Fresh I.E.
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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Rob Wilson, known to his fans as gospel/rap artist Fresh I.E., earned surprise Grammy nomination this year with his debut CD, Red Letterz. A Christian youth pastor by day, he took a friend's advice and asked Vancouver designer Brian Variani to make his suit for the show (Variani also made two dresses for the singer's wife, Sheila North). Wilson, 31, plans to wear another of the young designer's creations at the Junos next month. "I'm a hip-hop artist but I don't like to play into all the stereotypes," Wilson says. "I like being different, but at the same time I don't want to look like OutKast, or those other guys who go way out there with their clothes. I like a clean and simple look. For the Grammys, Brian made me a black suit with black shiny leather on the collar and cuffs that looked like leopard skin. It was a little touch that made the suit stand out." - Macleans


The FAITH and the FURY
After leaving a life of crime, reborn Christian rapper Fresh I.E. says his Grammy nomination is a gift from God.
Outside the Waves of Glory Gospel Chapel, waves of snow are blowing down Furby Street on a bitterly frigid Wednesday morning.
Sitting inside the Pentecostal church is a man bound for a place where waves mean beaches and palm trees. He's Rob Wilson, better known as Christian rapper Fresh Fresh I.E., the first Canadian hip-hop musician ever nominated for a Grammy Award.
On Feb. 8, the 31-year-old MC will compete against four other sacred acts at the 2004 Grammy ceremonies in Los Angeles. The Winnipegger's latest album, Red Letterz, is nominated in the rock gospel album category, one of more than 100 awards to be handed out that Sunday.
Earning a Grammy nomination is an impressive feat for any Canadian, never mind a Chrisitan rapper from the permafrozen Prairies. But Rob Wilson's road to glory is even more unlikely.
The spiritual musician says his past includes a childhood of abuse and neglect, followed by stints as a drug dealer and a drunk.
He's like an upside-down version of an urban music cliché – a former street thug who doesn't brag about his past, but celebrates his delivery instead.
Now a youth pastor at west end ministry Living Bible Explorers, Fresh I.E. (the letters stand for "in eternity") hopes his story will inspire other kids to get off the street.
He wasn't expecting a Grammy nomination. But now that it's arrived, he seems to be reveling in the attention.
"Nobody had ever heard of me. It's like a mystery – who is this dude? Where does he come from?" he chuckles, clutching a container of takeout coffee. "It's only God that brought me to people's attention."
Most musicians suddenly thrust into the spotlight try to obfuscate their past. Because of his faith, Wilson actually invites scrutiny.
According to the testimony on his website, www.jesusbeatz.com, he never knew his Jamaican-Canadian dad and grew up in a family of pimps, drug dealers and prostitutes.
"I can say that (I've) seen a lot of things a child should not see in their childhood. I watched my mother being abused most of my life," he writes, referring to his early years in Gilbert Park.
"Growing up with these kind of role models, I began to act like my family, drinking at the age of 12, beating up my girlfriends, involved in illegal activities and just a young kid. By the time I reached 20 years old I was heavily involved with drug cartels."
Parallel to this tale of woe was a budding music career. At age 19, Wilson started rapping. The following year he moved to Vancouver and soon found himself working with future hip-hop stars, including future Swollen Members Moka Only and Prevail.
"I knew them by different names. Those guys have come a long way," Wilson says. "We used to wear beads and call each other Nubians."
Fresh I.E. didn't stick with Lotusland. He returned east at age 24 and took a job as a bouncer in Kenora. There, he nearly killed himself and four companions when he drove drunk and slammed his car into one of the many large slabs of granite outside Ontario town.
That turned out to be the beginning of Wilson's new life. He returned to Winnipeg in 1998, began attending Prayermobile Children's Mission in the north end and became a devout Christian.
He got his job as a youth pastor in 2002. In the meantime, he started recording, first for Winnipeg's Sunshine Records and lately for Red Seed, an American label which put out Red Letterz last year in the United States.
When his self-produced fourth disc earned a Grammy nod, Wilson was blown away. So was the entire Manitoba music industry, not to mention the Canadian hip-hop establishment in Toronto.
"This is huge. The Junos are nice but the Grammys are what everybody wants," says Jude Kelly, a Toronto broadcaster and urban music expert who chairs the R&B/soul selection committee for the Juno Awards.
"We have a lot of high-profile rappers in Toronto, so to have the first Canadian Grammy nominee out of Winnipeg – and have him a gospel musician – is amazing."
Fresh I.E.'s nomination makes it two years in a row for Winnipeg urban music artists at the Grammys. In 2003, soul musician Remy Shand earned a stunning four nominations for his Motown records debut, The Way I Feel.
Rob Wilson, however, claims to have no desire to take the mainstream music world by storm.
"I don't want to be part of the system of the music industry. God is my industry. God is my CEO. God is my manager," he says. "I'm not in this for money or fame. The only reason I'm doing this is for God."
Just don't go calling the man an ascetic. Earlier in January, Fresh I.E. held two fundraising concerts to help him make the trip to L.A. with his wife – Sheila Wilson North, an afternoon host on NCI FM – and their two teenage kids.
He's also linked up an endorsement deal with Reebok, hopes to be sponsored by digita - Winnipeg Free Press


A real fresh prince
Christian rapper returns to Winnipeg after Grammy excursion

By now, most Winnipeggers have probably heard of Fresh I.E. – aka Rob Wilson.
He's the North End kid turned Christian hip hopper whose 2003 album, Red Letterz, was nominated for best gospel recording at the Grammy Awards two weeks ago. His nomination took the world by surprise, led to nationally televised stories on the rapper from nowhere, articles in both dailies and a Saturday section front in the Globe & Mail two weeks ago.
But – unless you happen to frequent the Waves of Glory Church at Portage and Furby – you have probably never heard Fresh I.E. That is, you have no idea what this guy sounds like.
Wilson has never played a show at the local nightclub and, until very recently, Red Letterz – which was released by Red Sea Records and distributed by Sound of America Recordings in the United States – was only available as an import at Christian bookstores.
Now Wilson has had his moment in the sun, doing up the Grammys and rubbing elbows with the likes of P.Diddy, Black Eyed Peas, Christina, Justin, Pharrell Williams, Sean Paul.
So it's time for him to try to capitalize on the attention the Grammys brought him.
For Wilson, this means spreading the word of the gospel through his hip hop art. So he's looking at setting up with a local management company and agency, he's hooked up a Canadian distribution deal for Red Letterz through Christian Music Canada and EMI and, perhaps most importantly, he's going to bring his music to secular audiences for the first time.
"The Grammys were the experience of a lifetime for me," Wilson says, calling on his mobile phone from a Wal-Mart parking lot here in Winterpeg. "It was amazing, just like another world down there. The weather was a blessing, and to be able to walk down Hollywood Boulevard was something else.
"I met all kinds of people, so now the plan is to bring the word to the people."
To that end, Wilson is set to play at the Vibe Awards in Toronto, at the Junos in Edmonton and at several other industry showcases in Canada. A North American tour is being planned for this summer and he's already working on a follow-up album to Red Letterz.
Tentatively titled Truth Has Fallen in the Streetz, thet recording will be a continuation of the sound Wilson explored on Red Letterz, which is described by American Website christianitytoday.com as a musical blend of "Bubba, Sparxxx, Everlast, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Coffee, Q-Tip, T-Bone, and many others."
Wilson came to Christianity the way many do – after leading a rough-and-tumble existence through Halifax, Kenora, Vancouver, Toronto and several other towns, he was shocked into recognizing the violence nad decay around him and decided to straighten himself out. He says he joined "the Jesus Christ plan" to kick an addiction to alcohol that threatened his health and his future, and he has been solely a Christian rapper for the past six years, though he says he has been rhyming "for about 17 years or so."
For Wilson today, hip hop is a way to spread the gospel and his music regularly quotes scripture.
"Traditional rap is more of a hustle, more about being a player and the game. Christian hip hop for me is a way of helping people up when they're down, meeting them on their level – because I've been there – and providing a way out for them."
Apart from rapping, Fresh I.E. is also a youth pastor at Waves of Glory. He tours Manitoba reserves on a regular basis and says that most mon ths he plays "three or four" shows.
"It's work of faith", he laughs. "I've been doing this five years full-time and sometimes you operate on faith because some months are better than others."
For his show at the Pyramid on Feb. 19, Wilson says he will definitely have myfavouritedj.com in tha house, but he had yet to decide whether he was going to go with a full live band, as he can , or with a more stripped-down show.
"We'll have it together, though," he promises. "what you will see is a very passionate set of high-energy hip hop, not your usual hip hop show, either."
And he's hoping his sound will win some new fans.
Maybe even a convert or two.

-John Kendle
- Uptown Magazine


Discography

Red Letterz (2003)
Tha Wordship & Tha Praise/
Tha Blacksmith & Tha Blade (2002)
28:3 (2001)
The Revelation (2000)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The sight of a blind man changed Rob Wilson a.k.a. Fresh I.E.’s life forever. This blind man was standing in a busy street by himself and pulled out of harms way by Fresh I.E. Later that day, the same man was discovered sleeping on this Rap Apostle’s steps. At this point, Fresh I.E. had sunk deep into crime and substance abuse. So, how did the blind man find him? No one knows, but Fresh I.E. recognized this as a sign from God to show that he was walking blind and headed for disaster.

He took this sign from God and completely changed his life direction. Soon after, he started attending and then volunteering at the Prayermobile Children's Mission in the North End of Winnipeg. Today he is one of the Youth Leaders at an inner city ministry called Living Bible Explorers (LBE). As the Leader and Founder of a nation wide ministry, Life Inc. (Resurrection and Life) Fresh I.E. presents the youth everywhere with a realistic and positive outlook on life, all done through the music that he creates and produces.

Fresh I.E. has always loved hip-hop and started out with groups like the Rascalz and Swollen Members in Vancouver. Now his music takes a different route with a fusion of dark bass lines, uplifting themes, experimental sounds, and lyrics that make you press rewind – Fresh I.E. is an emcee ahead of his time.

His singles “Life” and “Alright” have made a difference in people’s lives with crossover success through rotation on a Hot AC station, Q-94FM in Winnipeg. In addition, he has charted across Canada at #2 on CHR (Christian Hit Radio), and attained distribution in Canada with CMC (Christian Marketing Canada) to accompany his U.S. label S.O.A.R. (Sound of America Records).

After a Grammy and recent Juno nomination for his album, Red Letterz, Fresh I.E.’s career has risen to a new level with high expectations for the future. Along with gearing up for a new album this spring, Fresh I.E. has been busy opening up for acts such as P.O.D, Wise and Knights of the Realm, L.G. and The Grits. He has also been featured on the V2Live Tours, The Great White North Super Tour for Slyngshot Records and headlining his own cross-country tour, the “Truth Is Fall’n in the Streets.”

Church:
Waves Of Glory
http://www.wavesofglory.org

Pastor:
Youth Pastor Rob Wilson

Ministerial Statement:
We are a Fellowship of autonomous, evangelical churches with historical roots within the Pentecostal movement. We view ourselves as called of God to share in mutual Christian care and practical cooperation in carrying out the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. We affirm our commitment to both local church autonomy and interchurch cooperation as biblical norms for our life and ministry.

We also affirm our call to work in spirit of love and unity with all true believers in our common ministry within the Kingdom of God.
http://www.fcaoc.org/belief_s.html

AWARDS AND HIGHLIGHTS:

NOMINATION – 2005

JUNO Awards – April – Winnipeg, MB

- nomination for Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year

AWARDS - 2004

Grammy Awards – February – Los Angeles, CA

- nomination for Best Rock Gospel Album – Red Letterz

VIBE Awards – May – Toronto, ON

- winner of Rap/Hip-Hop/Dance Album of the Year – Red Letterz
- nomination for Artist Of the Year
- nomination for New Artist of the Year

Western Canadian Music Awards – September – Calgary, AB

- nomination - Best Christian Album – Red Letterz

Covenant Awards – October – Toronto, ON

- nomination for Rap/Hip Hop/Dance Song of the Year – Life
- nomination for Rap/Hip Hop/Dance Album of the Year – Red Letterz
- nomination for New Artist of The Year

HIGHLIGHTS - 2004

Dove Awards – April

- presented three awards at the Dove Awards in Nashville, TN

Juno Awards – April

- performed at Manitoba night and UMAC (Urban Music Association of Canada) showcases in Edmonton, AB

Blue Bombers Theme Song – June

- recorded the theme song for Winnipeg’s CFL Team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, called “Time 4 Action”

Performance with The Grits – February

- opened for Holy Hip Hop group The Grits at YouthQuake 2004

Performance with P.O.D. – April – 2001

- opened for P.O.D. in Winnipeg at the Winnipeg Arena