Interview: Frankie J Talks New Single, Chemistry with Baby Bash & Maintaining Sound
The 2000’s was such a fun time for Hip Hop and R&B because you had artists from different cultures who came in and put their spin on the genres with their own influences. Frankie J was able to bring his Latin flavor to the genre of R&B with records like “Obsession” and “Suga Suga” which fused what we knew as R&B with something brand new. This allowed for him to have a lot of chart success and separate himself from the pack as he was able to crossover into the Pop market. In recent years though, Frankie J has shifted his focus towards the Latin market with his latest album “Faith, Hope y Amor” which was nominated for a Grammy. Building off the success of that, he is back in the studio to work on his next project which includes the new single “Don’t Stop It”. YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to speak with Frankie J about his upcoming project, his work with Baby Bash and also his ability to merge the Latin and English markets.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about your new single “Don’t Stop It”.
Frankie J: That song was written and recorded back in 2005. Believe it or not, it was a song Bash and I got together with and made it happen. The song just stayed there for a long time. It’s almost 10 years and we kind of let it there. It was supposed to be a song that I was going to use on one of the albums while I was with Sony but it never made the cut. I forgot about it and it was collecting dust until just recently. I stumbled upon it on my computer and I called Bash and was like “I’m going to put this song on my Soundcloud and we’ll see what the fans think”. He was like “Put it out! I’ve always liked the song”. I put it on my Soundcloud and it has over 16,000 plays. I’m promoting it now, so I’m excited. We’ll see what happens.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your last project “Faith, Hope y Amor” featured more of an acoustic sound to it where as “Don’t Stop It” is more throwback. Is that the direction you’re going into?
Frankie J: In the past, I’ve used a lot of pianos and more ballad type songs. This time, it’s a lot more retro and more of that funk. I’m using more of that live instrumentation, but more of that groove. “Don’t Stop It” definitely has that vibe and who would have thought 10 years from now that we would have been putting it out and performing it? Bash was even telling me like “I think we were a little ahead of our time when that song was done” because it’s so relevant on radio now with people like Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke and Pharrell. I’m definitely excited about it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve collaborated with Baby Bash on a bunch of records. Talk about your chemistry with him.
Frankie J: The stuff I do with him, it always has to come easy because we’ve always had this connection and chemistry in the studio. It’s been there since our first song “Suga Suga”. We always have fun. We never think about anything in the studio. We go with our gut feeling and he’ll think of some cool concepts. I’ll do the same and when we get together, it just comes out naturally. We don’t put too much thought into it and that’s what people love from us. We always just come up with something fresh and just have fun with it. That’s how the hits are recorded.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your last album was recorded on Universal Music Latin. Was that similar to your situation at Sony or was it strictly distribution?
Frankie J: No, I got signed as an artist with Universal in 2011. It was December 17th of 2011 and it took almost 2 years for us to put out the album “Faith, Hope y Amor” and it was long awaited and it was actually nominated for a Grammy in 2014. I went to the Grammy’s and enjoyed myself. I really soaked it all in. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the Grammy’s and I was very excited just simply because of the nomination. I was nominated for best Pop Latin album of the year. Unfortunately we didn’t take it but the nomination was humungous for me. Now we’re just back in the studio working on a new album together with some fresh ideas. I’m going along with that retro sound and that funk fusion. You never know, I might get another nomination!
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your last album was a half Spanish and Half English. You have fanbases on both sides, so talk about that balance and what the challenge has been.
Frankie J: For me, my success in my career has always been both Spanish and English. I’ve always dipped into my roots which is Latino. I was born in Mexico, but raised in the US. I tend to bring my sound to the Pop market. I feel it’s very important because it’s who I am and who I represent. There’s always a balance there, but I feel it’s always something that will be a part of me and I can never get away from it. I think “Obsession” was one of the biggest Pop/Urban sounding songs with both languages fused so it opened up something new back in 2005. Actually before that, I had “Don’t Wanna Try”. As I did my venture as a solo artist, I did that song in both English and Spanish and it did wonders for my career. I think it will always be who I am and I will never get away from that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve always walked that fine line between R&B and Pop, but it seems in recent years, the 2 genres have gone their separate ways with Pop being more EDM driven How have you been able to maintain your career during that transition?
Frankie J: I was just being myself. I wasn’t thinking about the genres. I wasn’t thinking “I need to be more Urban or more Pop”. I think what’s important is for an artist to be an artist. It’s just about being who you are and what you represent. If you think too much about what’s on the radio and the certain types of styles, you tend to get lost. You have to be original and be who you are. That’s how I’ve been able to maintain myself and sustain my career and be able to stay alive in this day and age in what we’re doing. I’m grateful for that and thankful that the fans have been very supportive and loyal. It’s very understanding because everywhere that I go, I always get people who say “When are we going to hear more stuff on the radio?” That’s what we’re working on that right now and I think everything happens for a reason. You just have to stay working and focused.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Along with your solo career, you’ve had a chance to work with different producers. One producer you put on the map is Happy Perez who has gone on to work with people like Mariah Carey, Miguel and Frank Ocean. What kind of impact do you think you’ve had on his success?
Frankie J: I’m very happy for him and very excited for what’s happening in his career as well. No matter who has success in certain areas, we still keep that door open for the team. As a matter of fact, I just spoke to him because our song “Suga Suga” has been remade and it’s going to come out. I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s an artist from the European continent. It’s a very famous DJ and we actually spoke about it on the phone. We’re in the process of clearing the clearances, so we’re all very excited. It’s something we created and we feel honored another big artist is actually remaking our song. Happy Perez has been a long-time friend and he’s like a brother to me. He’s had a lot of success with Mariah, Miguel and Frank Ocean and we’re getting back to it. We’re going to get back together and work on some new music. The more success he has, he’s just going to pull us right in. We help each other out.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about the work you’ve done with Bryan-Michael Cox in the past because you guys have a lot of great chemistry together.
Frankie J: Working with Bryan was a dream come true because I’ve seen his work from when he first started working with Jermaine Dupri. My synergy with him was amazing as well. It’s always great to work with good people and humble people such as Bryan. When you work with humble people, it comes easy. When you’re creating and thinking of concepts, this guy is an amazing producer. He’s not just a producer, he can sing! We’re in there going at it with different melodies and it was just an amazing experience. As a matter of fact, we shoot each other messages on social media. We’re always like “We’ve got to get back in and work”. I would definitely love to get back in with Bryan. He’s a great producer and friend throughout the years. It would be awesome to get back in with him. As a matter of fact, every time I perform and do my shows, I always love to do the stuff that we did together. There’s a song called “On The Floor” which was a sample from Wham! and a song called “How To Deal” that we did together. It’s just always cool to go back to those songs and perform them for fans.