Chicago-born rapper Fredo Santana died last week of a seizure in Los Angeles. The 27-year-old artist, born Derrick Coleman, was a key player in the Drill music genre widely regarded as a product of the Chicago hip-hop scene.
Defined by Wikipedia as having “dark, grim, violent, nihilistic lyrical content,” Drill is derived from Trap, a complementary genre of layered, ominous sound with a heavy kick that originated in the Southern U.S.
Although Santana rode the Drill attitude to success, many fans remember him for his remarkable talent. According to Aubrey Walker, CCO of Chicago agency Teachers Never Liked Us, Fredo was “different.”
“The industry hadn’t seen anything this raw and creative,” he explains. “There was a creative authenticity that couldn’t be matched.”
Slang Music Founder and Chicago House Music pioneer Vince Lawrence added, “Fredo was clearly talented, creating a new lane in music along with a real voice for the disenfranchised youth of Chicago.”
Santana’s first notable hip-hop contribution was a mixtape titled, It’s a Scary Site. Released in September 2012, the work featured guest appearances by national artists like Frenchie, Lil Reese, and Chief Keef, who is also Santana’s cousin.
It’s a Scary Site paved the way for Santana’s sophomore follow-up, the mixtape Fredo Kruger, which featured Soulja boy, Migos, and Fat Trel, among others.
Later that year, Santana released his first and only studio album, Trappin Ain’t Dead. Recorded on his own label, Savage Squad Records, it included guest appearances by Kendrick Lamar, PeeWee Longway, and Chief Keef, among others, and rose to number 45 on the U.S. R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
Following the success of the album, Santana, like many of his contemporaries, sought to escape the drama and violence of Chicago by moving to L.A. In doing so, he paved a path for others to follow.
Walker summarizes the move with as much significance as he describes Santana’s music.
“Because of his determination, creativity and grind,” he says, “Fredo may have saved more lives of his friends and family than the lives he talked about taking on wax.”
Santana is survived by his son, Legend.