Part 3 anytime soon?
Friday: Home But Not Free Part 3 is definitly on the way and that will be the final installment to the series. This one is going to be harder beats and a little bit more double time verses. It’s gonna be 97% original beats from all the producers I’ve been working with and lyrically I feel I’m just getting better with each product.
HipHopCanada: What’s your connection to the producers on Part 2: Mozart Jones, Chenzo Kell and Quincy Clash?
Friday: Everything is online nowadays. I met these cats online when I came home. I know Chenzo Kell from being in the Toronto hip-hop scene and he got at me online with some offers for beats. But Mozart and Quincy Clash I met strictly online. Mozart is from Baltimore, actually, and I never met him in person. And from what I think, Quincy is Canadian. All 3 of these cats make sick beats and they’re grinding hard to get their names out there. I’m feeling their hustle and I expect only success for them in the future.
HipHopCanada: What other artists producers/artists are you working with at the moment?
I’ve been working with AmiR the Terrorist as usual, and Da Coz (Hustlebeats) who made the beat for “Downtown” which appears on the second half of my new video. I recently copped some beats from this cat I met on Twitter called 5 Star Beatz. I did some collabos with some great female vocalist like Ivory and up and comer Sylvana. I also have collabo with a Moka Only on the way.
HipHopCanada: What can you tell us about the album you mentioned?
Friday: Early 2013 is when my first and maybe only full-length album will drop. It’s called Born 2 Win. I picked that title because after all the things I’ve been through I’m still doing well. I’ve done everything a man can do at my age now and a lot of cats would kill to live the life I lived. I used to party like a rock star and now I’m sober with experience and a lot of great stories. The album is almost complete; I have production from AmiR the Terrorist on about 40% of it and some real classics from Mozart Jones, Chenzo Kell, Quincy Clash and Da Coz. I have collabos with Sylvana, Bunz, Moka Only, Mezziah, Tek-Man and Mister Phayze, a rapper/producer that I came up with when I used to live in Montreal. I’ve been working on my first album for about a decade and most of the material got scrapped or became mixtape tracks. Now I am finally happy with the body of work that I have, as well as my skill level so Born 2 Win will be something that I will be totally proud to endorse.
HipHopCanada: No doubt! What other projects do you have in the works?
Friday: I have a few novels on the way that I wrote while I was incarcerated. The first one is called “15 Minutes” and it was already suppose to be out on Kani Publishing. Kani is a publishing company based in New York City but the editing phase was kind of delayed. Either way, that will be out early 2013. I’ve also been doing an ongoing blog called the Sober Emcee that I will eventually turn into a collection of short stories. The blog talks about experiences that I dealt with as an alcoholic and deal with now as a recovering alcoholic. Sometimes I feel like it’s not getting enough attention but then I’ll meet someone on the street or someone will inbox me on Facebook and tell me how much the blog entries had an impact on them and how much they can relate to what I’ve wrote. As I mentioned before, we are building the new label P.U.R.E. Entertainment and I do a lot of public speaking at the12 step meetings and things like the F-You Project which my friend and colleague Tara Muldoon started.
HipHopCanada: How has the Toronto scene changed since you first started?
Friday: There’s a lot less originality in my opinion. Back in the 90′s and the early 2000′s, when Kardi and The Circle were running things, there was more authenticity and no matter how many cats hated on them they still were the only ones who sounded like them. They didn’t bite their sound from US rappers, they did them. There’s no one that sounds like Kardi or D-Sisive or Sauks. Now all these young cats be auto-tuning and doing whatever the most popular rappers are doing to get some radio or video spins. I thought one of the main rules in hip-hop was NO BITTING ALLOWED! Labels are not looking for something that sounds like what’s already out there. They’re looking for something new and different to exploit! Also there’s way less underground or college radio unless you have satellite radio. Half of the college stations have shutdown and are strictly online. And with no Project Bounce, a lot of street cats get no radio play.
HipHopCanada: Where do you find more gratification – being an artist or working behind the scenes?
Friday: Working behind the scenes is where it’s at for me. I love rapping and I enjoy the love when someone tells me they’re feeling my shit. But when I know I’m directly responsible for someone else’s success I feel like my industry hustle has more purpose. I can put myself out as one person or I can be the executive producer on a bunch of people’s projects and have my label name in a bunch of places at once. To me, it’s a no brainer.
HipHopCanada: Any last comments or shout-outs?
Friday: I wanna shout-out all the producers and artists that helped me on these new projects. Thom Payson for doing some sick photos and graphic design on the newest releases as well as Alvarado and cats that did the photos/graphic design for past projects. Bunz, Keele and Empire for making me a full-fledged Executive Producer. Limelight for the video work, my people in Parkdale and in Montreal, and primarily God for giving me a second life. I got a lot of new things on the horizon with a second wind so in the words of my boy Marvel “Why stop now?”
HipHopCanada: Thanks for your time, Friday. Best of luck with all your endeavours.
Interview conducted by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett for HipHopCanada