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Money Can’t Buy Happiness James Butterworth , February 3rd, 2021 09:06

Amidst all the bragging, there's a rich, cinematic grandeur to British rapper Fredo's second album, finds James Butterworth

“It took money for me to finally see that the best things in life are for free”, raps Fredo on ‘Blood In My Eyes’, from his new album Money Can’t Buy Happiness. He’s racked up seven Top 40 singles so far, including the chart-topping ‘Funky Friday’ with Dave, and reached #5 with two of his full-length releases, so it’s fair to say he’s already tasted success. But despite the nature of his aforementioned realization, there’s little talk of life’s simple pleasures on this album. Money Can’t Buy Happiness instead veers between celebration of Fredo’s wealth and sombre reminiscences about the hardships of his youth.

There’s plenty of braggadocio. “You ain’t seen 100 racks, I can demonstrate”, he raps on ‘Back To Basics’, continuing with the boast, “She’s an animal lover, my jacket’s made of fur.” Money is a central theme of the album and Fredo seems keen to let listeners know he isn’t short of it. On ‘Money Talks’, he once again links up with Dave, asking, “If money talks, then why dem man there speaking back?” He seems to feel his achievements and status sometimes go unrecognized.

For all Fredo brags of a luxury lifestyle, memories of his past life continue to haunt him. He talks of fractured relationships with his family, remembering when his mother kicked him out the house on ‘Aunt’s Place’. “Used to see my dad a bit ‘til I started moving so dumb, he couldn’t even manage it” he admits on ‘Biggest Mistake’.

‘Spaghetti’ features tales of drug dealing and street crime with a backdrop of haunting synths. On ‘Burner On Deck’ he talks of carrying firearms whilst dining in high-class restaurants, a scenario typical of the double life he leads. This track is made all the more poignant by the presence of Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke, who was fatally shot last year.

‘I Miss’ sees Fredo feeling conflicted, his newfound wealth leaving him cold compared to the feeling of spending drug money; “I miss feeling excited at buying them jewels, leaving the racks in the store / Now it’s all normal, I spend 100 racks and don’t snap it no more.” He appears to be at a crossroads, faced with the decision of whether to go straight or not.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness is a strong album overall with plenty to offer. The production is professional, polished and wouldn’t sound out of place in a film soundtrack. Ominous choral tones and piano riffs abound. Fredo’s lyrics are somewhat cinematic themselves, painting a vivid portrait of the trials and tribulations of his life. It’s early days yet, but Money Can’t Buy Happiness should be up there with the best rap albums this year.