11 Voices From Atlanta Remember Bankroll Fresh
With Bankroll Fresh, the city lost not just a promising new star but also a bright spirit. Zaytoven, DJ Drama and eight more people reflect on his life and enduring spirit.
The weather in Atlanta last weekend was unseasonably warm, but in the aftermath of rapper Bankroll Fresh’s untimely death, spirits were decidedly down. Or, as Cash Money singer Jacquees described the environment in a call with The FADER, “It feel good outside, but it's not a good feeling.”
With Bankroll Fresh, the city lost not just a promising new star but also a bright spirit. Over the past few days, The FADER has spoken with some of Fresh’s friends, collaborators, business partners, and fans. Again and again, he was praised for his authenticity, his humor, and his sixth sense for knowing what the streets wanted to hear. Below are their testimonies, edited and condensed.
Rapper and close friend.Trouble: "Fresh is really from the streets, so as long as I've known him we always had a good vibe. He was just a solid person all the way around. Totally comfortable bein' himself—quick to smile and laugh and joke, but you knew he wasn't a pushover.
"We got a chance to really link musically when I was recording #ZayDidIt. I called him and he pulled right up. I had Zaytoven in the studio with us cooking up beats, and as soon as Fresh walked in we recorded two songs in less than an hour ("U Ain't Street" and "Don't Panic"). We coulda made a whole tape that night. Man, we had fun recording together! Just his energy and attitude was always so positive.
"Losing Fresh really touched me. We're two men who had the same dreams of getting in position to provide for our families. For him to be taken away like that hit home for me. I was down and depressed about it and I kinda still am, but I'ma remember him in a positive way and motivate myself to gain all the success we both were striving for."
"We're two men who had the same dreams of getting in position to provide for our families."—Trouble
Martin "Nature" McCormick
Co-founder of Street Money Worldwide.Martin: "I met Fresh about eight years ago, in 2008 or 2009. I was a fan first, because I was in college. Fresh was in the streets, he was running around. And we were at a mutual friend's house and I told him I was a fan and he was just like, 'You like that?' He didn't give himself enough credit.
"I was from up North so I didn't really know the city or music scene like that—I wanted to be an attorney. What made me want to be involved with him and get into business with him was his vision. His vision for the company, for himself, and Atlanta period. He just wanted to see everyone around us successful. He just wanted to see everybody win, and everybody be happy, and everybody have their own thing going on. Nobody feel like they were lesser than him, even though he was the CEO of the company. We had the same goal in mind, so we linked up and started Street Money, which me and him own together.
"We kind of had our differences more recently, and that's why it's hard for me—we weren't really talking at the moment. We were brothers at the end of the day, but brother's fight. But when [we] first got started, he was like, 'Stick with me and I'll make you famous before your 27.' I'll be 27 on Wednesday, so I can't really be mad at him. He kept his word and the vision that he had for the company and everyone around us. He made everybody feel like, you can do this too.
"I feel like we could have seen a really big mogul out of him, because he made so many great moves, having PJ, QuickTrip, Nino, and so many other artists that the world was about to be introduced to—that they will still be introduced to—that will show people how genius he was. We're not going to stop doing what we were doing, that's how we plan to keep him alive: keeping Street Money alive.
"As an artist, he really wasn't afraid to try anything. And in general, he wasn't scared to be himself, and that's what people really loved about him: he was him. He was a people person, he talked to everybody, he took every picture, he wasn't too big for anything. He is a really hilarious guy, we all had a great time together.
"I remember one time, we were just hanging out and for thirty minutes, we were in the car outside a hotel and I thought I had a boot on my car. He was in the driver's seat and I was asleep in the passenger's seat, and he was like, 'Man, we're going to have to get someone to get this boot off!' I did not have the money to get the boot off my car. He acted like he really couldn't move the car, but then he was like, 'Nah, I just had my foot on the break. Just playing.' That was one of the funniest moments we had together."
Considered signing him to Mean Streets.
DJ Drama: "Bankroll Fresh was very young, he had a lot of potential. He was very in tune to the city, the streets. I think he had a knack for making real records, very organic records, that just touched the club. "Hot Boy" is a record that never really made it up the charts or never a smash record, but I can play it today, I could play it a year ago, or any moment during primetime and it would have the same effect on the crowd.
"I got introduced to him a couple of years ago, around the time of when Quan and Future was heating back up, and he was like, "Fresh is back up." A lot of the talk at that time had been that the sound that was coming from the city at that moment, like 'OG Bobby Johnson' record or 'Sh!t.' Fresh takes some claim to that.
"He was always one of those guys that made me feel like the elder statesman that I am. He was very humble, like, 'Damn, I'm sitting here with Dram!' He was a good dude, he always gave me good energy. Most of the time I saw him, he had a smile on his face. Whether or not Bankroll would have been the biggest thing out of Atlanta or if he went his career and had a steady pace of records but never made it to the Billboard charts, I think he would have always had that respect and accolade from his peers and the streets."
Producer and sometimes chauffeur.
C4: "We met at the studio when I first had moved to Atlanta in 2011. I was a fan when I met him, because I already knew him from a song he put out way back in 2009 called "Get Dope." I told him I got beats, and Fresh was like, "Well, I rap." At the time I was a nobody, I had just started making music and he would pull up at my crib and we would work. I used to record him all the time in my house.
"Watching him record, he literally puts his personality into the microphone and on the beat. He just really goofy and real silly. You got to know people before you can fully understand their music. Knowing him, if you listen to his songs, that's his personality.
"That was my boy, though, real friend outside of music too. We would go to the strip clubs. I been to his grandma's house in the hood. He'd call me, because he always had an expired license, and say, "Come pick me up, brother. I can't drive." So I'd go pick him up and we'd go out somewhere, to the club. I was his like his Uber driver.
"The reason why me and Fresh kind of fell back from working [these past two mixtapes] is because of his studio. He worked at Street Execs, and when you go to Street Execs, there's going to be hella guns. Only place you can feel comfortable going to a place like that to work, you got to have a gun too. So I just fell back. That's not the only studio, but he knows why I never went to that studio. I was supposed to provide the studio time, he was waiting on me."
Jacquees: "I remember when I first heard about Bankroll Fresh. We was in Panama City in 2014, and my little cousin was like, 'Listen to this!' They were out there dancing. But I'm like, who is this? They told me it was Bankroll Fresh and that he he going to come up next. And then I started hearing his music around the city a lot. Show me how to do it, my little cousins used to run around singing that all day. A lot of my cousins were affiliated with Street Money, so they used to always come back to the hood just talking good about Street when he got a new song, doing some of his dances, definitely talking his lingo.
"His music definitely lit up the Atlanta scene. It's always a new wave, and Bankroll Fresh was definitely the next wave. He made the trap dance, that's what Bankroll Fresh was doing: he was making trappers dance
"[I first heard the news when] my cousin called me. He was like, 'You heard about Bankroll Fresh?' And I already know when someone say 'You heard about' that it's not going to be good news. I was shocked. Fresh, we love his music, but that's not a name that we thought we'd hear something like that about. Everything we hear about Bankroll was that it's all good. He was repping his side of town, with a whole lot of swag and a whole lot of lingo. And from what I can see, his message was, 'Let's just go get it.'
"I think Atlanta need to clique up. When I was young, they used to do "Welcome to Atlanta" records and people used to clique up. Atlanta got some of the dopest artists in the world; if Atlanta wants to clique up, it would dominate everybody. But it seem like in, Atlanta everyone can't get along. Everybody, we so young. When you're young and you're getting it and you got money, it change people's egos. But we got a too much going in Atlanta right for niggas to be dying left and right. I'm tired of hearing that niggas get killed, especially when they haven't reached their full potential, like Bankroll Fresh."
"Atlanta got some of the dopest artists in the world; if Atlanta wants to clique up, it would dominate everybody."—Jacquees
Rapper who came up alongside him.
YFN Lucci: "Coming where we come from, we ain't have nothing; we just trying to grind. So I knew what he was trying to do, he was trying to make music and make it out of the hood. And every time I was around him it was all love.
"Me and Bankroll, we done been around each other. When we were coming up, we did a lot of little promo tours and so we were constantly running into each other. We even had a show coming up together, too; we were co-headlining on HipHopWeekly Stage at SXSW.
"He taught me to be myself. I ain't going to lie, I still feel kind of nervous and shit sometimes [before I perform]. Every time I seen Bankroll, he never looked nervous. He just said he was going to be his self. I ain't ever seen him trying to be like nobody. He had his own little style: the music, the way he raps, the way he dressed. We're fashion now, you see how people are dressing. But he still kept it hood, dressed on that regular dope boy shit: army fatigue rags, bandana tied. When a person is just real and genuine like that, it just be a lot of love. A lot of people are going to fuck with you because they see you a real genuine dude and you can kick it around him.
"Every year we take a loss. These be real big people in the city who people had a lot of love for. They ain't do shit to people, shit just happen. People got to learn how to put their pride to the side. People got to start hanging. People got to start bigging up people in the A now who are trying to come up and doing good. That's the salute, double salute, triple salute."
Rapper, signed to Street Execs.
Young Dolph: "Bankroll is like my little brother. I met Bankroll through Gucci Mane, [it was] a while before we even had anything to do with Street Execs. The time when we started working together at Street Execs is when I started to see him a little more. I seen that he was serious with it, he was for real with his career now. He was always giving me advice to just keep working hard. I want to see him do good. He had a good work ethic, and I knew he was going to do something with it. That's really the main part that hurt me, he didn't get a chance to get his breakthrough, to make his money that was coming to him. The legend was on the way, but his time got cut short.
"He was just a humble born dude. All he wanted to do was to have fun and just get him some money. A real Atlanta dude. And he had a whole lot of style. He wasn't following the trends that all the Atlanta rappers were doing—all the Atlanta rappers were sounding the same, dressing the same—he didn't fall in the same category as them. He stayed true to himself.
"Every time we see each other its all love. The last time I saw him I was like, 'You got the people fucked up!' And he was like, "Nah, man. We got the people fucked up.'"
Rapper and friend.
Reese: "I met him through Gucci Mane, when Gucci had the studio over on Memorial. We used to always be over there, like, Bankroll, me, C4, Metro Boomin, Thug, the Migos before they even was poppin'.
"Bankroll Fresh has been around forever. He's from here, born, raised, school, everything—he is a real Atlanta person. He's been grinding for a long time, he's been rapping for a long time. He was always out promoting his music, being in everybody's face. But it's deeper than just the music stuff. He was a positive person, he was always out. That's why everybody—grandmas, aunties, uncles, aunts—knows him. His death left a dent in the city and the culture for sure.
"Atlanta is going to miss that new authentic sound. Atlanta is one of the most mimicked places for music, everywhere they're trying to sound like the music here. But everybody right now, they rap like the Migos or Thug. He was making a different sound and a different wave, though. I compare Bankroll, the whole Street Money thing, to how Jeezy sounded when he first came out. If you listen to Life of a Hot Boy 2, the song "Behind the Fence" sounds just like TM101 Jeezy. That's what people are going to miss.
"People are also going to miss his spirit, because he was just a good person in general. He always wanted to see everybody do good, be positive, and get money. And he was comedy. Every time I see him, it was nothing but jokes and positivity. One time we had this clowning battle. We was clowning the hell out of each other at Gucci's studio, going back and forth cracking jokes. My favorite memories of him basically is just that every time I see him, we were always laughing, calling each other ugly, just fun stuff, stuff you do when you being goofy. He's nothing but jokes.
"Atlanta has its times. It's not super, super violent, but it's like, don't get it twisted: the streets are still the streets everywhere, so anything can happen. I've never understood the fact that when there's somebody who is trying to better themselves and the community, why you want to be mad because they're getting more money than you at the moment? And mad enough to take their life or do something? But, man, I really feel like it can change. People have to unify and stop hating. The key words: peace and unity, that's what we need out here."
Photographer and friend.
Cam Kirk: "Every time I'd see him, he'd want me to take his picture.
"I first met Bankroll when he was going by Young Fresh on a video shoot for Young Scooter. When I started working with Metro heavy, we ran into him again at Zaytoven's house—he was always at Zaytoven's house. I didn't realize how close him and Metro were, but they were really bonding, talking about working and stuff like that. From then on, Bankroll started coming over Metro's crib more and more. That's how I built my relationship with him began.
"[When I first heard the news,] it was the craziest thing. I was on tour with Rae Sremmurd and we all were in the studio working and someone just yelled it out. It totally shut down the entire studio. No one could record after. No one was even talking. It totally killed the whole vibe and we all left. Nobody believed it, we were trying to find confirmation that it was true or that it was fake. It was just unbelievable news.
"His impact is much bigger than it feels to the world outside of Atlanta. There wasn't one single person in Atlanta who wasn't affected by that news. Bankroll is good around almost every circle of people I've ever been around, he's good with the most famous rappers to rappers on the come up. He's been involved with a lot of people. He's himself every time. He's never changed since I met him, when he was more on the come up to where he's been at recently.
"He's really one of the most positive artists I've ever been around. I've never seen Bankroll mad. I've never seen Bankroll sad. He's always in good spirits, and nice as hell. I've been around a lot of artists and a lot of artists that been in the street world, and you can usually identify somebody that they don't like. It's always some type of tension, but I never felt that with Bankroll.
"I hope people realize and remember, we lost more than just a rapper. I know a lot of the news reports will classify him as just a rapper, but to a lot of people in Atlanta, and even to his real world, he's so much more than that: he was a CEO of his own movement, he was a boss, he was a father, he was just a great person. It's just a huge ass loss."
"He was a CEO of his own movement, he was a boss, he was a father, he was just a great person. It's just a huge ass loss."—Cam Kirk
A close collaborator and friend.
Zaytoven: "I met Bankroll Fresh around 2006. A buddy of mine told me Fresh had rapped on one of my beats—I don't know where he got it from, but that first song on the beat was called "Yes Sir." That same day I gave him some more beats, he smashed them all, and we've been rocking every day since then.
"He was a live wire in the studio. He was one of those artists that didn't need to be prepped. He doesn't need a certain amount of beats to go through to chose one to rap to. It's like, you turn the music and he's ready to go, in front of everybody, whenever, at any time. He's not going to be a guy who's going to get on spot and then doesn't have too much to say or is not going to really sound that good. He's a guy who impresses me over and over again, for ten years now.
"Guys like him keep me relevant in music. They know the new slang, what the beats supposed to sound like, and how to rap on the beats, so I learned a whole lot from this guy. To get that authentic thing that Bankroll Fresh have, it doesn't come from a major artist who lives out in some big city. It comes from the streets of Atlanta, being in the crux of what's going on with all the young people. He was one of those guys who kept me on my toes and kept me youthful.
"He was so authentic and street, his music caught my attention first. But after we spent time together, laughing and joking all the time, his character is really what drew me to him. We laugh and play all the time, so that's how we started getting closer without the music.
"He's like a little brother to me now. He's one of those guys that come over to my house every day, even if he's not doing music. He's playing with my kids, my wife know him real good, we might talk about whatever. He would come down with me to my grandmother's house. He's family, he's one of the guys I really feel comfortable and enjoy being with.
I know he was feeling good about where he was at. When he came over two days ago, he came with a new truck. I put him on the phone with Plies. We had big plans, we were supposed to be putting out a project called Rock Solid. We had all the music done, we just didn't come up with a date. So now that's one of the biggest projects I'm working on, it's going to be something big.
QuickTrip: "We met when we was 3 or 4 years old, in apartments called Pittsburgh Apartments. There's a lot of fake shit going on right now, a lot of folks telling stories about Bankroll Fresh, but don't nobody know Fresh like I do. We been together for 23 years plus.
"Since we were children, we loved cars, clothes, and money. We never were into playing games, but we'd google cars and watches. And when we used to go home, Fresh would fake cry to his mom and make her come back and get me so I could spend the night at his house.
"We got into rapping when we was real young. We walked around and freestyled with each other everyday. Fresh liked the music, but he wasn't taking it seriously. One day I grabbed him and was like, "I got a car. You can rap. I'm going to take you to the studio every day. Quit playin' and do your verses right." So he started taking it seriously and going to the studio everyday, and it showed; he was better.
"We believed in God, so first time we ever heard "Hot Boy" we thought, "Man, what if we could get everybody on that song." Then his dad, who was in music for over 10 years, started making calls. First Turk and Juvie [came through]. Then, Fresh went to Miami, where 2 Chainz played the song for Wayne and he completed it. (BJ was in jail, so we couldn't get that.) Everything feel in place. Fresh ball capped his way through it, that's how he would say it.
"Fresh always had a trick up his sleeve. When he perform "Hot Boys" and he be like, All Stars 2014 I was drunk as fuck on Bourbon, in 2014 he was away from one of his girls and we was supposed to be at the All Star game [in New Orleans] but we were at the InterContinental in Buckhead. It just so happened that the counter in the InterContinental says "Bourbon St." on it, so he took a picture and posted it so his girl thought we was really in New Orleans. She was like, "Alright, baby. Have a good time, y'all be safe." So every time he performed that verse, we would just bust out laughing on stage because he knew goddamn well he wasn't on Bourbon St.
"Fresh was a loving person. He was one of those guys, when he said something, that mean he was going to do it. Or if he didn't do it, he was trying to do it. He always had a big heart, and he was calm. If Fresh had a problem with you, that means you did something to you. If Fresh don't like you, you really did something bad to him. I'm devastated."