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Rapper FRZY scores 'Glorious' collaboration with Pittsburgh Symphony

A Black man wearing a white suit lies on stage while reading sheet music.
George Lange
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
FRZY at Heinz Hall.

When he was a kid, Harvey Daniels and his mother often caught the bus Downtown. When it rained, he’d sometimes take shelter on the sidewalk beneath the Heinz Hall marquee

Three decades later, Daniels is the rapper known as FRZY (pronounced "frizzy"). And this week, he’ll become the first hip-hop artist to take an original collaboration with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to Heinz Hall — indoors, and on the stage.

The Wed., Nov. 8, show, titled “The Glorious Succession of FRZY,” is a fully orchestrated version of his new album, “Success,” backed by the full PSO and special guests.

“To be a Pittsburgh boy, born and bred, and to be performing at the legendary Heinz Hall, is crazy,” FRZY said.

Your Neighbor

FRZY, who grew up in East Liberty and graduated from Schenley High School, has been making a name for himself for years.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra stands on stage in Heinz Hall while holding instruments.
George Lange
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

In 2016, the raspy-voiced rapper released his debut album, the double LP “God King Slave.” He’s toured nationally with the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Wayne and Twista. He won a 2018 Emmy for his hip-hop reworking of Mr. Rogers’ theme song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”; worked with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to promote diverse voices in children’s books; broke the Guinness Book of World Records mark for longest freestyle rap (with a nearly 32-hour rhyme); and modeled for an Eat ‘N Park Smiley Cookie.

He was even honored by Allegheny County Council, which declared Jan. 11, 2019, “FRZY Day.”

In retrospect, a collaboration with the world-touring PSO seems almost inevitable.

For one, FRZY, 38, was a fan of orchestral hip-hop productions like Jay-Z’s pioneering 2006 show at the Royal Albert Hall.  

“I’ve always dreamt of this,” FRZY said.  

Symphony Dreams

He connected with the PSO through contacts including Philadelphia-based violinist Alexandra Cutler-Fetkewicz, who had played on one of his records, and Byron Stripling, the PSO’s Principal Pops conductor.  

Last year, with the “Succession” project in development, FRZY met Christian Kriegeskotte, an accomplished composer who’s the PSO’s senior manager of popular programming.  

Christian Kriegeskotte
John Fischer
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
The PSO's Christian Kriegeskotte wrote original orchestral arrangements for the show.

“There was good chemistry immediately,” said Kriegeskotte. The composer, who studied at Carnegie Mellon University, asked FRZY who was going to write his charts, and a collaboration was born.

In June, the PSO joined FRZY in Point State Park for a performance at the Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth Homecoming Celebration.  

“The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra brings people together to share in the beauty, power and richness of orchestral music, which plays well with many genres of music,” said Melia Tourangeau, the PSO’s president and CEO, in a press release announcing “Glorious Succession.” “From classical to jazz, film scores, rock, Broadway, R&B, gospel, and, yes, hip-hop and rap, we continue to connect with our community in innovative and memorable ways and with many creative voices.”  

FRZY’s album “Success” dropped Nov. 1, the same day as its companion long-player, “Popularity.”

“Popularity is what I used to think I wanted, and needed. … Success is who I am now,” said FRZY, who these days splits his time between Pittsburgh, New York City and Los Angeles. “I wanted to bring attention to the difference.”

As the “Glorious Succession” project moved ahead, Kriegeskotte got to know FRZY’s music. He was conversant in hip hop, which he grew up listening to in New York in the ’80s and ’90s. In Pittsburgh, he met folks on the local scene, including friends who made beats for a young Mac Miller.

Many pop stars, and even rappers, have performed live with orchestral backing. Sting, for instance, played Heinz Hall this year, and Common took the Heinz Hall stage in 2017. But those artists supplied pre-written charts the PSO brought to life. Kriegeskotte’s vision was to go beyond standard orchestral arrangements.

“A lot of musical arrangements, particularly of pop songs, tend to imitate the song,” he said. “You’re trying to, like, just get the song onstage — not unlock some new potential in that song, which is outside of the note, the harmony, sometimes even the words.”

The Big-Screen Treatment

Kriegeskotte’s solution — given FRZY’s love for superhero movies like “Black Panther” — was to approach the project like a film score. It’s a strategy for which he’s well-suited.

As a CMU freshman, in 1998, Kriegeskotte did a project involving the score for the “Legend of Zelda” video game. In Hollywood, in the 2000s, he created and edited scores and parts for composers including John Williams and Danny Elfman, and worked in the music department of films including “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” and Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds.” (The PSO hired Kriegeskotte in 2021.)

Zuly Inirio
Opera singer Zuly Inirio is among the performers in "The Glorious Succession of FRZY."

“Why can’t a rapper be an orchestral soloist?” said Kriegeskotte. “We’ve reimagined all of this material from the orchestra’s perspective as like symphony orchestra music.”

“The Glorious Succession of FRZY” runs 90 minutes. It will open with an original, superhero-style FRZY theme, played by the PSO, conducted by the PSO’s Moon Doh.

Ultimately, said FRZY, there will be more than 100 musicians on stage, including his own band, The Faculty; DJ Solo Dolo; vocalist Megan Paullet; opera singer Zuly Inirio; and Mount Ararat Baptist Church minister of music and fine arts Dwayne Fulton.

“We’re distilling the essence of FRZY and dropping it into this,” he added. “This alchemy is letting us mix up a new recipe, but FRZY is still the main ingredient.”

“It’s really its own cinematic glory itself,” said FRZY, speaking of Kriegeskotte’s orchestration. “It’s kinda like listening to my own biography, but playing myself.”

More information is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: