Rory Fresco is the perfect example of how a bit of luck and good fortune can take you to unexpected places.
When Kanye West’s “Real Friends” and “No More Parties in LA” were released back in January, anyone who listened to these records and let the stream play through were redirected to Fresco’s “Lowkey” thanks to SoundCloud’s Related Tracks feature. The algorithm decided that “Lowkey” had a similar aesthetic to “Real Friends/No More Parties in LA.” Though it wasn’t a direct ‘Ye co-sign per say, Fresco was just as surprised that people were so into the song.
Nine months later, and a lot of things have changed for Fresco. For one, “Lowkey” has over three million plays on SoundCloud. For another, the added attention and who-is-this-kid mystique of Fresco drew enough interest from Epic Records to sign him, where he made the announcement in March. It all leads up to the 18-year-old’s debut album, Mad World, which Complex is premiering today.
"This project is basically the come-up. This is my representation and my experience as a kid living in Kansas City while trying to pursue music,” Fresco tells us via e-mail. “I tell all about my real-world experiences all while trying to convey the message that you can be anything you want. I always aim to inspire the next person. I had people telling me I would never do it."
Fresco addresses the pivotal points that got him here on Mad World. Over 11 tracks mostly produced by himself, Fresco blends rapping and melodies, fitting in a familiar league that includes Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, and Travi$ Scott. “10 Jobs” is your hustler’s anthem. “On the Couch” captures that feeling of when you won big at the poker tables and just want to ball out. But the most direct response to the rap game is “Get Lost/All Worth It,” featuring Fresco talking like he has a chip on his shoulder: “Now I got 100 missed calls off of everything my pen wrote/I started balling, now I been broke,” he sings before driving his point home. “Ain’t no slowing me, I’m everything you want to be.”
If you really enjoyed “Lowkey,” you’ll also like “Balloons.” It’s a late contender for potential song of the summer (technically he’s got until Sept. 22), but it showcases his pop star potential with warm vibes as Fresco calls out his groupies in different cities to hit the town with him. Fresco may still be rough around the edges, but he’s already moving like he’s a big deal.
You can stream Mad World below.