The Legend of Fresh Veggies Comes Full Circle with the Duo's Anticipated Followup 7 Years in the Making
Evan Dale // July 22, 2020
It’s 2013 and I’m struggling to pull myself from the drunken slumber of my bed while my phone – just out of reach enough to force me to make some brutally nauseating maneuvers to my bedside table – is getting lit up. As soon as I see the name flash on the screen – five new messages, then six – I know exactly what it’s about. This is one of my best friends, but not just any friend. This is the friend we all have (I hope) that is first to reach out when there’s an undiscovered gem on SoundCloud.
I tap the link. Some watercolor vegetable album artwork is emblazoned with PUMA PRESENTS. These were different times, and back then – when hip-hop was really still trying to find its new direction in the wake of the 2000’s mixtape era – brands used to sometimes sponsor musical collaborations. Adidas had one of the best with a YouTube series called Songs from Scratch that would stick two willing artists in a studio together, have them build a song, and document the entire process. I guess Puma was fronting studio time and mastering budgets for cats.
But these weren’t just any artists. I recognized both names at the top of the SoundCloud banner. (These days, it’s also available on Spotify, but back then I don’t even think another platform was considered).
Rockie Fresh and Casey Veggies Present: Fresh Veggies
That’s some quality shtick, right there. But, as I press play, it’s no gimmick, after all. The echoey obnoxiousness of Maybach Music is the first thing I hear. And then, it’s off to the races. As songs play, I start sifting back through the texts.
Check This Out
'Aladdin' is Fye
Yeah, he’s the kind of friend that texts like that too, but it’s worth the links and the ensuing conversation. I see Aladdin near the tail end of the project. I won’t cheat. I’m going to listen exactly as it was meant to be played.
It’s 2015 and I’m driving an overpacked minivan to a theatre downtown. Our friend said we could take the whip in exchange for her not having to be the sober driver. I volunteer. This show is way too important to me to miss because we don’t have a ride or because I black the fuck out. Sober will have to do. Well, at least mostly sober. The van doesn’t have Bluetooth or even an AUX chord, so I burn three CD’s before we head out. Looking back, I’m not even sure where I got blanks from, but they must have been laying around somewhere as some all but forgotten relic of my childhood introduction to real music.
It’s a Dom Kennedy show, and Casey Veggies is opening. My SoundCloud homie is in the back row of the van with two other friends and a handle of Jose Cuervo. In the middle row are a few more friends and a few more bottles. Sitting shotgun is our big homie, Chad. Not even playing about the name, but this guy’s knowledge of hip-hop – especially Golden Era West Coast rap – is legendary to us. We’re talking and smoking and bumping to the CD’s.
* * *
It’s 2020 and see my phone light up with an IG message from my SoundCloud friend. I wait for the onslaught of separates to funnel through before I pick it up and start sifting.
It’s a tracklist for Fresh Veggies 2. The artwork has improved over the last seven years, highlighting Chicago’s John Hancock Center stricken with an FV2, underlined by the Hollywood sign and framed by the famous palm trees of LA.
I’ll believe it when I see it, I respond.
But sure enough, seven years after its predecessor, Casey Veggies & Rockie Fresh are really back in cahoots for a full-length follow-up to what is – at this point – a legendary collaborative tape at the forefront of two prolific hip-hop careers. A few of the singles that have leaked out into the world over the past year or so are present (Murda, Demeanor, Miss My Dawgs), but the vast majority of the project is new and polished. And the entirety of it brims with a feeling that they’re picking up right where they left off.
The slick, deep register of Rockie Fresh. The left-of-center, twisted delivery of Casey Veggies. It’s always been that brash juxtaposition in stylistic delivery, hand-in-hand with a mutual affinity for the high-energy hip-hop anthem – the banger, the slap – that has made their collaborative relationship one of the least definable and least replicable. Off the top, Young Rockstars stands where Aladdin did in 2013. For four minutes, both rappers trade bar for bar, verse for verse, punchline for adlib, until its entirety is so engrained in a listener’s head that it has to be repeated. The track not only braggadociously reiterates what the two artists were and still are seven years later, but also stands as a keystone exhibition of just what it is that makes them such a hard-hitting duo.
With the exception of Miss My Dawgs – a tribute to Nipsey Hussle and beyond – the same can really be said about every track on the album. In seven years, both artists have occasionally teased the forthcoming FV2 while releasing prolific waves of independent projects and other collaborations. That experience shows, as does the success each have undoubtedly earned over that same time frame. Fresh Veggies 2 is a dynamic blend of a hip-hop era that has come, gone, and now come again, and a new take on what existed in 2013 with the addition of refined skillsets, more modern production techniques, and more overarching professionalism. In every way that Fresh Veggies was a necessary meeting of two young stars on the rise blending their proud West Coast and Chicago roots respectively, Fresh Veggies 2 is a proper continuation of their collaborative path that transcends the idea of geographic rap, and lands in the comfortable position of being high-fidelity, high-energy, high-quality hip-hop without borders.
And even through all the buildup – seven years’ worth of anticipation – Fresh Veggies 2 shines not only as a second chapter, but as its own, freestanding work that should not be overlooked by the hip-hop community even considering its vast delay.
To Casey Veggies & Rockie Fresh, from the fans that have been around since Fresh Veggies, thanks for bringing such an important chapter of our hip-hop foundation full circle.