Growing up on the East side of Cleveland, rapper Toobe Fresco listened to music all day long as a youth. He wrote his song at age 10, and in seventh grade, he started 3 Kingz, a hip-hop group.
In the wake of that group’s breakup — it dissolved when Fresco realized his bandmates were more interested in sports than in recording — he launched a solo career with 2009’s Mr. Del-Fresco. He’s been a presence on the local scene ever since.
Earlier this month, he officially opened his new recording studio, Breakthrough Sound, which is located in a nondescript building in Bedford. He hopes his DIY approach will appeal to local musicians who play all kinds of different music.
The idea to open a recording studio came to him last year when he worked at Studio 14, a facility that was located in the same building as the Agora.
“I had always wanted to open a studio before working at Studio 14, but I didn’t know anything about ProTools, and I didn’t know anything about how to build a studio,” says Fresco one afternoon from his new space. “Working at that studio, I learned about ProTools and how to set up a studio with paneling and soundproofing. That studio closed, but a week before they closed, I had an intense thought to open my own studio. At the time, I was still under contract with them. Then, they closed and that became my opportunity.”
He started looking for a space he could turn into a studio and found an empty office in Bedford by combing through real estate ads. He says the space needed some “serious transformation.” He ripped out the ceiling and redid the floors. He made his own sound panels and created vocal booths, where he glued foam to the ceilings.
“It stuck out to me because it’s about 10 minutes from where I live,” he says of the space. “When I first saw it, it was an open floor plan, and I walked in and had a floor plan drawn up for an idea. I realized lots of things would have to change. We also wanted to take steps to do some soundproofing, so we wouldn’t be a nuisance. I prayed on it because I didn’t want to play myself in a sense. I said, ‘Lord if this isn’t going to turn out in the right way, let us not go through with this.’ It would have been such a downer if it didn’t come through, but I got a deposit together in December of last year, and it worked out.”
In the past, Fresco would record at Tri-C’s Eastern campus where he utilized rehearsal spaces and would run cords between practice booths.
“That bug bit me from there,” he says.
He bought all his gear over the last eight to ten months and is using a 32-channel analog board that he purchased from someone who had posted it on Facebook.
“The analog sound is much richer,” he says. “It’s not as digitized and harsh. Recording through an analog board with all the original pre-amps and utilizing that natural original and organic sound can make or break how a song hits. A song will hit you one way if it’s recorded one way. I think adding that analog element can do something for hip-hop, indie rock or soul.”
So far, Fresco says he’s recorded 63 sessions. His previous engineer did 15 sessions, and his new engineer has done five sessions since he’s been there.
“You have gear now that you can buy to get a successful mix in a bedroom, which is cool,” he says when asked about the advantages of recording in a proper studio. “The problem is that you have other elements that can take away from how effective that song is. In a studio, you have proper isolation and experienced engineers who know what they’re doing. You have other gear that would cost you hundreds of dollars. Creating a solid demo at home is great, but for the final product, it’s best for you to be in a professional facility.”
Fresco hopes local musicians will gravitate to the space. While it’s still a working in progress, he’s hung vinyl albums from acts such as Prince, Michael Jackson and Daft Punk on the walls to help create a welcoming vibe.
“When I was first planning and putting together the business plan, I was trying to see how many musicians there are in Cleveland,” he says. “There are so many musicians, it’s obnoxious. The thing I wonder is how things would be different if they had the right access and how could they stand out more if they could record something like clean dreams. That’s a reason for this. We can offer that as a resource, and we’re really affordable. We keep the prices really reasonable, so any and everybody can have access.”
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