On his second album in six months, Fredo continues where he left off thematically but loses the cohesion.
Aside D-Block Europe, the leading face of trap music in the UK has been Fredo. Ever since bursting on the scene with “They Ain’t 100”, Fredo’s beared the fruits of a career that’s led to three top 5 projects, a number one single and a joint record deal with Since 93 and RCA. Mixtapes Get Rich or Get Recalled and Tables Turn are fan favourites, though this was followed by a rough patch that included the underwhelming Third Avenue and commercialised singles (cue the infamous “Hickory Dickory Dock”). Through the assistance of Dave, Fredo got back on track in January 2021 with his second album, Money Can’t Buy Happiness. It showed newfound focus and precision when it came to his craft.
If the title and intro’s lyrics are to be trusted, Independence Day is a release presumably to wrap up his contract. Though the title signals a fresh start, the album dons a skeletal shell of a man that’s still processing his traumas.
The theme of emancipation evidently means something to Fredo. The backlash to his 2019 output still lingers in his mind, which is why he went “Back to Basics” for his next move. Now doubling down on that mentality, it appears Fredo feels comfortable to deliver trap tunes with his signature flow for fourteen tracks. As a consumer, there is a vital element of cognisance needed to gauge Fredo’s decision. This is what he is here to serve. Nothing more can be realistically expected from Fredo, long as the quality of catchy, trap bangers stays at a high level.
However, the hits are missing, for greater or for worse. Fresh off the emotive Money Can’t Buy Happiness, Fredo continues to extend the chapter of reflection. Sonically, Independence Day is bare-boned, whipping up skeletal trap beats to shape the moody tone. It puts more pressure on Fredo to grab our attention, who offers mixed results across the 14 tracks. The anthemic echelons of “They Ain’t 100”, “Change”, “Playin’ for Keeps” and “BMT” are long ditched, enabling Fredo to feel comfortable being a spokesperson for hood PTSD.
The lack of hooks is exchanged for a focus on rapping, bringing him closer to the realm of a Potter Payper (without the same wit in wordplay). The duo team up for a stone-toned track in “14”, a tune that grasps on a theme of a corrupted youth. “Freestyle” is where the real intent is in Fredo’s bars, dropping slick lines reminiscent of his earlier 2021 album (“I don’t even draw, I’m using words as art / So if I do draw that girl then she’s a work of art”). Energy is injected to the album on “Wandsworth to Bullingdon” with Headie One, the faster tempos complimenting Fredo’s lackadaisical delivery.
The weak spots arrive in the album’s mid-rift, delivering a stretch of forgettable tracks with disengaged production that merely make up the numbers (“Talk of the Town”, “Bad Boy”, “My Mother’s Life”). Though tactically placed, they disrupt the fixation on Fredo’s zone, alongside filler collaborations with Clavish and Suspect (“Mind”, “Double Tap”).
Fredo’s life stories come into life at the album’s third lap. “Skinny N****s” adopts a thumping beat to depict Fredo’s hellish realities, compelling the listener with touching couplets (“Shout out Blacks’ mum ’cause all her three sons are in jail / Why we can’t break free? It’s like we’re under a spell”). On “Everyday”, a track befitting of January’s Money Can’t Buy Happiness, the West London rapper touches on lost friends, raising his daughter and hood politics. Followed up by the “Outro”, these are the moments where Fredo grips the listener with his songwriting; the main reason why Money Can’t Buy Happiness was such a success. With more tracks like these, Independence Day would be far more engaging – or better yet, taken the best of MCBH and ID and put out a single Album of the Year contender.
If Independence Day is Fredo’s great escape, it could certainly do with tones of a victory lap. This is Fredo at his most digestible, refining his lyricism and processing the trauma.
6.5 / 10
Best tracks: “Skinny N****s”, “Flowers and the Snow”, “Freestyle”, “Wandsworth to Bullingdon”, “Everyday”