Fresh IE is one of the pioneers of Christian Rap in Canada. In his more than two decades in the game, he has been recognized with a number of accolades including two Grammy and three Juno nominations. I chatted with him shortly after the release of his 22nd album: Wind and the Waves.
I want to talk about the new album, but before we get into that – you have a unique story of how you came to Faith – can you share just a bit of that?
In the early 90s, I was living in Vancouver and I was rapping, freestyling, doing shows, and caught up in the street life. By 1998 I was at the end of the road. I was looking at 14 years in prison, caught up in addiction, and drinking my life away. One Saturday night, around midnight, I saw a blind man in the middle of the road. I put down my alcohol and called out to him and he followed my voice to safety. I went home and I couldn’t drink that night – I was thinking what if I end up like this, with no one to guide me. Then I heard God speak to me and say “that blind man is you, if you don’t turn from this path you will die in these streets.” I fell to my knees by my futon and surrendered my life to Jesus.
That’s incredible. Since you were already rapping, was it an easy transition to making music for God?
When I got saved I threw out all my hip hop albums – I was on fire for God and didn’t want anything to do with that. But then I went to the Christian book store and discovered Grapetree Records – artists like L.G. Wise, Prime Minister, and Antonious. And then I came across House of Representatives by the Cross Movement. At the time I was helping kids at this local mission and I started making rap songs for these kids. They had choir robes and we would perform together and it really spoke to people. All of a sudden churches started inviting us out, and little services soon became big festivals in Winnipeg.
5 years after my transformation, I got nominated for my first Grammy Award and became the first Canadian Christian artist to do so. But it all started with songs for kids in a small area in the hood.
I love how God took what you were doing and opened doors beyond your wildest dreams.
God blessed me because I was humble, I wasn’t looking for that kind of recognition, so God knew I wouldn’t get puffed up. I was at the Grammys looking at T.I. and Beyonce and it was overwhelming. I realized what God was doing. He knew this was going to inspire so many youth. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance – so that when I got back to my mission, traveling the highways and byways and doing community development, the young people would be inspired.
Sometimes we can be caught up in entertainment and trying to get noticed. But I just went out to do the work. I have spent years traveling to remote indigenous communities, flying up to Nunavut, and taking ice roads to reach youth and destroy the spirit of suicide. All of my albums are a tool to reach the youth in Canada.
You just dropped a new album called Wind and the Waves – what ideas were you exploring?
I’ve been through seasons where the Lord has brought me out of the storm and shown me that I had to conquer my fears. The concept of the album is that fear causes doubt and cancels faith. Jesus’ disciples were full of fear. They saw Jesus walking on the water and asked whether it was a ghost. Peter took his eyes off Jesus in the storm and became afraid and began to sink.
This album is an encouragement for believers today coming out of the pandemic. The hardships and restructuring of lives and marriages have caused a lot of problems. This album is an encouragement to conquer your fear, no matter what storm comes. If God says get in the boat we will make it to the other side.
So if there was one thing that you want listeners to this album to walk away with, what is the core message?
All the hardships we go through, we look at them as things to hurt us, but they are there to reveal the solution to our problems. To make us better than we were. A lot of our losses and storms are there to reveal the greatness that God wants us to move forward in. It’s hard when you are in it, but the eye of the storm is the most peaceful place. Jesus is the eye of the storm.
You had some great collaborations on this album, what are a few of your standout tracks?
Definitely “THE GHOST” with Scribe Music and Warren D Flandez, “THE WATER” with Dillon Chase, Precious and Jayme Giesbrecht, and “THE OTHERSIDE” with One8tea & Tanyalee Viner. I have mentored Scribe since about 2010, so it was a no-brainer to have him on the project. And I actually heard a worship verse from Dillon Chase, and in a way, it reminded me of myself and I knew I wanted to work with him. So as I did with all of my collaborators, I sent Dillon the song synopsis and scriptural breakdown. Right away he said he’d love to do it.
Wisdom from an artist with 20 years of experience is priceless! What advice would you give to up-and-coming artists?
There’s greatness inside of you that has to be unearthed. It takes discipline. It’s not about your name in lights, it’s the little things – carrying boxes of merchandise, doing free shows, etc. All of that is part of the process of unearthing greatness. Learn to be humble and pay your dues. If you want God to bless you, help someone else achieve their goals.
What’s next for Fresh IE?
There is no retirement plan for a Man of God. I aim to travel to every indigenous reservation, prison and housing project in Canada in the next three years. I am putting a team and sponsorships in place and we will touch down in every community for concerts, recreation, sharing circles, and more. We will document our travels and pitch it to streaming platforms as a series.
THE WIND AND THE WAVES is available on all streaming platforms.