Being a genuine person at all times is one of the most difficult things anybody can do. We are constantly pulled in different directions, and so often find ourselves adjusting who we are…even if it’s slightly…to fit into the situations. Some people need to do this because who they are to begin with hasn’t been identified by themselves yet. Others pander to find acceptance. Hip-Hop music is full of people trying to be everybody else while selling you on their originality. Well, Frankie Flowers isn’t playing those games.
Frankie Flowers is a deep young man, who is not being deep for the sake of being that way. Frankie is a guy who sincerely cares about community, being a leader and role model, and truly wants to leave you impacted through quality music.
Frankie Flowers is an honest talent and he is honest with you about who he is. He is still very much growing and evolving as a person and artist, but it is in a natural way, not forced by anything other than the desire to be something great. But, his version of what is great isn’t bling or the trappings of the fast life…it’s a revived urban society and the ability to continue his music without compromising himself and his message (among others).
It is that message that he delivers that I wanted to get more information about, and Frankie came through.
How has living in the Midwest and on the west coast influenced you stylistically?
It’s allowed me to broaden my concepts and write from a more creative space with depth. Living out west opened me up artistically, while being from the Midwest I still maintain that down-to-earth vibe.
Everybody grows and matures in different ways between albums. How is Frankie Flowers different now when looking back on the Frankie of the first project?
Well early on when I was writing my first project, I was somewhat careless in regards to structural concepts. I would say I wrote like a child of innocence that says whatever comes to mind. All I wanted to do was write about life in Milwaukee. I didn’t think much of taking music serious by any means. That only came about after traveling to different cities and having people tell me to keep doing what I’m doing because my music was different and they could see the potential. When I wrote my sophomore album I wrote with more of a controlled emotion, allowing the world into my personal life. This project showed my growth as an artist and garnered a lot of respect from music lovers all over. The maturity can be credited to the good and bad experiences over the time spent out west. Finally understanding that change is inevitable, I can only accept it and adapt accordingly. Frankie Flowers now, can’t be described as the same person before because who I thought I was 2 years ago isn’t who I am today. My mindset is different and I’m on somewhat of a personal and spiritual journey seeking enlightenment.
It means my future remains bright. As long as there is struggle going on throughout the world, then there will always be something for me to write about. I continue to press forward with life, affecting those I come across and remain true to heart. Honestly I aspire to travel worldwide remaining an independent artist. I’m not going to act as if I’m not concerned about making money from what I do, because that isn’t true. But I refuse to compromise my artistic integrity to have any kind of monetary gain. Having total control of my career is a must.
If you look around you’ll notice that several rappers in Milwaukee are actually involved with the community, working for non-profits or volunteering on a regular basis. What drives you to volunteer your precious time to the community?
I had people throughout my life growing up who took out time from their lives to make sure I was on the straight path. Whether it was the neighborhood mechanic fixing my bike, or pee wee football coach giving me words of encouragement to continue battle with the bigger kids, or just an elder that would see me around the way, I feel those moments were beneficial to keeping me out of the streets along with a steady household. I feel since I’m a rarity in Milwaukee, why not give back however you can? You don’t have to give money all the time to show someone you care. A lot of these kids I encounter are happy to have your time and attention even if it’s only for an hour or two.
You have some strong feelings about the “inner city”. What is going to change the levels of violence for the better within the urban landscape?
That’s a tough question yielding no simple response. There are a lot of factors that are needed in my opinion. On one hand, we need more community involvement in the lives of our youth like the days of old. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” seems to be forgotten. Times have gotten so bad that we no longer look out for one another. Instead, when we know of any crime happening right in our own neighborhoods, we take the “don’t snitch” approach, which has been widely taken out of context. Just to clarify what I mean, from my understanding of what snitching is, it applies to those involved in criminal activity like robbery or drug trafficking. It isn’t snitching if, for example, your neighbor’s house gets broken into and you witnessed what happened and you identified those involved. If you were the victim of such crime, wouldn’t you want answers about the break in and why you were targeted? Now it is snitching if you get busted for doing something wrong, and decide to tell on people to lighten or reduce your punishment. A good example of this would be the actions of Frank Lucas, from American Gangster, after he was finally caught. We need more parental concern regarding kids and their academics instead of the “oh well” attitude. The less concerned we seem as parents, the more the kids will continue to feel like no one cares about them so why should they. We need more people to realize what being a role model is. It doesn’t mean you have to be in the NBA, or appear on BET, or have a lot of money. It isn’t decided by your age or sex, but how mature you handle situations life throws at you. A role model can be a janitor that shows respect towards you every time he encounters you, or that older guy that lives across from you who asks you if you want to go shoot some hoops with him and his friends at the park, or that librarian who helps you on your research project even when you were too shy to ask for help. My point is that role models come in all walks of life, and we as a collective can benefit from knowing that. Once we acknowledge the fact that we all are role models to someone regardless of where we are in life, we can begin to influence many. On the other hand do I see any of these solutions happening anytime soon? No. The inner city is trapped in a system inside of multiple systems designed to keep things the way they are for the worse. Am I hopeful that one day we can have peaceful communities in urban areas throughout this country? Yes, but I don’t believe that will occur in our life time.
In an attempt to spread the word about your music, you have done some shows in other cities and have had a chance to take in the way they consume Hip-Hop. Have you gone to a place and said to yourself, “now this place is doing it right”?
Yes. A few cities have shown more appreciation for what I do than Milwaukee. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for those that have supported me thus far in Milwaukee, but for the most part it’s when I’m out of Wisconsin that people seem to be thankful of me. I don’t want anyone to idealize me, but when you’re surrounded by a lot of negativity in your hometown it can wear on you and have you doubting yourself. Going to unfamiliar places where the people know little about you, and you have one shot to rock that crowd and make them want to know who you are, is a wonderful experience. For them to actually pay attention to more than just your beat and be able to relate to you makes it all the more meaningful.
How do you compare the Milwaukee Hip-Hop scene to other places that you have been? Can MKE artists make it by staying in MKE in your opinion or do they have to move to a music capital to find a way to get on?
Milwaukee’s scene is better than it once was and is continuing to get better, but it’s still a tough place to gain loyal and consistent supporters compared to other cities. Honestly I don’t know if Milwaukee artists can make it by remaining in Milwaukee. On one hand I feel that the artists can because it’s a lot of talent here and being that I lived outside of the city, I know people are noticing that talent. On the other hand, I feel like it’s not possible because the artist needs to have a solid fan base in their hometown, and Milwaukee is an iffy place for that support once again. It’s just my opinion, but who am I right? According to most critics in Milwaukee they tell me all the time I won’t make it lol. The best way I can sum it up is that each person needs to have their own definition of success and “making it.” After that, just focus on achieving those goals.
So many people still put a lot of confidence in the radio. Milwaukee has two listener supported radio stations that try to do a good job of playing music the typical stations don’t play. One of them, 88.9 Radio Milwaukee, has been fairly vocal about their support of you and have been giving your track “Koolness” regular play for a while now. Has your visibility in Milwaukee changed as a result of this?
The crazy thing is yes but no. People are more aware of the name Frankie Flowers now, but not of the actual person partly because I don’t go out much. When most people see me, if they didn’t know who I was already, they would just think I’m just another person. Only when I’m out and a DJ mentions I’m in the building or someone introduces someone to me, people then start to recognize me. In terms of my online visibility, I will say 88nine has helped me a lot because my iTunes sales have increased dramatically and I receive a lot of messages from Facebook, MySpace and Twitter since “Koolness” hit regular rotation.
You are a very serious guy. What do you do for fun that isn’t related to music or your community work?
You may not believe it, but I’m a boring person lol. I work two jobs and like to keep a low profile. I read a lot of books. I don’t watch much TV except football during football season. GO Patriots!!! I watch playoff basketball but not every game. I like playing chess and I ponder on the meaning of life a lot. That’s pretty much it.
Any shout outs?
Just want to thank everyone that supports my work by coming out to shows, by buying my albums and t-shirts, and those that continue to believe in me. It’s because of you that I feel like the little engine that could lol. Thank you to you JC and anyone else that has reached out to me whether it was asking me to do an interview or collaborate on a project or show. And last a special thank you to “the official button pusher”.
Here is a track from Frankie’s new album New Beginning called “Freedom Fighter”.