By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
The man known as The Legendary Fritz sits on a concrete slab next to the makeshift parking lot beneath the Dallas Observer office on Commerce Street, explaining what happened between a week ago and today. To kick-start the story he's about to tell, he laughs a little, sighs a little more. Just last week, he stopped by the office to say that he was finally finished with his album, a record he'd been working on for the better part of two years--a record that, with 42 songs, is more than two albums long. Fritz was done with it, ready to drop it off at the manufacturing plant so he would have it back in time for the release party he'd set up at the Red Blood Club on July 21.
Except the album wasn't quite finished with him. Over the weekend, he explains, a few choice comments from "another legendary figure" in Dallas hip-hop suddenly left him with unfinished business and forced him to pick up a microphone one last time before he was ready to let the record go, before he'd be completely happy with it. That's why he started recording in the first place: to satisfy himself. He was more than happy with what he'd already recorded, sure, but that didn't mean he was ready to sit back and let those songs do all of his talking for him, even though they did plenty of that. Fritz had a new score to settle, and the best way to settle it, he figured, was to fall back on hip-hop tradition and match those words with a few more of his own. Someone wanted to question his talent? Well, he'd answer those questions and prove his skills at the same time. It's the way things are done.
With that in mind, on the Sunday morning before he was scheduled to deliver his debut double album, Greatest Hits, Fritz went into his home studio and recorded "What's Up Doc," a song that's tacked on to the end of Greatest Hits as a hidden track. If two discs of material didn't get his point across, "What's Up Doc" would: "If I may make one thing perfectly clear/The barometer between my skills and yours is non-comparison/My rhymes touched down at the Hobby of Houston, you thought it was the flood of Allison."
"Just wanted to address a couple of people in this city, you know," he begins, explaining the last-minute trip to the studio. "Me, basically, I look at it like...I don't know. I'm real hyped about the album, and with a comment that came my way this weekend, it just shocked me. Another legendary figure in this city, and he made a comment of"--he pauses--"I was pretty good. OK? I heard this Friday, and then Saturday, this man was like, 'Hey, you don't need to drop a double LP.' Why? You know, he couldn't give me a reason, and that didn't rub me well. I've known this guy for about almost four years. I've went into studios, freestyles and everything, so I just wanted to show him I've got skills also."
Moral of the story? You don't name yourself The Legendary Fritz expecting anyone--not friends or foes, not fans or peers--to refer to you as merely "pretty good." And if they do, you prove them wrong.
A few minutes later, Fritz is sitting in his wife's car, stereo cranked, showing off the late addition to Greatest Hits. His head nods along to the beat as his recorded rhymes fill the car, battling an unnamed opponent. Though his target isn't explicitly spelled out, given the song's title and the general lack of legendary hip-hop figures in this city, a good guess would be The D.O.C., known once upon a time as Dr. Tray, and before that, Tracy Curry. The D.O.C.'s reputation rests on his 1989 solo debut, the Dr. Dre-produced No One Can Do It Better, and his writing credits on N.W.A.'s 1988 Straight Outta Compton. Fritz will only say, "The parties involved know," so a guess is as good as it gets.
Whomever it is, Fritz knows he's better than pretty good--and judging by Greatest Hits, he's right--so he won't back down, not from anyone who questions why he's putting out a double album or why he's titled it Greatest Hits. Is it boasting? Of course, but he can back it up and then some. Is it ambitious to debut with a 42-song, two-disc set? Yes, but it's necessary; there's no filler on Greatest Hits, no songs that feel out of place or expendable. It's a double album because it has to be and called Greatest Hits because it's Fritz at his very best. Since he's got the songs and the talent, there's no reason why he should hold back, and Fritz doesn't understand why anyone would want him to. So he doesn't bother trying to understand. He just wants to know who wouldn't do exactly what he's doing if they were in the same situation.
"You don't have a lot of hip-hop out here, and Greatest Hits is my interpretation of my greatest hits," he says. "It's not an industry album. Later on down the road, say I've put out three or four albums, the industry might come in and say, 'Hey, you wanna do a greatest hits album now?' They're not gonna be able to take that away from me, because I've done that. They might do the best of the greatest hits, but they're not going to do that. There's no rules; the rules have already been broken. So to tell me what I can and cannot do, no. People that tell me it's too many songs, I just gotta wonder. I just gotta wonder."