Five years after exiting as Cash Money's longtime in-house producer, Mannie Fresh is releasing his first project on Chubby Boy Music/Eyecon Music Group: SoleFresh, an underground hip-hop teen duo hailing from New Orleans. The pair's 12-track, Fresh-produced debut, "Peace, Love & Overweight Babies," will be released in August through Eyecon Music Group/Fontana/Universal Music Group.
"I tried stripping and it just didn't work," deadpans the Grammy Award-nominated Fresh, whose production credits include the Hot Boyz and the Big Tymers. "Music is all I know. We're starting from scratch here, seeing what we can do."
"We" includes Eyecon Music Group owner Bright Riley; Fresh's co-writer on the album, Russell Lee; and SoleFresh members Nardo (Leonardo Jonze) and Knoxx (Knoxx St. Peter), whom Fresh describes as "free-spirited, crazy white boys."
The two self-described outcasts met in the eighth grade as members of the school choir. "We didn't like that music and began producing and recording beats on our own in high school," Nardo says of the act's early start. Word-of-mouth about their live performances in New Orleans brought them to Fresh's attention.
"Cool, nutty and fun hip-hop" is how SoleFresh describes its sound, reflective of the 18-year-olds' be-and-do-yourself generation. "Our album title is about how we live life," Knoxx says. "If you think about it, what's happier than an overweight baby who stays fed and doesn't get depressed?"
The pair has been promoting the album and its first two singles-"I Don't Wanna Grow Up" and "She Don't Wanna"-on high school tours in Los Angeles and its surrounding area. Plans include securing a spot on a nationwide tour and booking more school tours in the fall.
"There's been enough building of fences with labels trying to categorize artists, limiting artists' ability to be themselves," Fresh says. "What we have at Chubby Boy/Eyecon is starving artists' music that people can appreciate. We don't have a budget for special guests, special effects, special preservatives or fireworks. Bam, it's just us."