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The Other Fredette: Proud Brother, Aspiring Rapper

Brigham Young University guard Jimmer  Fredette, left, and older brother TJ Fredette. The two are having a breakout year.
Greg Nelson
Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
Brigham Young University guard Jimmer Fredette, left, and older brother TJ Fredette. The two are having a breakout year.

Earlier this year, when Brigham Young University's basketball team destroyed undefeated San Diego State, Jimmer Fredette knocked down 43 points. And his older brother TJ was watching from the sidelines.

TJ is a rapper, and one of his songs, "Amazing" is the song the sports world is talking about.

The song, which has sort of become the anthem of BYU's breakout year, tells the story of the two brothers. They grew up in Glens Falls, a mill town in upstate New York, and both were searching for something bigger.

TJ's song has drawn more than 200,000 hits on YouTube. It was written and produced in the basement of the Glens Falls row house that TJ still shares with his parents.

"Like I said it's not much of a studio, but it's what I made my music on in the past," he says.

'Living On A Roller Coaster'

Their home's staircase walls are covered with trophies, press clippings and photographs.

"Yeah, this is our wall of fame, that's what we call it," TJ says. "It's got the pictures of things that we've done. Obviously my brother's gotten a lot of press, and I've gotten more press as of late."

The Fredettes are having a brilliant year. But their story isn't all about 40-point games and breakout songs.

When they were kids, it was TJ who planned to be the NBA star. He was the cutthroat athlete — tall, lean and fast. But then he got sick.

"When I was pretty young — I was actually in 8th grade — I started having severe panic attacks," he says. "That kind of carried with me all the way through high school. Panic attacks and little bouts of depression here and there."

That was the experience that first got him writing lyrics and setting them to beats.

"People trying to make the best of every situation that they're handed. But things aren't always working out the way that we planned it. And then as soon as it falls through, we can't stand it. Problems coming in faster than a plane landing. But that's life, we're living on a roller coaster."

Grabbing Success

"Usually you don't see a kid that young having those types of problems," he says. "I was very young when it started. It was very difficult for me to go to school and things like that."

"If life works there'll be time when you're hurt, when it can't get any worse and you're lying in the dirt."

"It's one of those things when you go through something like that and you're a writer, you have all this inspiration now and these feelings that you want to get off your chest," he says.

Talent is talent. Like when I make my music, don't look at me, don't look at my beliefs and things like that. Don't let that sway the way you look at my music.

With Jimmer's growing fame on the court, TJ says he too has a real chance to grab success. He says a lot more people are hearing his music, and there's talk of producing a studio album.

But there's one more twist in the Fredettes' small-town story. They're a couple of white guys, and they're both Mormon.

They used to practice basketball drills in the hallway of their Mormon church.

TJ says all that made it harder for Jimmer to establish himself on the court — and it's harder for him as a rapper.

"Talent is talent," he says. "Like when I make my music, don't look at me. Don't look at my beliefs and things like that. Don't let that sway the way you look at my music."

At times, the Fredette brothers' story scans like an Eminem song, with its tough breaks and rust belt dreams. It's still a long shot, but TJ is hoping for his own happy ending, hoping he'll soon have a lot more press clippings to squeeze up there next to Jimmer's on the family's wall of fame.

Copyright 2020 NCPR. To see more, visit NCPR.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.
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