While most Americans were praying for luck in the Powerball lottery, one aspiring musician hit the jackpot thanks to his hero Kanye West and a random algorithm programmed by the popular music streaming platform SoundCloud.
18-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, native Rory Fresco (born Terrell Johnson Jr.) saw his song "LOWKEY" go viral over the weekend thanks to SoundCloud's autoplay feature, which queued Fresco's track up to follow Mr. West's latest G.O.O.D. Friday release.
On Friday morning, when West first posted "Real Friends/No More Parties in LA" on his SoundCloud page, "LOWKEY" had just under 6,000 plays. By the time BET.com spoke with Fresco on Monday (January 11), the track had over 400,000 listens and the once low-key rapper/producer's name had begun trending on Twitter.
The best part? The track has gotten rave reviews from the ruthless critics of social media and the blogosphere, proving that the young MC was worthy of the G.O.O.D. Friday blessing.
"I'm ready to get to work," said Fresco calmly over the phone in an exclusive interview with BET.com.
"I'm not about that talk, I'm about that walk."
But while the Show-Me State representative is eager to show and prove on the national stage, he's still got to balance working his day job at Best Buy and attending classes at Longview Community College while rapping and producing on his own time.
A young Yeezy might have advised Rory to spazz on his manager and dropout out of school. But all Rory wants to tell Yeezus is "thank you" and that he's got the perfect track for him to lay a verse on whenever he's ready.
The whole country was buying lottery tickets on Friday but you're the only one who hit the jackpot, how does it feel?
Rory Fresco: Man, I can’t complain, I’m happy. I think I made my city happy and that was the biggest goal that I had... But, it kinda made me want more. Like, I’m still super hungry and honestly I’m not satisfied. I’m still in my parents' basement, I’m still working a normal job, I still gotta go to school. I’m tryna make my whole world do a 360 right now.
You're currently in community college with plans to transfer to a four-year school. Do you know what you want to get your degree in?
Not really. I was trying to make my parents happy, to be honest. They wanted me to go to school and I knew it would put a smile on their face.
What do you want to do for yourself?
I wanna be an artist. That's all I wanna do is make music. But you know my parents ain't going for that, so I started going (to school) for business
Do they know what happened this weekend? What did they say about it?
Yeah, they're super hip to the Internet and everything. Like, my momma was going crazy. She was posting on Facebook like, “Oh my God, my baby on The Fader! My baby on BET! Did you see that?” I’m like, "You gotta chill." My pops is super cool, you know, he super proud. I think they kinda see the vision more and more. I think I’m kinda convincing them to, you know, let me do me full time. I don’t think I got them all the way convinced. Not yet, but its coming, I believe.
How long have you been doing music?
Man, I been making beats since I was like 12. But as far as rapping and doing all this mixing myself, I probably been doing this since I was 15. I just turned 18 in November.
You mix your own stuff too? And what program do you produce on?
Yes sir. And I use Fruity Loops.
How much of your stuff do you produce?
I produce 95 percent of my music... I still produce on Fruity Loops. I mix and master everything in Pro Tools.
What is your ultimate goal with music? Is it to be more like Kanye, who dabbles in all those lanes, or are you looking to focus on one thing long term?
Man, I want to do it all from, producing to being an artist to coming up with designs for everything. I wanna tap into acting. I want to do a lot of stuff. I just wanna be an entertainer to the T, you know? And I also wanna take what I see in my head and take my whole vision and go through the music industry and add my flair to everybody else's stuff. So, like, let's say Selena Gomez coming out with a new album, I wanna go and add my twist to it, you know? Give my input to it. I want Rory Fresco to rub off on the whole industry and thats a big goal of mine.
When did you realize what happened on SoundCloud?
I check my plays on SoundCloud every morning. So, when I woke up and checked, it was at a certain number and I went upstairs to eat or whatever. I came back and it jumped up to like 2,000 plays. (Kanye) took his song down or whatever and put it back up and then I seen 2,000 more plays. So then I just thought it was like a glitch or something... Somebody hit me up on SoundCloud and was like, "Just in case you were wondering, your song is the next song after Kanye’s so, uhh, yeah you're lucky, dude!"
How did you react when you found out?
Man, I just let it happen. Then all the major publications started writing about it and then from there it kept growing and growing.
How many plays did "LOWKEY" have the last time you checked before G.O.O.D. Friday?
It was like six thousand, five or six thousand.
What kind of feedback have you been getting outside of your family and friends? Has anything unusual happened?
This was super unusual: This one dude in my city, he was super mad. He was subtweeting me — like going off about me. I’m like, "Bro, we from the same city. We supposed to be getting it together. I don't know why you bitter about that." But I thought that was super unusual. Kansas City is suppose to be a super loving city so I don’t know where that salt came from.
You used to have to be lucky enough to get published in The Source, now it's up to SoundCloud's random algorithm. Are unknown artists gonna have to figure out how to crack this code to get on?
Man, it's still a new era and a new age and everything, but I feel like you still gotta do it the old school way. You still gotta put in groundwork. Still gotta build connections. Still gotta build relationships and everything.
I feel like I just got lucky, man. I'm just gonna capitalize off it... Now, I got bigger eyes on me, national eyes on me and everything, so I just gotta put out better music and hopefully everything will take off.
Anything change socially? Any old friends or flames coming out of the wood work?
Yeah, it's crazy. It's girls I went to middle school with and I ain't talk to [them] since middle school and [they're] hitting me up like, “Aye, you remember when we had this class? Like we should go for lunch or something!” And I got a sister in high school and people hitting her up trying to get to me.
Was Kanye a big influence for you? Does that make this whole situation even cooler?
Yeah, oh for sure influenced me a lot. Thats probably all I listened too as a kid, Kanye and Kid Cudi. And actually, College Dropout is like my soundtrack right now. So when I go to class, all I bump is College Dropout.
You got a track ready for him? Like if he DMs you on Twitter or you meet him, would you be ready to get him on one of your beats?
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(Photo: Rory Fresco via Twitter)