“It’s taken a lot of getting used to, I won’t lie,” Fredo, 23, tells me as he lights up his freshly-rolled zoot, sitting in the office of his record label. He is, of course, talking about his rapid ascension in UK rap—a career he chose for two main reasons: to go legit, and to make his family proud. Coming from a life of hustling on street corners aged fifteen—and being very well-compensated for it—the rapper from the infamous Mozart Estate, West London, had to grow up quick for life in the fast lane, which shows in his been-there-done-that demeanour.

Back in 2016, inspired to get in the booth by local spitters Ratlin and the Harrow Road Boyz, Fredo released a track that would change his life forever: “They Ain’t 100”, a hard-hitting trap banger that could’ve easily been slotted into a New York hip-hop radio playlist. It went off in every club that played it, very reminiscent of the effect Giggs had with “Talking Da Hardest” a decade ago. Fredo’s commanding flow, crystal-clear diction and hood-hugging lyrics gripped a corner of the British rap scene that excited tastemakers and critics all over. The tune blew up organically, but Fredo had to enjoy the hype from behind prison walls—he was arrested three weeks after the song had debuted. Fresh out after a few months inside, he came through and unleashed his debut mixtape, Get Rich Or Get Recalled, where we got an insight into his many trials and tribulations. 

Starting off 2017 with a clear mind, Fredo was back to work and realised that music was his calling. Following a number of loose cuts and collabs, “Change” was the next official single, a reflective song that showed off his storytelling skills in a real pop-world-friendly kind of way. This was part of his second mixtape, 2018’s Tables Turn, which hit No. 5 in the official albums chart. Last year, generally, was a massive one for Fredo: he scored a Top 40 hit with Young T & Bugsey (“Ay Caramba”) and a No. 1 smash with Dave (“Funky Friday”). Though with success, always come non-believers.

“His flow sounds the same on every song!”

Yes, he’s seen your comments—and he isn’t offended. “I ain’t been rapping for hella years so I might have one style,” he says. “It might take me a little time to learn a next style, but get the album and you’ll find something there for everyone.”

Out now via Since ‘93—a Sony imprint headed up by revered music execs Glyn Aikins and Riki Bleau—debut album Third Avenue, Fredo tells me, is all about “showing people where me and my mandem come from.” The 13-tracker offers bossed-up anthems such as “Survival Of The Fittest” and “BMT” but he throws in some surprises, too, like “Love You For That”—an ode to his mother and a clear standout. A chart-topping star in the hood, Fredo knows his artistry has a way to go yet, but he’s fully determined to reach that final destination.