Chicago’s Brian Fresco has spent his career pushing his limits. 2013’s Mafioso, his first project, found a sweet spot between menacing beats and party-minded rave-ups. Then, in his breakthrough Casanova in 2016, Fresco released a highly ambitious full-length with impressive range. He was able to shift gears from a sprawling, deeply introspective seven-minute song to his club-ready single “Higher,” a left-field but instantly palatable collaboration with Chance the Rapper and Canadian electronic duo Blue Hawaii. A member of SaveMoney, the loose, long running hip-hop collective that features Vic Mensa, Joey Purp, Kami, Towkio, and, of course, Chance, Fresco has long been its utility player: he’s able to freely jump from genre to genre and be comfortable in each new direction.
His upcoming third mixtape, Love Scars—the latest taste of which, “Bottles,” Complex is premiering below—finds Fresco ditching the tortured musings and wild experimentation of Casanova in favor of danceable, radio-ready bangers. He’s already unveiled mixtape cuts “Pull Up,” which boasts a Kay Karma feature and a beat from producer Snapback; and the Rockie Fresh- and Avery Storm-assisted “Tonight.”
Meeting with Complex at one of his favorite restaurants, the Grand Lux Cafe in downtown Chicago, Fresco orders a Hennessy margarita (perhaps the first drink of its kind ordered at a Cheesecake Factory-owned establishment) and gives the details on the forthcoming Love Scars. Check out our conversation and be sure to hear “Bottles,” which was produced by Swim Team, below.
Casanova showcased your versatility, but Love Scars highlights you settling into a much more pop-minded lane. How has your life changed since then?
Man, it's definitely been an upward rollercoaster. For the past two years since that project, it's been a lot of everything. I thought Casanova would be the gateway for me getting all of the things I thought I deserved, which in the long run it really did. While I didn't see that initially, it set me up to put out this project, which I feel like is my best. I'm not even one of those people who'll brag about how great the new shit is, but I truly feel like this one is really special. I'm just much more comfortable now and I'm finding myself with the new sound.
I wanted to be able to play their game as well as I could play my own game. By them, I mean the industry and the labels. I want to be someone who's from where I'm from, the South Side of Chicago, who likes the music that he likes, and is able to make music that can sell, transcend, and chart. All of us SaveMoney guys grew up listening to real hip-hop music, but I also loved listening to R&B and pop growing up. I want to do it my way by just having fun and making songs that can go into the mainstream while still being me.
You spent some time in L.A. last year. What prompted the move away from Chicago? I know it was a rough year for you and your family.
One part of this comes from negotiating with labels, talking to industry people, and feeling out what I want to do next in my career since this project is turned in. I originally planned to go to L.A. a couple months later than I actually did, but I chose to leave earlier because of some things happening in Chicago. My mother had been sick since February and passed away on June 4. My birthday was just six days later and my brother's was just five days after, so we pushed back the funeral a week later because it literally would have landed on one of our birthdays.
After we got done with that, I just needed to get away. There was a bunch of things still happening in Chicago: things my friends were into, things I still have to worry [about]. So to avoid any trouble and collect myself, I instantly left for L.A. It's definitely a tough thing to deal with. 2017 was one of the craziest years I've ever experienced because I lost my mom, my cousin was shot right around then, I lived in L.A. and felt like a whole new world was opening, I gained a relationship with a beautiful girl which was the result of me going to L.A. and it's one of the first real relationships I've ever been in.
That's a lot to take in over just a year.
I was scrambled after the passing of my mother, just moving all around. I was making music that reflected what I was going through. Almost every song comes from those feelings or a thought I had during that time. Songs like "Grammy" have a double meaning. Obviously, there's Grammy the award, but it's also what my son would call my mom. He still asks where she is on the weekends, which is when he always used to see her. He's still too young to understand it. The first line of the song is, "I still tear up when my son be askin' for his Grammy/He with me in the booth, gon' be there when I get my Grammy." He's been living with me while I've been finishing this project, and he was in the booth when I recorded that song.
At the same time, this is some of the most danceable and fun music of your career.
Even though most of it was recorded in Chicago, a lot of my experience in L.A. comes off on the album. I damn near turned into an after-party promoter when I lived out there. I threw so many parties. My party life felt way more lit there than it did in Chicago. That's what I did when I left the city: I had to trick my mind into feeling good with all the shit that was going on back home. I needed to find some paradise and get some peace of mind. That's why I called the project Love Scars.
I'm always a happy person. I have a vibrant spirit and people like being around me. I have fun but I go through a lot of shit. Music is therapeutic but partying and being is lit is also that. While that's not the healthiest thing, sometimes you have to. So I melded the two together. You need to have fun through the bullshit. I'm loving all of this shit but here are my scars underneath. Where Casanova sometimes had a vibe where I was like, "woe is me," this one is much stronger. I'm saying, "Fuck that, here's me." I'm dealing with it in a better way.
"Bottles" feels like the most happy-go-lucky thing on the whole tape.
That was all Swim Team, who made the beat and found the sample. They were the masterminds. I wanted a song that felt mainstream and fun. It's that kind of universal things I went for on the project. Anyone can like it, my grandma or my auntie would like it. It's my son's favorite song. He's too young to know any other song but that's his favorite. He thinks it's his song, he'll say, "Daddy, I want to hear my song."
With the rest of your SaveMoney compatriots like Vic Mensa, Towkio, Joey Purp, Kami, and obviously Chance continuing to find success, how has the friendly competition between everyone evolved?
The rivalry is exactly the same except Chance won three Grammys, so now I need four.