Fresh IE
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Fresh IE


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"Fresh I.E. Red Letterz"

At a glance … While Fresh I.E.'s in-your-face, evangelical rhymes could be better, the album displays this Grammy nominee's impressive versatility, both rhythmically and flow-wise.

Track Listing
1. Red Letterz
2. The Blood
3. Life
4. I Believe
5. Fatherless
6. How Many Times
7. Alright
8. Make a Choice
9. He Loves You
10. Jaynelle
11. Fire
12. Lost Soulz
13. Mary Go Round
14. Glory
15. I Need You
16. Red Letterz (reprise)
Who in the world is Fresh I.E? That's what we all were asking when this 2003's Grammy nominations were announced. Despite their occasional questionable choices—this is the same entity that sometimes sees artistic merit in the Michael Boltons, the Milli Vanillis, and even the Petras of the world—their mission is to recognize those names whose albums made a mark in their respective genres in a particular year. There are always snubs and surprises—and the nomination of Fresh I.E.'s Red Letterz for Best Rock Gospel Album at the upcoming 46th Grammy Awards is a perfect example of the latter. It's also an ideal opportunity to find out more about this mysterious artist.

Rob "Fresh I.E" Wilson, or "Freshie" as he's affectionately known, is a Vancouver, B.C., native whose heart is in music and ministry. His turbulent lifestyle as a young person prompted him to make some radical changes and commit his life to Christ. He began to write songs of encouragement for those caught up in the same vices he once indulged in. That in turn led to a position as an inner city youth minister and soon after as the founder of Life Inc., a ministry to kids via the sounds of hip-hop, R&B, rapcore, acoustic pop, and many other influences present on his self-produced, academy-endorsed Red Letterz.

Despite its multiple stylistic directions, what Freshie has concocted here is a strange amalgamation of in-your-face, Bible-derived lyricism—think Cross Movement sans their rapid-fire street introspect. Red Letterz includes accessible, home-grown hooks and beats, and a flow technique that just won't stay put, since it channels everyone from New South idealist Bubba Sparxxx (the title track) and House of Pain original Everlast ("Fatherless") to GRITS' Coffee ("Make a Choice") and even T-Bone's scat-friendly tendencies ("He Loves You"). Equally unpredictable on the rhythmic front, Freshie can move from rapcore and indie rap to commercial rap, acoustic pop and straight-up pop and then back, and still sound homogenous. "Fatherless" is a prime example of this, mixing acoustic guitars, a nimbly played electric piano, a live-sounding drum sample, the Everlast-like rhymes we mentioned, plus an interesting chorus that reworks the melody of the worship song "Father, I Adore You."

Freshie also gets major props for his ability to write and produce solid hooks. In "Lost Soulz," for example, he brings in featured vocalist Malynda (who sounds like a less sultry version of Monica) for a simple yet ultra-catchy line about the direction only God can bring to one's life, while a simplistic, fast-paced beat hops along effectively. Malynda appears again in the mid-tempo "Alright," a memorable track whose melody recalls Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry," but stripped of its insular influences and favoring early '90s R. Kelly. Sure, this is no Missy Elliot/Timbaland collaboration, but it's nice enough to work as a pop/rhythmic single at Christian radio.

The most accomplished track is the testimonial "Jaynelle," detailing the story of a girl whose circumstances move her to aspire to something more. The dark, conversational tone of the cut is facilitated by a subdued acoustic guitar and the use of foreboding Casio strings, both of which complement the straightforward pop beat. A similar mood is maintained in "How Many Times," whose sinister strings and dissonant harmonies are highly reminiscent of GRITS' "Supreme Being" from Grammatical Revolution.

For a small album from a small label from an independent distribution company that almost nobody knows, Mr. Fresh seems to be off to a good start. While it's dubious that he will clean up come Grammy night—though stranger things have happened—this project's level of appeal is undeniable. Yes, he could use some more introspective material instead of so many word-for-word Bible quotations, but the album's still fresh (no pun intended) in its own special way.
- Christianity Today

"Fresh I.E.: Giving up "Thug Life" for "Rap Evangelism""

The late rapper Tupac Shakur coined the term "Thug Life," and even had the words tatooed on his torso. Since his death, the phrase has become a tag applied to hip-hop music by those artists within the genre who glorify gun culture and hyper-materialism.
Gun violence is increasing in Canadian cities like Toronto, and some Canadian hip-hop acts are depicting the violent life in their neighbourhoods. On the other hand, rapper Rob Wilson, a.k.a. Fresh I.E. ("In Eternity"), was intimately involved in thug life and has no time for it anymore, or for those who turn it into entertainment. Wilson kicked his past to the curb, and replaced it with inspirational jams that can be heard on his current Red Letterz album, which was nominated for a 2004 Grammy Award in the Rock Gospel category. Wilson also practices what he preaches, through his community work and speaking engagements.
"I came from poverty, violence and the thug life and it's very shallow," he says from his home in Winnipeg. "It may come off as intimidating when you see it in the videos or hear about it in songs, but deep down everyone's crying out for something. I work with gangs and I find that people want someone to listen to them, and when they don't have that their hearts get hard and they rebel. Their hearts are hard on the outside, but inside it's very soft. I think glorifying guns and violence is shallow. It's just people looking for attention."
Wilson should know. His story of transformation from thug to "rap evangelist," as he calls himself, is awe-inspiring. "I used to put girls on the street to sell their bodies to make money, I hustled, I was involved in robberies, I was affiliated with gangs on the West Coast," he says. "I grew up around pimps and prostitutes. I watched women being abused and so I grew up with no respect for women. At the age of seven, I was sexually abused by my babysitter, and so I never really had a childhood. And that's what darkness is, it's when you're in a place where you're neglected and no one's guiding you in the right direction. I never had a father to teach me how to be a man."
The 31-year-old MC clearly recalls the epiphany that led to his conversion. "God met me at my lowest point. I went from making three grand a night to riding my bike to get liquor to feed my alcoholism," he says. "I was living on Selkirk Avenue, which is a real bad area in Winnipeg's North End. I ended up running into a blind man and I helped him cross the street. That experience opened my eyes. It was almost like he was an angel. For the first time in my life I heard God speak to my heart. I started helping out at a children's mission and I saw joy in those kids' lives even though their moms were drunk and their dads weren't around."
If there's one line in the album that neatly encapsulates Wilson's convictions, it's this lyric from "I Believe": "I believe that You walk with me, rock a beat, hit the streets, and You talk through me."
"I believe that everything I do, whether I'm ministering or making beats, God is with me," he says. "My production company is called Jesus Beatz. They're His beats. I never knew music before I got saved, but I produced the whole album in my house."
Wilson isn't content to just stimulate change in others through music. "An evangelist is someone who travels all over the place proclaiming good news and that's what I am," he says, just before heading to a Native American convention in North Dakota where he was invited to share his life story. "I go to reservations and ghettoes all over North America. God brought me out of the darkness to put me back into the darkness - not to be consumed by it this time, but to be a light."
And every Tuesday Wilson can be heard preaching at the Waves Of Glory Full Gospel Church in Winnipeg. "We've seen the group increase by five or six kids every Tuesday," he says, attributing the growing numbers to word of mouth, profiles of him in the media, and him "hitting the streets and sowing good words" for the last five years.
"Two guys just flew down from Calgary and Saskatchewan," Wilson says "They went through the same things I did and they want to change." Thanks to Wilson's help, those men might have a chance to get out of the thug life, too. - By Errol Nazareth for

"Local hip-hop star & family get glammed up to head for the red carpet"

It's not every day a Winnipeg family packs up and heads to Hollywood to walk the red carpet with the likes of Madonna, Kanye West and Mariah Carey.

Then again, it's not every day a Winnipeg musician receives a second Grammy Award nomination -- as local gospel rapper Rob (Fresh I.E.) Wilson did for his latest CD, Truth is Fallin' in Tha Streetz.

Wilson took wife Sheila North Wilson with him to the 2003 Grammys, where he was nominated for earlier release Red Letterz. This time, his teenage stepchildren Trisha North, 16, and Sonny Richard, 14 are on board too, heading down to L.A. for Wednesday's ceremony.

We know Beyonce is head-to-toe in seaweed right now -- but what does it take for a local family of four to get all spiffed up?

Apparently a lot.

And after two weeks of following the Grammy-bound troupe's primping path, the Sun realized Hollywood glam don't come easy.

JAN. 25 / 14 DAYS

Until The Grammys

- LOCATION: Cake Clothing, 4 p.m.

- MISSION: Find "something cool" for Trisha to work the red carpet in.

"I feel shy," is the first thing Trisha says when she baby-steps out of the fitting room, her arms crossed over her first try-on: A striking bronze, calf-length gown.

Can't blame her. As she stands in front of Cake's giant three-way mirror, she has 10 eyes on her -- not to mention two hands, as shop owner Rebecca McCormack adjusts the frock accordingly.

The remaining peeperazzi include mom Sheila and friend Chantal, along with a Sun reporter and photographer. Everyone agrees the dress is gorgeous, especially against North's tan skin.

But we doubt even Gwen Stefani settles on the first getup some chic designer puts her in -- so back to the dressing room she goes.

The next three contenders are a cream strapless number with gold embellishments (too much like drapes), a blindingly red Marilyn Monroe piece (too dangerous if it's windy) and a so-so little black dress ("I don't want to wear black though," Trisha says).

Dress No. 5 barely passes the spin test, No. 6 is a firm "no," and Trisha would rather salsa on Dancing With the Stars than sashay down the carpet in No. 7. Mom digs No. 8, but she'd like to see it on with shoes that fit, since the store's shoes are too tiny. "You've got boxer feet," she tells Trisha, who's usually throwing punches after school instead of dress shopping.

Less than an hour later, Trisha gives frock No. 1 another whirl and, of course, realizes the low-cut Grecian-inspired beauty is The One. The decision is finalized after McCormack jokes that one of The Bachelor: Paris contestants wore it on a recent episode.

"It's perfect," Trisha says. "It fits nicely."

But is "perfect" enough to give her red carpet competition a run for their millions?

"Maybe," she says. "I don't know ... they're celebrities."

JAN. 30 / 9 DAYS TO GO

- LOCATION: Aldo Formals and Tailors, 4:15 p.m.

- MISSION: Make sure Fresh I.E.'s suit is F-I-N-E fine.

Rush-hour traffic made him 15 minutes late for his 4 p.m. fitting, but Rob strolls into the shop as cool and calm as you'd expect the man of the hour to be.

That doesn't last long, though.

Aldo owner Ray Lozano immediately has Rob trading his jeans and sweatshirt for a Hollywood-worthy suit. Meanwhile, a three-person documentary crew led by local freelance filmmaker Leona Krahn stands by on the other side of the fitting room door. Krahn is following Rob's every move for her upcoming doc on his journey from thug life to Grammy nominee.

Five minutes later, Rob emerges in a chic black suit with flaming -- and we mean flaming -- hot fuchsia accents.

Much like his step-daughter did earlier, he stands coyly in front of the three-way while Lozano adds the icing to his red carpet look: A matching scarf and ultra-suave fedora.

"He showed me this hot pink look," Rob says of Lozano, the man behind the arresting lavender ensemble the rapper wore at last year's Juno Awards.

"I wanted something to stand out this year, you know what I mean? It's like a once in a -- well, twice in a lifetime opportunity," he laughs. "You wanna blend in with all the big stars wearing their $50,000 dresses."

Lozano agrees.

"You want cool stuff and something a little different from the rest," he says. "He's a stylish fellow. He always likes to be different from the rest."

JAN. 31 / 8 DAYS TO GO

- LOCATION: Swank Boutique, 11:20 a.m.

- MISSION: Find Sheila an outfit that will wow the paparazzi.

The wife of a Grammy-nominated rapper doesn't mess around when it comes to making sure she looks absolutely fab on the big day.

That's why Sheila enlists style guru Anthony Polvorosa to hone her look.

"I'm seeing really glamourous," says Polvorosa as he rifles through Swank's racks at warp speed. He knows from glamour -- the owner of local image consulting company Provici, his client list has included names like R&B singer Brian McKnight and Ford Models founder Eileen - By LINDSEY WARD -- Winnipeg Sun


2000-The Revelation
2002-Tha Wordship and Tha Praise
2003-Red Letterz
2004-Truth is Fallin in tha Streetz
2005-Kingdom Music Vol 1
2006- The Warren Project
2009-Out Tha Oven

Music Award History 2002-2007

2 Grammy Nominations
1 Juno Nomination
8 Vibe Award Nominations
5 Shai award Nominations
18 Covenant Award Nominations
3 Western Canadian Music Award Nominations
3 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award Nominations



That in one word describes the childhood, the life and music career of Robert Wilson.
But growing up in poverty didn't stop his love of music, it fostered it.
Music became the most important source of refuge in his young life.
From the dysfunction around him he learned to reach inside and found a way to grasp attention then would turn around and use it entertain those around him.
Today, same story. Different decade. Except he's more well known now as Fresh IE.

Fresh IE not only writes his own music he produces almost all of the beats and rythems that pound with every verse. The first commercial project he created in his living room made Canadian history. With songs raw from years of struggling, Red Letterz, filtered into mindset of people who voted Fresh IE, to become the first Canadian rapper ever to be nominated for a Grammy.
Selected to the top five in his category among thousands of other worthy submissions.
Upon reflection Fresh IE says, "To say I didn't dream of being nominated and eventually winning a Grammy would be a lie. I dreamed of success not knowing as a child daring to believe in my dreams would actually put me in the same league as those I admired as a child."

Feeling the pressure to do it again, he did it. Fresh IE's follow-up project, Truth Is Fallin in the Streetz, won him another gold medal nomination, for a Grammy. The album, created in his brand new studio, fit the calling Fresh was hearing in life too. To take the truth of life's struggles and victories to the streets that need it most. Kids, teens and hip hop fans that most artists ignore, intentionally or not. Turning his music career to a love for those still struggle and resisting the urge to follow after fame, Fresh IE started travelling to Canada's First Nations remote and northern reserves. He found the greatest return for his investment, a generation who embraces his hope inspiring music.

Lockjaw, re-released as Out tha Oven, started to reveal the rock edge in Fresh IE. The album was nominated for numerous awards winning a few, including 2 Covenant Awards, a Gospel Music Award. Lockjaw/Out tha Oven is a cry that gives fans a voice starving for attention. A voice not to be ignored, helping fans declare life as if it was new, fresh out the oven.
"Lockjaw was about my fans grabbing a hold of the life they deserve," says Fresh IE, "declaring war on failure and defying statistics."

To follow suit, Fresh IE defies the way he normally creates music. He formed a live band, The Unashamed, and recorded 'Inside.' With this latest project barely out of production Fresh IE and The Unashamed went on tour across six provinces. Playing at venues in youth prisons, festivals and to his biggest audience to date at the 2010 Olympics to throng of 80 thousand plus people screaming at the top of their lungs. "It was a huge rush, one I'll never forget. An extreme honour to play for such a historic world event," says Fresh IE.

Struggle is never far away though. Reminding Fresh IE of how hard he has to work to get his music to ones who need it most no matter what happens in life. The letters he recieves from fans say it all. This one is part of a hand written note from a teen girl in a youth centre was struggling with suicide. Madeline writes, "I wanted you to know how much you inspire me. Your songs help me to stay strong, they give the sense of belonging. I feel good again and (am) happy to be alive."
Madeline goes on to say, she wants to eventually create her own music to help more people.

Fresh IE's been writing and producing his own music for the past 10 years and has enough new material for at least two more albums. Although there's been plenty times and situations in the last decade that made this independant artist want to quit the music business, he refuses to give up. In fact, he is still struggling and chasing his own dream of one day holding a gramaphone in his hands. Not only for himself but for those who can't get there and for those who've helped him get where he's at right now. In the meantime he embraces the struggle Hoping his music will keep inspiring those who need hope and victory in life.