RAPPER JEREMY “AUSTIN” FAIR’ 18 IS STARTING TO MAKE WAVES BEYOND THE PIONEER VALLEY
“These things bigger than me / so, please, follow my lead / we got one shot / to follow our dreams.”
SO GO THE FIRST LINES of “Become King,” the third track on the 2019 album Alumni by Chicopee, Massachusetts, native Austin Fair ’18. The album centers around a young man growing up and going off to college at a fictitious “TTU”—an autofictional account of Fair’s coming-of-age here at American International College. The connections are clear enough as the album flows along, but it is made obvious when he name-checks his alma mater on the final track, “Destiny.”
A graduate of the communications department’s new media program, Fair took advantage of that culture and the opportunities it provided.
“AIC was a crucial part of my development not only as an artist, but in life as well. There are a large number of colleges and universities that have the same old look and feel to them, and sometimes that energy can be uncomfortable as a young Black man. When you go to AIC, you are becoming a part of a true culture of diverse people all working towards success,” Fair says.
That was a part of what drew him to the College in the first place—in “Graduation Day,” he refers to his hometown upbringing, saying the “413 raised me different / Chicopee white privilege is amazing.”
WITH THAT IN MIND, Fair sought to grow as a person and further his career, working in a community that he says attracted him because “there is a plethora of different sports, student organizations, and activities to immerse yourself in so you never feel left out.”
“In my time at school, I was blessed to become president of AIC Radio as well as AIC Graphic Design Club and really define myself on campus,” he says. “The smaller class sizes helped me build strong bonds with my professors, such as Marty Langford and Carol De Carlo. They gave me the tools to succeed during and after college.” Fair is now a director and studio technician at WWLP 22News in Chicopee.
Continued growth is the core of Fair’s story, and just as his experience in wanting to grow beyond that Chicopee community drew him to AIC, his desire to reach new heights—and inspire others to dream bigger—has pulled him beyond the 413, toward Boston.
“After years of building as an artist in Western Massachusetts, I know that there is ultimately a ceiling on what you can do with your talents here,” he says. “My music shines light on the raw truth in that struggle to be something bigger than ever before. I believe more artists from Massachusetts should also see the big picture, and as soon as we have artists performing at the highest level, in front of the world, that will be the best representation the Western Mass area could ever enjoy.”
Fair’s 2020 follow-up, Pioneer, displays yet more growth. The title is a nod to Fair’s roots, and he lays out right away how far he thinks he can go in the album’s opening track, “Spectacular,” when he says, “Ask me if this album is a classic / I just say ‘of course’ / Massachusetts rap ain’t nothin’ like this / we the only source.”
Part of what makes it seem like every song and album Fair puts out nails the bullseye is the reality of the experiences behind them. Even though Pioneer was not written the way Alumni was in terms of drilling down on a specific time of Fair’s life, the two are connected in how Fair writes about what he knows best: his own life and the world around him. That, in turn, explains how he has managed to put out so much quality music in such a short timeframe; in addition to Alumni and Pioneer, Fair also released Hippodrome in 2019 and Joyride in early 2020, a staggering amount of music in a span of just a few years.
“After more than ten years of making music, it has become easier to create good songs at a high volume,” Fair says. “Typically, when I get in the right space to make an album, there is usually an overall message that helps the songs sort of write themselves. If you are an artist of purpose, the ability to create large amounts of music should be the easy part. I might create anywhere from fifty to a hundred songs just to give people the ten best ones.”
That purpose, and the resulting quality, has gotten Fair noticed well beyond the Valley. Pioneer was nominated for the 2020 Boston Music Awards’ Album of the Year, and Fair was nominated for Breakthrough Artist of the Year.
Fair has no plans to stop just in Boston, either.
“I am currently preparing to come out of the other end of the pandemic more polished musically and creatively,” he says. “I want to become a countrywide household name, and I believe I have everything it takes to do so. Prepare to see a large amount of high-quality visuals and other related content from me very soon.”
It all goes back to those lyrics in “Become King.” The one thing about Fair that has not changed—indeed, the one thing that has become more true, aside from his ability—is his belief that you have to keep growing, but that as long as you do that, success will follow. “I hope to inspire more kids like me to take on the world and be unafraid to break social norms to do so,” he says. “Absolutely never give up on your wildest dreams. Many people along your road to success are going to offer you advice that can prove to be toxic to someone who is trying to become a pioneer of their craft. Stay true to who you are and never sell yourself short.”