The odds are against Tyler Cassidy, better known as Froggy Fresh, formerly known as Krispy Kreme. Not in the sense that the odds are against, say, the Compton youth listeners hear throughout Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d. city; a listener never suspects that hip-hop is Froggy’s only escape from a culture of fear and violence. Froggy Fresh’s challenge is the difficult-to-improbable move from Internet novelty to serious MC. And regardless of the glints of self-awareness throughout his music, Froggy could only have begun as an Internet novelty.
“The Baddest,” Tyler Cassidy’s first song (he released his initial videos as Krispy Kreme before the donut company threatened legal action), went viral on the strength–or whatever one wants to call it–of lyrics such as “I could beat you up even if you had one thousand knives.”
The video has 11,097,925 views and counting. I hesitated to post anything about Krispy Kreme/Froggy Fresh because of a distaste for the self-conscious contrarianism of a lot of Internet music writing, writers styling themselves after Chuck Klosterman and acting as apologists for garbage in efforts to score pageviews. “Same Old Kid” changed my mind.
Froggy has improved as a rapper from “The Baddest” to “Same Old Kid” only by degrees. Even so, listening to him drill away at the barrier between viral-meme territory and a space in which he could be judged, positively or negatively, as a legitimate performer is genuinely exciting stuff.
The extent to which Tyler Cassidy regards himself as a novelty act is unclear. Likewise what gestures Froggy and sidekick Money Maker Mike view as ironic–the gangster posturing in “Haters Wanna Be Me,” the name Money Maker Mike–and what they intend to be taken seriously, or at least taken as sincere celebrations of hip-hop culture. But this opacity reads as deliberate to me–something Froggy Fresh controls, at least in part.
What separates Tyler Cassidy from a fleet of other white kids playing rapper on YouTube, or from the unfortunate subgenre of comedy that presumes hilarity in white people performing some aspect of blackness, is the amount of world building that takes place in his videos. Froggy/Krispy and Money Maker Mike have a recurring enemy in James, a small-time hood, and each altercation has the guileless, improvised quality of a playground cops-and-robbers session.
Tyler Cassidy’s grounding of his music in a boylike sense of play keeps his (admittedly gradual) improvement as a performer compelling. We get to watch this good natured loudmouth grow up, at least a little bit. And it’s heartening to know that he continues to make music after being mocked from numerous corners of the Internet, that he was unfazed by calls from the legal team of one of America’s most popular pastry makers. The mechanisms that brought Froggy Fresh to the Internet’s attention often just produce jeers, but if he’s aware of the noise, he’s not listening.