Chicago Rapper Brian Fresco Talks Diverse 'Casanova' Mixtape & Tight Friendship With Chance the Rapper

N. Rivera
Brian Fresco

As rapper Brian Fresco enters the Billboard offices, his eyes are fixated on the entrance. Hypnotized by the brand's logo engraved on the front of the double doors, it's easy to see why he's so easily captivated: For Fresco, a kid accustomed to life on the vicious streets of his native Chicago, this feels like his moment of victory.

"When I take my Instagram picture in front of the sign that says Billboard, it's gonna be a host of kids from the projects that are going to love that," he says. "They're going to be like, 'Man. This is big bro and he's showing us that life is bigger.' Life is bigger than our projects and our hood. Chicago itself is bigger."

Along with his Save Money collective, which includes Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and Joey Purp as the prime stars, the 23-year-old is hoping to usher in a new wave of optimism for the Windy City. His new mixtape Casanova makes him a worthy Chi-town All-Star, with cuts like "Call" and "Together" showcasing a multi-faceted MC who revels in cradling a beautiful girl to sleep, rather than bar-hopping every Saturday night. Though Fresco is more debonair on his latest endeavor, he still feels that his versatility is on display.

"The fact that I can make a song like "Higher" and then come all the way on the other end and make a song like "Bussin'," and then go in-between and make a song that's eight minutes in "Dandelion," then make a song that sounds like a sunny day in "Together," it's versatility. People are starting to notice it and pick it up, really, off of this last album."

Standout cut "Higher," which features Billboard cover star, Chance the Rapper, earned him massive love from a multitude of outlets, to the point where his dancehall-infused record was being mentioned in the same breath as Drake's chart-topping single "One Dance."

"I love Drake, but my shit better than yours, bro," Fresco says with a smile on his face.

Despite the obvious comparison, the young lyricist explains that his decision to capture the island vibes on "Higher" wasn't an intentional move to follow the current trend of dancehall hits.

"My grandmother is an Islander. My main girl is Jamaican. I talk back and forth with her all the time. It's just a little part of my cultur,e so that kind of came natural," he relates. "I heard the beat when my homie, [producer] Alex from Blue Hawaii, sent it over from Canada... I first heard the beat and I was like, 'We gone.'"

To ensure that the song was a smash, Fresco called on his long-time friend Chance the Rapper to deliver a verse, and from there, the record garnered close to a half-million streams on SoundCloud. Even with Chance currently venerated as the Chi's prodigal son, Fresco gushes about his star buddy’s modesty amidst all his fame.

"Well my friend [Chance] is a millionaire, and he would still sleep on my couch right now," says Fresco. "He just brought 50,000 people to the South Side on 35th at Sox Stadium. That's a hell of a lot of progress, if you ask me, because drill rappers can't even perform in the city. He brought 50,000 people to the South Side. He didn't throw a festival on the North Side. He didn't throw his festival in Grand Park. He threw his festival on 35th at Sox Stadium down the street from where I grew up at." He adds, "Chance is bringing something totally different to the game right now. It's new. He just made the Grammys for free. I could win a Grammy right now because of him."

While Chance is on the cusp of something special, Fresco isn’t too far from reaching stardom himself. As Casanova continues to gain more traction, his friends and family back home in Chicago are celebrating on the sidelines.

“I have friends that are still doing things in the hood, and are doing bad things that they aren't supposed to be doing," he admits. "I have little homies that are like 16,17, 18, that are out here like demons. But they'll hit my line, and they're like, 'Man. You're an inspiration because you come from where we come from and you're doing a whole 'nother thing.'"