On his debut 2016 album, God King Slave, rapper Frzy set his sights high: “Now I ain’t gon’ stop / Until they say I won … May not have birthed hip-hop / But it’s my godson,” he declared on the song “Headed 4 the Crown.”
Since then Frzy (given name Harvey Daniels) has made good on his promise. Over the past seven years, he’s performed on stages around the country, been recognized by the Allegheny City Council with “Frzy Day,” and set a Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle rap.
You may think the fame has gotten to his head, but on his new companion albums, Popularity and Success, released Nov. 1, Frzy confronts the short-lived trends that he sees other rappers falling for.
“I would see these people that are hot for like, two months. They'll hit a number one and then be gone just as fast as they came in,” Frzy tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “So I would go like, ‘Okay, well, let me write about that. I'm gonna write some dope stuff in Success.’ But then I go, but that's what they want, right? So I would write a Popularity song to like, match them. I'd always try to balance it out and give each side of myself some type of inspiration.”
On Popularity, Frzy takes on the role of the hyped-up entertainer, claiming his fame over booming beats. “End up in a box if you surround me / I keep money on me, pay for my own bounty,” he raps on “FU.”
Success showcases the other side of Frzy’s lyrical skills. Samples from artists such as Nina Simone and Little Richard fill the album, highlighting the Black artists who Frzy says were foundational in his East Liberty upbringing.
“We had the classic — I call it Family Matters — Black household. I didn't grow up knowing that I wanted to do music, but I had those influences in me, and just loving that soul music that you can really feel.”
On Nov. 8, Frzy claimed another accolade, becoming the first hip-hop artist to perform an original collaboration with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Inspired by his hero Jay-Z’s 2006 show at the Royal Albert Hall, “The Glorious Succession of Frzy with the Pittsburgh Symphony” mixed grand orchestration with the rapper’s commanding stage presence.
The unprecedented collaboration might have made some PSO purists raise an eyebrow, but seeing the enthusiastic crowd rap along to songs like “You Ain’t Got No Money” confirmed the show’s demographic-bridging success, Frzy says.
“When the lights go up, and you see it almost sold out, you know, little Black kids dancing with little white kids, 80-year-olds next to 20-year-olds dancing and rapping the lyrics to the songs together, it was like a harmony that Mariah Carey couldn't pitch.”As he prepares for a Popularity vs. Success tour, Frzy says looking back, he’s happy with the time he took to craft the new albums. “As my career has progressed through those years, my definition of success has changed," he tells City Paper. “This is gonna sound weird to say, but it made me feel like all the waiting was right on time.”