Frankie Carrera – “Frankie Carrera” – Available September 22
The music, rhymes and flow of Chicago-based rapper, singer and multi-instrumentalist Frankie Carrera represent an introspective and surreal aural journey–a hazy time-lapse portrait of survival, grit and grace, hauntingly captured on his official self-titled debut. Imagine regaining consciousness, washed up on a Cabo San Lucas shoreline, face down, sand in your teeth, beaten with your wallet and belongings gone, with severe neck and spine trauma: Injuries you don’t even detect right away for all the adrenaline pumping through your system, mysteries clouding your mind, and anger steadily rising to test the gauge of your emotional content and character.
Mere hours before, you were celebrating your return to Mexico’s party capital, about to share a sold-out Saturday show days later with superstar Waka Flocka Flame at the legendary El Squid Roe, a double-bill that you as a co-promoter were bringing to town. After leaving a small bar near the Marina with a Texas dream girl on your arm and three others, suddenly the last thing you remember is running. This is ground zero for the seven songs of Frankie Carrera. Pulsing at the center of this feverish and sensuous offering is the cyclical dichotomy of sweet dreams and bitter reality, propelled by the audacity to maintain hope and faith.
Frankie Carrera boasts hallucinogenic tracks produced by aural illustrators Bread Doe, Yuya Michael Ohashi, and Millz, among others–swimming in synths and sound effects yet punctuated with the live instrumentation of piano and trumpet. Short songs in which vivid verses burst out of the Andy Kravitz mastered tracks that keep the listener steadily pushing rewind, submerged into the mindset of a man piecing his puzzle back together.
“I felt like this was what everyone would want to hear,” Carrera states. “I was in a recording studio after my surgery in a neck brace on Percocet, stiffened up by a permanent screw in my spine and out of my element. Bread Doe assured me, ‘No, this is it. I can hear your pain. This is yourThrough The Wire moment.'” This studio session resulted in the track “Medication.” “Making this music takes me back to Mexico. Coming home from paradise to Chicago where these streets don’t ever change with folks dying every single day, I turn my nightmares into dreams,” Carrera states. “The experience gave me a bitter taste of the world. So I said I’m going to ground myself, regroup out in L.A. and come back with something real that my fans will appreciate and respect. I could have just faded away but I came back even better with a sound that is shocking.”
The lead single, “Noche,” waxes poetic of drowning one’s sorrows in a blissful night of debauchery with a mystery woman and features a verse from guest artist Khalil. The video, directed by LOUIEKNOWS, is an arresting introduction to a heady meditation on recovery. Other highlights include “Godly,” featuring Ezkiel, “More Than This” and the intensely evocative “Cold Summer,” with singer Kaye Fox.
Carrera, as well as his younger sister were born in Chicago to a loving mother and father, the latter a drummer in a traveling Spanish rock band. He grew up with Sinatra and Santana simultaneously in his ears. One day around the age of eight, Carrera heard Eminem’s “Stan” in his dad’s car and was transfixed by the Detroit rap maverick’s voice and delivery. “I thought what he was doing was so cool and wanted to rap like that.” Carrera’s cousin Beto continued his education keeping Carrera fed on hip-hop staples from Biggie to 2Pac, but Carrera was also obsessed with music from his mother’s classical piano lessons as well as playing drums in high school. His dream became to blend musicianship with hip-hop as he started posting up in Westside and Southside Chicago recording studios, soaking up the finer points of his craft. Engineers Eric Welton and Na’el Yusef Shehade, who worked in the studio with Chance The Rapper, saw potential in Carrera and were profoundly encouraging.
Since 2009, Carrera has been building his reputation making experimental mix-tapes such asColder Than Chicago, Rookies to Legends, and Opulence–which he dropped from his hospital bed after the incident–and No Bad Days, which was released with a GoPro shot companion video at his favorite place of Cabo during spring break two years prior to the incident. Carrera also wrote and recorded a verse on Cyhi The Prynce’s “Flower in the Attic,” was featured on Crooked I’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” and has recorded and produced with James Thomas (a.k.a. YB, ghostwriter/voice of Kanye West’s Grammy® Award-nominated song “Mercy”).
Carrera has come back from his near-death experience with agitated creative energy to burn, grabbing his second chance by the horns. “My story is a kid from ‘Chi’ who’s seen it all from the bad neighborhoods where it’s treacherous to be out after 9pm, to the vibrancy of the music scene. My Mexican heritage plays a definite part in the sound of my music. There should be more people opening doors for our culture. There’s lots of talent in Chicago (Gotham City) but I focus on my own sound, which is for everybody, coming from my own unique space.”
Overcoming the defining moment that took place in Cabo has only helped fuel Carrera’s passion and progression as an artist. The self-titled debut tells a tale of resilience and the ability to prevail even during the most troubling experiences. Although that night tested Carrera’s character, he used that pain to ignite his desire to create and bring into existence a distinctive and compelling soundscape.