Harry Fraud has quickly risen as New York rap’s go-to producer since helming French Montana’s anthemic “New York Minute” featuring Jadakiss (and later, Nicki Minaj and ostensibly every rapper in the Tri-State Area) and “Shot Caller.” He’s also produced tracks for everyone from Action Bronson and Rick Ross to Riff Raff. His “La Musica de Harry Fraud” sonic signature vies for one of rap’s most recognizable drops, though he’s not much of an outward showman himself. Fraud prefers to be in the studio, working. Sometime after 2am, in a hazy, weed-laced room at Premier Studios in Times Square, the quiet Brooklyn native put finishing touches on his upcoming EP and talked with Sound of the City.
Your EP is a partnership with Scion/AV and you want to ultimately release all of your music for free through brands. Are you worried that working with brands may hinder your creative license?
It’s art and commerce no matter what. Nobody can get it fucked up. The record business is still the record business and even if you’re doing it the traditional way, it’s so much commerce. You got to think about it like, I’m not taking a loan out from a traditional record company this way. That’s what I’d be doing if I was putting my records out in the traditional format. That’s what you do. You’re taking a loan, like a bank. What’s more commerce than that?
I know you’re working on a new, yet-to-be-named sound somewhat along the lines of EDM Trap and plan on touring. What’s that about?
I think at the top of next year people will see me do a couple of different live applications, whether it be more Electronic music or the live band side of things; just adapting the best music that we’ve done into a live setting and giving it a more uptempo, danceable feel. When I was growing up, I was heavily into Jungle music, that was something that was really popping in New York in the ’90s and the late ’90s, the drum and bass scene and that’s something I’ll move back into and try and throw my own spin on it. That’s why I don’t want to call it anything that’s been classified yet because it won’t be that. It’ll be some different shit.
Brian “B Dot” Miller of Rap Radar and others recently chastised Hot 97 and Power 105 for not supporting homegrown rappers, many of whom you work with. Do you think that NY radio has a responsibility in propelling local rap?
I’m never one to complain about a situation, I’m one to say, “It’s on us to make those records that will be viable in the market.” Regional radio is a stepping stone to national radio, no matter where you are. Yeah, we’re in New York and it’s the big leagues and it’s fucking hard. Hot 97 is the biggest hip-hop radio station. It’s hard but it’s doable. A perfect example is [French Montana’s] “Shot Caller,” like we literally had to force that down the radio’s throat and be in the clubs, handing that to the DJs that also spin on the radio. When you make a record go so crazy in the club that they can’t deny it.
Many producers and artists are increasingly leaving the city to record elsewhere. How important is it for New York rap to be recorded here?
I don’t know if that’s something I’m cognizant of. I like going to other places to record. I just think that this [New York] is what’s convenient for me. If I could have it my way, I’d live in Fiji and surf every day, but that’s not realistic. New York is a hub. Although people don’t record here anymore, everybody comes through here. It’s a good place to still be able to build my rapport with people.
Thanks to technology, it’s now commonplace for hip-hop producers to send beats out to artists without ever collaborating in the studio, but you prefer a more personal approach.
I go off feeling. Like sometimes if I know it’s an artist that I know like the chances of me getting in the studio with this person are very slim like ever in life, I might have to send them some beats. Or if it’s someone who might not be familiar with my music, but they might just be hitting me up because they might’ve heard something or somebody told them to hit me up, I’ll send them beats to entice them. But I always feel like the best music comes out when you’re sitting with the person.
From a competitive standpoint, do you worry then about the kid in his Mom’s basement mass-producing on a MacBook while you’re taking time to build relationships with artists?
It’s weird, I think about that. Those kids probably passed me–like I don’t know how to explain it–but those people come and go. There are those kids that’ll have those runs like they make up the same beat a bunch of times and get the same sound circulating and pop with that and then, they’re gone in a year. Me and Spitta [Curren$y] did the Cigarette Boats shit in two sittings, you know? It wasn’t slow and steady; it just wasn’t me chasing him to send him [beats]. The same thing with Trinidad James. That’s my homie. I’ve been knowing about Trinidad James before all this shit was all crazy. We worked on a bunch of music together, but we’ve only worked on music in person. I like that with people because I feel like that’s really producing; it’s not just beatmaking.
Who are your Top 5 producers this year?
Alchemist, Alchemist, Alchemist, Alchemist, and Alchemist. That’s my Top 5. I fuck with Alchemist, man. Alchemist has a beat. I don’t even want to say who it’s for, it’s for two West Coast legends, and every time this beat is in my presence, I just make them play it over and over. I don’t even like anybody’s beats but Alchemist, he’s fucking incredible.
Every producer has list of dream collaborations. Who’s on yours?
If I could do an album with anybody, you have to do the album with Jigga obviously, but anybody beside Jigga, I would probably do the album with Cam [Cam’ron]. If I could just play the beats in the room that I felt were the right ones, I just feel like he’d be… Cam is just so ill.
Why don’t you hit him?
Nah. We’ve communicated before. People like that, I hit him. He knows what it is. He knows I’m down for whatever with him but you know, I’m also not gonna be like, “Yo Cam! Yo, c’mon man! Yo yo yo!” I hit you. I let you know what’s up. If you want to do it, we’ll do it.
That sounds like a relationship. Playing phone tag.
[Laughs]. Nah nah nah. How else is it? Everything is a relationship. Life is a courtship, on all levels.