Born 2 Win: Toronto’s Friday talks new album and new plans [Interview]
Toronto, ON – AWOL Records CEO and recording artist, Friday aka Ricky Dred, connected with HipHopCanada recently to talk about his new album, Born 2 Win. The project comes after a strong promotional build up from Friday that included a series of mixtapes and a ton of videos, as well as live performances and guest judging stints.
The Montreal-native was released from prison a couple of years back and went right to work, hoping to regain the momentum he was building with Empire and their album debut, GET IT, before being incarcerated. The only difference is the group has since disbanded, and Friday’s new focus is his solo work. With mixtapes like Home But Not Free and Instant Classic, Friday has maintained a steady build up to his official album debut coming through his own label, AWOL Records, with distribution from Toronto’s URBNET Records. His work on Empire’s GET IT has already proven his strengths in putting together an album and the same attention to detail an be found with Born 2 Win.
In this interview, Friday talks about the album, his time in the prison system, his early days on the Toronto hip-hop scene and several interesting plans for the future. Check it out in full after the jump.
Friday (aka Ricky Dred): Q&A
Interview conducted by Jesse Plunkett
HipHopCanada: Welcome back to the HipHopCanada community. The last time we connected with you (Nov. 2012) you had been released from prison but were still dealing with some headaches that stemmed from your original legal troubles. You were “Home, But Not Free,” so to speak. How was that mixtape series received by your fans and are the legal troubles finally behind you?
Friday: When I last spoke to y’all it was months after I came home from the federal pen. My journey started at the Don where I was waiting for sentencing. Then I was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months, all stemming from the weapons possession charge, drug trafficking and a breach of probation back in 2010. After the Don Jail I was shipped to Millhaven maximum-security penitentiary for a few months for assessment. In Millhaven, we were locked down for 22 and half hours a day only coming out for showers, phone and yard time. Afterward I was finally sent to the Frontenac institute, which was a minimum security Pen to do the rest of my time. Eventually I was released on something called APR (Accelerated Parole Review) and spent a few months in a halfway house in Feb. 2011. I was sent back a few months later for false accusations of selling a gun but all of that is behind me now. I’m still on parole, hence being “Home But Not Free” but things have been good. I released 3 instalments of Home But Not Free and then the Rick Resurrection, which was a free album that I used to get people ready for my album out now, Born 2 Win. The reception has been pretty nice on all my projects and lyrically, I feel at my prime.
HipHopCanada: Do you already have plans for after April, when parole is over?
Friday: Besides smoking a huge spliff, [Laughing] I plan to travel to a few provinces and out of the country to places I can go to promote the Born 2 Win album… and maybe get a tour going. I will also be releasing the final chapter to the Home But Not Free series simply called Home.
HipHopCanada: Nice. On to the main topic at hand. First off, congrats on the release of Born 2 Win! How have things been going with promotions and public response so far?
Friday: Thanks a lot, brother! I’m so happy to finally put out my first official album with the help from my peoples at URBNET. The promo has been crazy with the help the label put in along with the promo people that I got putting in work. Plus, you know I’m a beast on the promo so the word has been getting out there. Everyone who’s heard it has given me wicked feedback and I feel it’s the best work I’ve put out to date.
HipHopCanada: What’s your favourite cut on the album? Why?
Friday: I have a few favorites, number one would be “Hennessey Colored Glasses.” That’s just all the way open hearted and the most honest record I ever recorded. Just talking about the battles I’ve had with alcohol and the things that have happened in my life that I had to fight through and stay sober through. Another favorite is “The Rain” featuring my labelmate, Moka Only. I wrote and recorded most of that track 2 years ago. I actually toured with Moka back in 2008 and we became pretty cool. When I hollered at him I had recorded a ghost vocal that I wanted for the hook. He scrapped that a came up with his own hook and sent the track to me. When I heard it I was like this is definitely going on the album.
HipHopCanada: Can you speak on the album’s visual support? You’ve developed quite the reputation for consistent video releases. How many should we expect in support of Born 2 Win?
Friday: So far I have 2 videos out I released the track “Work!” Produced by 5 Star Beatz and the first to get the album buzz going. That video was shot back in August by Westnyle. We just went around to spots downtown. We hit up my boy Rock Da House at his store and he looked out and camoed in the video. We hit up Play De Record and bumped into 2 Rude and we went to Regent Park. Then right before the album dropped we dropped “AmiR” produced by AmiR Tha Terrorist, and shot by Westnyle. That video was shot way back in like March this year and I’ve just been holding onto it. That’s me on my boom bap shit and we shot in my hood Parkdale and at a Beastmode battle where you get the cameos from all my peoples. I have a video dropping probably by the time this interview is out for my track “Downtown,” produced by Da Coz. The video was filmed by Capture Films and they looked out by bring through a limo. I actually put out the first verse for this song in the second half of a video for a track off Home But Not Free Part 2 called “I Get It.” That was filmed by Lymelyte Video but I felt the whole track had to be released. Just be clear of a few things though, there is a scene of me popping a bottle of Champaign for the models but I didn’t drink any because I’ve been sober for almost 4 years. And as far as limos being some fantasy shit. I’ve lived that life. I came to Caribanna from Montreal to Toronto at 17-years-old with the guys I used hustle for and through that life have rode in many a limo. I still have another video dropping in 2014 that’s already been shot called “Not Around” featuring Puzzle and I will be shooting a video for “Mo’ Problems” featuring T.R.A. aka Tha Rhyme Animal and “Hennessey Colored Glasses.”
HipHopCanada: How did you decide which producers you wanted to work with for the project? Was there a particular sound or style you were aiming for?
Friday: I have my go to guys like AmiR Tha Terrorist and Chenzo Kell but I just make a lot of music. I had a lot of beats from Mozart Jones that I made tracks on and picked the ones that I fell in love with for the album and held on to them tight. He gives me a different more futuristic sound. I wanted a mix of my moods for this album I love the boom bap and the 90s sound but I never tried to limit myself so I got some trap beats and some futuristic stuff along with that good ol’ boom bap. And that’s all the different types of stuff that I listen to.
HipHopCanada: Can you speak further on the legal restrictions preventing you from touring Canada to promote the album
Friday: Right now I can only get a travel pass from my parole officer to go to Montreal because my mom lives there. I do plan on touring across Canada though, as soon as April comes around.
HipHopCanada: How did you connect with URBNET on distribution? Is there a particular process young Canadians need to take to secure that type or situation for their own releases?
Friday: I knew Darryl Rodway for years, from 1999 when URBNET was just a website, so we go way back. I knew I wanted to make Born 2 Win a real release and URBNET has a good reputation with getting their artist out there. I basically hollered at Darryl and told him my plans. He knows that I’m a grinder and don’t need much help in making a plan so he gave me a distribution deal. It’s weird because I’m the only street artist on the roster but he was intrigued by my struggle and story and when he heard the album it was a no brainer. As far as the up and coming cats out here all I can say is grind. Make as much “Good” music as possible and put it out. Shoot videos even if they’re ghetto and take what you got and push the shit out of it. Then make more. Music comes out fast these days and if you drop one mixtape and video a year you will be lost and forgotten in the mix so you gotta keep hitting them eventually someone will notice your grind and that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is even if it kills your pockets. If your serious and it’s something you love you won’t give a fuck about the money. Then you can approach a label or labels will approach you based on what you are already doing for yourself.
HipHopCanada: Having dropped several releases in the last year alone, what other advice you could give to an aspiring artist looking to release an album or a mixtape?
Friday: Release free mixtapes with an album as the end plan. Don’t just put out a mixtape just to do it. I released nine mixtapes and one for Bunz which I featured on 2 tracks. Everything after the three Connect mixtapes was all new material and I was talking about Born 2 Win coming the whole time. Also scrap the dubs/freestyles. No offence to artists still doing those – and I’ve done a few here and there, and might make a couple more – but mixtapes these days are like albums and have more than 90% original beats. And time that shit out… don’t overlap your releases, make a timeline for your album where you can schedule your video and mixtape releases.
HipHopCanada: What’s the biggest mistake you feel you’ve made in growing as an artist and businessman in the music industry?
Friday: I’m a firm believer in never regretting anything because all mistakes should be a learning process. But if I can say anything, I wish the Empire thing kept going full speed ahead from the momentum that we had back in 2008-2009. I feel we would’ve been huge now.
HipHopCanada: Incredible talent in that group. Let’s bring it even further back. How did you initially get into rapping? At what point did you decide you weren’t content with just being on the business side of things?
Friday: I started as a rapper back in the days. I was freestyling in the 90s and drinking forties and smoking blunts. I started as a street businessman [Laughing]. I’d been hustling since 1992. I was in a group with my boys Lord Raz and Rebel Lion called Southside and we opened for Raekwon, Mobb Deep and even the DMC competition where DJ A-Trak first got his shine. We were all part of a Montreal conglomerate called the EYE Spy Crew with some other rappers/producers. There was Mister Phayze and DJ Majess, who is actually big DJ in Montreal now, and a young Tara Chase. Tara moved to Toronto first and hooked up with Kardinal and The Circle and used to tell me about the Toronto scene on the phone all the time. Then Lord Raz moved to Toronto to Parkdale and I followed shortly after. I enrolled at Harris Institute of the Arts to learn more about the music business but still hustled to eat and keep a roof over my head. I used to walk from Dufferin and Queen for an hour to Queen and Sherbourne, where my school was, and used to sell rocks on the way there and on the way back to home. Eventually Raz started AWOL Records and got it incorporated right away. I went to school with cats that got jobs at Universal, like Ivan, and even Ivan Berry from Dream Warriors fame was one of my teachers. I eventually started working on the Warner Brothers street team and by 2000 had my own cross Canada street team that I called the AWOL street team. I made a lot of connects from back then and had an understanding for campaigning a project. Eventually Raz caught a bid but I kept going while my street ties grew faster and faster. I managed a few artists along the way and, when I started working with Bunz and Empire, I was heavy in the game and was still dropping songs while doing everything that I rapped about.
HipHopCanada: Your first major project was Empire’s GET IT album. How well have you stayed in touch with your Empire family and is there any chance that you guys will be working together again in the future?
Friday: I still talk to almost every member. We all hang out and watch UFC and my homie Cris Caine started the Beastmode Battle League, where I go and MC while DJ Law spins… as well as judging a lot of battles. We all still link up and in the AmiR video you see cats like Adam Bomb and my Black Bag Gang family. Also, in my solo shows, I have an Empire moment where I call up Adam Bomb and T.R.A. and we perform “Lil Rappers.” Tek-Man has shot mad videos for me for Lymelyte Video and he backs me up in all my stage shows because besides a rap group it’s a fam thing. I still fucks with TalkSick and I can’t wait for his album, The Weapon, to drop and Mezziah’s Anointed album. A reunion is hard to say. I know some of us, including myself, would love to see that but I know some of us can’t see that happening without all the members. But hey, you never know. I just know if we dropped another Empire album the whole scene would go ape shit.
HipHopCanada: What about Bunz? Having recently co-released the Instant Classic Volume 2 mixtape together, are there plans for more collaborations down the road?
Friday: Bunz is my dude. He’s like my younger brother and he’s going hard with the ball thing with the London Lightning. I put out a solo mixtape called Fountain of Youth in 2012 and as soon as he takes a break we will bang out Instant Classic 3, and hopefully his first official solo album. He’s down for life and even if we don’t make music he’s family to me.
HipHopCanada: Does AWOL have any other artists on deck to be released?
Friday: Right now I’m trying to get Bunz in the studio for a solo release on AWOL and I’m gonna say this now, I wanna manage and push AmiR Tha Terrorist as a producer. I wanna help him out with the A&W project with the homey WB. I think that AmiR is one of Toronto’s best kept secrets and his production has always been consistently banging. But I’m always looking for new artists, so if any youngins out there are serious tweet me @FridayHome and let’s chop it up.
HipHopCanada: With the Home But Not Free, Instant Classic, Rick Resurrection and Born 2 Win releases now behind you, what’s next for Friday?
Friday: Home is next on deck and more than half of it is already recorded and another album for 2014. Also some touring so I’m just trying to find the right fit for that. I also do a lot of emceeing at jams with DJ Law and I love doing that because I don’t have to memorize lyrics I just have to keep the party hype which DJ Law already does with the way he spins and we do it up at a spot called Crawford at least once a month.
HipHopCanada: Thanks for your time, Friday. Is there anything else you want to add? Shout-outs?
Friday: Check out my website AWOLRecordsINC.com and my blog, The Sober Emcee. Shout-out to my fam Black Bag Gang, The SARS Network, Freedom Writers, Leftfield Keele, 40 and everyone grinding in this hip-hop game from Toronto and Canada. We have a lot of undiscovered talent here but our time is coming. Download Born 2 Win on iTunes.
Interview conducted by Jesse Plunkett for HipHopCanada