Armed with a new energy and exuberating confidence, Frank Leone will hit Champaign-Urbana with a performance at Canopy Club tonight. With a new projects in works, he’s ready to put his name in lights. I had the opportunity to interview Frank before his show and here’s what he had to say.
Smile Politely: What personal experience(s) do you have that influence your writing and style?
Frank Leone: I try to filter my influence, but anything strange or out of the ordinary across any kind of art interests me. The last song on my new project answers this question perfectly, too. I grew up next to Allerton Park and that had a big impact on my production style for #EnterWILD.
SP: How old were you when you started making music, and how have you evolved from that?
Leone: I’ve been playing piano since 3rd grade, but I started rapping and making beats when I was 15. It was all pretty weak at first, so the development into something that actually sounds good is the biggest change [laughs]. My EP Deep Ocean was more of a laid back record, but my new project is pure powerful energy.
SP: Do you remember the song that made you think to yourself, “I want to be a rapper”?
Leone: When Vic Mensa told me he liked my verse on the remix of “Be” by Kids These Days, that made me want to take music seriously.
SP: What was it like getting your first single out?
Leone: Probably underwhelming. I was recording with my friend’s Rock Band Mic in my bedroom at first. It consisted of emailing maybe three friends and realizing it was terrible, then deleting it. The first time one of my songs got “buzz” was an old joint I did with Dave Coresh. A big Chicago site Fakeshoredrive posted it before he could’ve even heard the whole thing [laughs]. Shouts to them.
SP: How do you think you influence the Chicago music scene, and how has it influenced you?
Leone: Chicago is in a new renaissance right now; no other city has better music coming from it in such a large movement right now. There’s so many different sounds coming from kids my age across the city, and the energy makes it really competitive. If you want to succeed you have to truly be the best. I’d like to think I encourage people to think independently and experiment more with their sound.
SP: Which artists have and still influence your music?
Leone: Kanye West, Passion Pit, Yung Polo, Steve Reich, Kids These Days, THC, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Frank Ocean, Tribe Called Quest, Yeasayer, OFWGKTA, Toro y Moi, Lil B, Gil Scott-Heron, Kendrick Lamar, King Krule, MIA, MHS Marching Band, Hiatus Kaiyote, and a few others.
SP: Is there someone you’d love to collaborate with?
Leone: Chance the Rapper and Glass Animals. I’m looking forward to finally working with my homie Isaiah Rashad, too.
SP: Do you have a ritual before you go out and perform?
Leone: I play music that inspired what I wrote so I remember the feeling it gave me. And I drink the honey tea if it’s a long set… I hate tea.
SP: How is it like performing with Saba and other artists like Mick Jenkins?
Leone: Beautiful. Saba is the best performer out of Chicago right now and Mick has such a daunting presence live, makes me have to give my best performance. And it will be.
SP: Any special projects we should keep an eye out for?
Leone: My project #EnterWILD is why you’re here! I’m sticking my foot in the door and burning my name into the industry with this, I’m really trying to make the best album of the year, printing my perspective of the world in the music so to speak. It’s produced entirely by me, and coming late spring. The next video will explain everything. I’m working on some secret projects you’ll find out about soon too. The best is yet to come. (Follow @franklynRaps to stay updated.)