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September R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month – Billboard

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Philly newcomer Fridayy has already accomplished what most new R&B/hip-hop artists dream of — times four: he’s on a song alongside Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and John Legend. 

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Last year, DJ Khaled corralled the heavyweights for “God Did,” on which Fridayy flexes his rich, baritone chords for the song’s hook. After seeing Khaled chanting the mantra on social media ahead of his album of the same name, Fridayy resonated with the saying and felt inspired to record a hook. “I just made it off faith. No beat was there, it was just me and the piano,” the 26-year-old tells Billboard

Through mutual connections, the hook fell into the hands of Khaled who ended up using it for the track, which reached No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Fridayy’s first entry on the chart. (Meanwhile, the album God Did hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200).

Born Francis Leblanc to Haitian parents, Fridayy grew up in the Olney section of Philadelphia. He was heavily involved in church at a young age, leading youth choirs and learning instruments like the piano and guitar by ear. It wasn’t until middle school when he received his first laptop that he started taking music more seriously, but his parents didn’t see the art form as a viable way to make a living. 

“They would always be like, ‘You’re talented, you’re a genius, you play every instrument, [but] make sure you go to college. Make sure you get a stable job so you can take care of us and yourself’,” he says.

Fridayy respected his parents wishes and attended college for two years from 2015-2017 before dropping out to pursue his passion. Fast forward to now and he has a growing list of collaborators that also includes Lil Baby and Chris Brown, a record deal with Def Jam and a self-titled debut album that arrived last month.

“I’m not even thinking outside of music right now. I know music is my gift from God that I have to use to get everything else,” he says.

Billboard chatted with the September R&B/hip-hop rookie of the month about his musical upbringing, “God Did” and his new album Fridayy.

For people who don’t know you, how would you describe yourself?

I’m a good guy. I love music, I love family, I love God.

Where did you get your stage name from?

I got my name “Fridayy” before I was about to go to college. The Weeknd and PartyNextDoor, they was my favorite artists at the time. I came up with something to try to get Drake’s attention [and] try to be part of OVO. I went to college introducing myself [as Fridayy] and it stuck because nobody knew me by my real name. 

Why did you decide to drop out?

I didn’t really have no reason going there, it was a forced thing. I got Haitian parents so it’s like you gotta go to school, this is a must. So I went there to make them happy. I ain’t have no major or nothing. It wasn’t for me, though.

When did you realize you could sing?

Since I was a kid, I used to sing in church — probably at like, 9 or 10. I used to play instruments too, so everybody knew early on I was talented. But I started taking music seriously when I was 14, when my cousin Marco introduced me to producing. He gave me my first laptop so being the [type of] musician I was in church, it was very easy for me to produce and record myself.

Which instruments do you play?

I play the piano, guitar, bass [and] drums. I play all of them at a high level.

Were you trained?

I learned at church by ear. I would hear things and try to play it on the piano, and I did that for years. So it’s basically teaching myself but it’s also years of trying to copy stuff.

Do you know how to read music?

Nah. 

Being a baritone R&B singer gives you an edge, but did that present any challenges to you growing up as you started realizing your vocal tone?

[My voice] was always deep, even when I was singing when I was 10 and 11 [but] it was always good. It wasn’t no challenges, it was always like “Oh s–t!” It was always a surprise when I started singing, and I’ve liked that reaction since I was a kid. As soon as I started singing, I loved that, “Oh, he different!” reaction.

There aren’t many other baritone R&B singers in the space right now besides Givēon. Are you a fan?

Yeah, I f–k with bro. I be seeing the comparison but it’s just the deep voice. Me and him make completely opposite type of music. If you listen to my albums and you listen to his, we’re two different artists coming from two different places. I listen to bro, I’m a fan.

Philly has a rich R&B history. How did growing up there inform your sound?

It did a lot to my sound. One of the first Philly artists I listened to was Boyz II Men. Outside of church, I would listen to [them] a lot and that influenced a lot of my music — their harmonies, feelings, soulfulness. It led to Brian McKnight and all the R&B legends. Meek Mill had a big influence. Philly really inspired my sound a lot just between those artists, Meek Mill and Boyz II Men.

How did Meek Mill influence you?

Just the way he was talking in the records. It was relatable, his lyrics. 

How has your parents’ attitude on pursuing music full-time changed now that you’re seeing success?

They happy as h–l for me because I’m doing it in a good way. I’m still being myself, I ain’t lose myself. At first, they didn’t believe it…it wasn’t that they didn’t believe in my talent [but] they from Haiti so [they] never even seen somebody doing what [I] was doing.

“God Did” was a breakout moment for you. How did you get involved?

I was signed to a publishing label called Big Noise and the A&R that signed me left, and [my team and I] were looking for a buyout. My manager Edgar Cutino was looking around to see who could buy me out and he met Mary J. Blige’s A&R [Eddie Fourcell], who works at Prescription [Songs]. He just kept telling Eddie, “Buy Fridayy out. He’s the one.” Months went by and Eddie ended up buying me out my deal and during that time, [DJ] Khaled was promoting God Did — he kept saying it on Instagram before we knew the album was coming. Everytime he would do it, it touched me, so I made the hook. We heard that he was working on the album and my manager told me to make a bigger hook — not even knowing how we could get it to him. We played it for Eddie and he sent it to Khaled and [he said] “I need this for my album.”

What happened next?

I signed with Def Jam right after “God Did.” 

Why was that the right fit?

My manager was already connected to Tunji [Balogun, Def Jam chairman and CEO] and he been telling [him] about me for months. And based off the acts that Tunji had and worked with in the past, I seen myself in that group of people. 

Tell me about your new album Fridayy and its themes.

It’s a life album. I wrote it for me but for everybody else too. It’s something in there for everybody, that’s why I think it’s being streamed so well right now. Whether you want to listen to R&B, Afrobeat, something inspirational, some pain — it’s something in there for every type of person. The inspiration came from seeing what my music did in the past, seeing how it saved a lot of people, how it helped a lot of people get through what they went through. 

My two favorites are “Stand By Me” and “When It Comes To You.”

Those are my two favorites too! That s–t’s crazy.

What are some things you want to pursue aside from music?

I just got in the game, I’m not even thinking about any other stuff. I’m thinking about giving great music and establishing myself to the point where I can play with other things.

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