Rory Fresco (@roryfresco): The Phenom
Hometown: Kansas City
Many expected Rory (Terrell Johnson Jr.) to be a one-off after a SoundCloud algorithm earlier this year randomly selected his song “Lowkey” to play directly after a new single from Kanye West. The stroke of luck instantly exposed a song he created in his father’s Grandview basement (with just a couple thousand plays) to millions of listeners around the globe.
But the teen has shown some staying power, parlaying “Lowkey’s” overnight success into a full-fledged recording contract with Epic Records. Now, just 10 months removed from the “Lowkey” explosion, Rory has released a highly touted free album and is working with industry moguls like L.A. Reid, Fonzworth Bentley and Timbaland on a debut studio album that he hopes will give KC artists wider exposure.
“I feel like when people listen to Kansas City music you have low expectations, and then when an artist isn’t as low as they thought it’s like, ‘Oh he’s good … to be from Kansas City,’ ” Rory says. “I don’t like that, it’s my motivation to make better music.”
His latest release, the free album “Mad World,” showcased measurable growth to Rory’s sound. One single, “On the Couch,” is “Lowkey” on steroids, an ideal follow-up single and perhaps a sign that a studio session with one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all time might be paying off.
“Meeting and working with Timbaland has been surreal,” Rory says. “I can feel my soundscapes becoming bigger, crazier.”
There’s a little more pressure on Rory nowadays. He’s the only artist on The Star’s list with a big name record deal. If he’s nervous however, he doesn’t show it.
“I want to be Britney Spears big,” he says. Rap may have been the launching pad, but like many young artists today (a la Drake), it’s a desire for transcendent pop stardom that truly lures Rory: “People thought it was over, but I’m just getting started.”
Looks like the kid who was supposed to be gone 15 minutes ago will be around for a while.
Essential tracks: “Lowkey,” “Runnat,” “Crazy How Life Go”