Matt Deas' rapper name, Legendary Fritz, pays homage to his late cousin (and "Harlem gangster") Richard "Fritz" Simmons. The 'Legendary' part came later, when Deas' was freestyling at Club Exodus in Dallas. Hip-hop legend KRS-One happened to be there, promoting one of his new albums. During his battle, Deas was dropping KRS' song titles in his flow, which prompted KRS one to say to Deas after the show that if he did that in New York, they would've called him 'Legendary' Fritz. And so it began.
In 2001, Zac Crain (now the senior editor at D Magazine) wrote in the Observer that "Fritz calling himself legendary ain't no joke." Over a decade later, he's still got it.
In fact, tonight (Thursday, December 19), Fritz will be performing at his showcase "Twas The Mic Before Christmas," at Sandaga 813 (813 Exposition Ave., Dallas, TX 75226) hosted by local legend EZ Eddie D. Tickets are $5 and doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m. DJ Spiderman will be on the turntables. Along with the event, Fritz is dropping an EP, Twas The Mic Before Christmas 2, which will have two Christmas songs and five other new songs. "It's a little project that I put together to keep the Christmas spirit in the form of hip-hop," Fritz said.
That EP follows Look Good, Feel Good, Smell Good, which dropped in July, and Livin In A Jar, which dropped in October. Both albums, Fritz admits, aren't his best work. But Fritz was just testing the water this year: "It's been years since I've rapped, so I wanted to see exactly what my lane would be and then after putting out those songs, I know where my lane is right now. What everyone heard this year, that was just me warming up, warming back up and getting the rust off, just gearing up for the 2014." While he regrets very little over his career, he does wish that he hadn't taken such a long break. "I can't make up for that ten year window of music," Fritz says.
Fritz didn't move to the city until the early '90s, when his daughter and her mom moved here from South Carolina. In his 20s at the time, Fritz rap-battled and freestyled at various clubs around the city, until he was eventually convinced to record some songs. His first song, "No Sunshine," was included on Down by Sound: KNON Hip-Hop Compilation, which was put together by KNON's DJ EZ Eddie D in 1998.
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In 2001, he dropped his debut record Greatest Hits to positive reviews. Although, to be fair, 'record' isn't an accurate term; his 'record' included a total of 42 songs that he had recorded over a two-year span. Fritz maintained his legendary status, and is often put in the same league as Dallas legends like the D.O.C.
However, in 2002, Fritz beefed with fellow local rapper Headkrack. Fritz doesn't regret the feud, and he emphasizes that "the scene don't owe me anything." Still, he thinks that the incident has hurt him in the long term. Most notably, Fritz hasn't been contacted to participate in the We From Dallas hip-hop documentary. The filmmakers have interviewed many of the rappers and producers that Fritz has worked with, but they haven't reached out to him at all. Does he feel slighted? "Hell yeah! They didn't even ask me or anything," Fritz says.
True to his battle-rap roots, Fritz responded to his exclusion from the film in a track. In the song, called "Cry Now," he calls out many of the people involved with the project. He also establishes some of his credentials, rapping, "I wasn't born in Dallas, I get that. / My contribution ain't no water cooler chit-chat. / I do it for the music, it's effortless. / KRS-One named me 'legendary' at Club Exodus."
Reflecting on his past, Fritz wonders if he's paid a price for staying independent: "You know what, I've realized what hip-hop is to me. A friend told me a long time ago, that when you fall in love with hip-hop, you're either going to marry her or make her your bitch. The problem- what happened with me is that I married her. I should have made her my bitch, but I married her. By marrying her, I always have a classic marriage and that type of view of not conforming to what's going on with the radio or in the industry." Now in his 40s, Fritz realizes he's not as young as he was once. But rather than lamenting about it, Fritz is grateful that he's still got it at his age: "When I rap now, I'm even more happy about it because I can still do it." Fritz says it's "a blessing" and "a major gift" to still be able to flow at his age. In a sense, he sees it as another chance in the game, a way to cash in on his skills on the mic. "Everything happens for a reason, so for God to still allow me to have the skill and the blessing to do it, you know, then He's making a way for me to obtain money. God wants you to be wealthy and prosperous. This might be why He's still allowing me to pick up the mic, He might be saying, 'You know what, you didn't do it last time, so go out there and make some money with it.'"
He has big plans for 2014, expecting an EP, Bar Rescue, to drop on February 1st and expects to drop another album, Matturation, over the summer. He's especially excited about a song that he's working on which will focus on black history, especially with the passing of Nelson Mandela and the presidency of Barack Obama. Fritz hinted that Matturation could be his last album, and will feature "grown hip-hop" about more serious and personal matters, such as divorce. The album will include production from producers like Mike Ruiz, Big Hub, and Darren Kondu, as well as artists like Oak Cliff's Boo Love and a female MC Robin Rhymes.
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As his upcoming album title suggests, Fritz has reached a new level of maturity, and wants his music to reflect that: "It's not just rhyming now, it's having a message. My message back then was 'I'm dope.' My message now is 'I'm telling a story about life and different things and hope it can relate to you' and by telling those stories, then you'll realize, 'Okay, he's dope anyway.' I don't have to tell you how dope I am anymore. I think that's the difference right there."
Throughout the interview, he makes his love for hip-hop clear, "I'm not trying to be a platinum artist. I love hip-hop, man. I love rap. I love creating. I love making music. I'm a lyricist. You can say what you want, but at the end of the day I'm an MC. That's what I'm most proud of right there. And it's always going to be a passion. But now, where I'm enjoying life and have a little bit more time on my hands, I might see what happens with it. I'm going to take it as far as it goes."