Exclusive Video Premiere and Interview: ‘BEWARE,’ Frank Leone

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Published November 5, 2014

ABOVE: FRANK LEONE. PHOTO BY TRANSMENTAL.

Producers don’t often cite Phantom of the Opera and Frank Ocean in the same breath, but this breadth of influences is part of what makes Chicago-based rapper and musician Frank Leone a standout talent. It’s been a banner year for the 19 year-old, who recently sold out his first headlining show with rising Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins and joined Ab Soul and Denzel Curry on a string of tour dates. Later this autumn, Leone will release his self-produced album EnterWILD.

“BEWARE,” the latest single from Leone’s forthcoming album, is an eerie freestyle monologue that features winding lines like “our generation inherited impaired parents afraid of waking in creation equally as depressed.” We spoke to Leone about his style, being a one-man machine, and the new video for “BEWARE,” which we are pleased to premiere below.

AGE: 19

HOMETOWN: Monticello, Illinois

FIRST START: I was always playing music growing up. My mom put me in piano lessons very early, and I was playing the kind of music I hated—so I quit. I did jazz band and drumline in high school. Kanye started all this. I was working at a summer camp freshman year when I heard College Dropout for the first time. MBDTF came out that year and I started rapping a week later.

SWEET HOME CHICAGO: I just moved to Chicago this summer. I was born and raised in a small town two hours south called Monticello, next to a large forest called Allerton Park where “BEWARE” was shot and where the album is set. But Chicago is incredible. I hate living surrounded by grey lifeless buildings, but musically there is no place on Earth as eclectic and powerful as Chicago. I try not to take inspiration from the city itself, but competition from cats like Saba and Mick Jenkins forces you to apply 110% to your craft.

METHOD MAN: I approach every song with blissful ignorance. I don’t really have a process when it comes to making compositions or writing, I just toy with the fundamental sounds until I can hear something that might complement and go from there. Going in with an intended destination isn’t as fun as allowing the music to pave it’s own way.

BEHIND THE “BEWARE” VIDEO: I came up with the idea on the way home from SXSW this year in a very cramped car having not slept in two days. I wanted to do a film that delivers the anger I had making #EnterWILD as unconventionally raw as possible. It was a simple one-take, Tarantino-inspired shot in Allerton Park. The videographer requested his name be removed from the project because he found it “too offensive,” which is a perfect example of why I made this: Artists are so afraid of saying real things in this day and age over fear of backlash or losing fans. Even the rappers claiming to speak “truth” only speak on the idea of truth, because they don’t want to get blasted by someone else. I think that’s stupid, especially when all I talk about in this video are real problems. I’m a 19-year-old kid. I do very ignorant things and have a life to live ahead of me, but I’m not an idiot, and I don’t stay quiet when things aren’t right.

LONE WOLF: #EnterWILD is essentially done; it’s all timing now. Releasing an album with no crew, management, or PR is kind of crazy, but I’m excited.  There will be one more angry song releasing before the album, but overall the project just makes you feel….powerful.  That’s what I want the kids my age listening to feel, because we are.

FOR MORE ON FRANK LEONE, VISIT HIS SOUNDCLOUD.