South Jamaica, Queens rapper Frenchie is a member of 1017 Brick Squad, as well as Waka Flocka Flame’s blood cousin. Frenchie dropped a pretty big single back in 2008 called My Shirt Off, featuring Gucci Mane and Wooh Da Kid, which, according to my understanding, enabled him to go on tour with Gucci. He also recorded two popular street singles in 2011, So Gone and Working Chick, featuring Juicy J, and most recently he dropped his new mixtape, Frenchelo Anthony.
All sounds pretty standard for a reserve player on one of Hip-Hop’s all-star rosters (Brick Squad)... but heck, everything’s not always as it seems. Ten minutes into our chat Frenchie reprimanded me for assuming he hadn’t been up to bat yet -- I must have been snoozing or refilling my beer -- and went on to say that he’s prepared to grab hold of the reigns at any moment. With one soldier down (in Slim Dunkin), he may well have to.
Hey, Frenchie, how’s it going, man?
I’m chillin’, man, you already know. It’s Brisk Squad everything, man.
My condolences, man, about the Slim Dunkin thing.
Yeah, thank you, man.
Were you two close?
Yeah, that was my brother, man. We lived in the same house.
Was everything they were saying about the candy pretty much true, or was that all bullshit?
You know people put their own spin on shit, but it was somewhat like that. Some people twist up the stories a bit more.
How does that stuff happen?
It’s just money. Niggas gettin’ money now. We ballin’. We shinin’. You see a different video from us every day. You see us in the crowd every day doing what we want to do. When you do what you want to do and other people can’t, it’s frustrating for them. So they try to do everything to hurt you, they try anything to get at you.
They get jealous, huh?
Does any of this affect your plans, like the camp’s plans in weeks or months to come, or is it going to make you guys go harder?
Emotionally, it did devastate us, but work-wise, we ain’t never stop, because Slim Dunkin was the kind of person who worked every day. All of us have the same work ethic. His spirit doesn’t stop working. His spirit would tell us not to stop working. It’s not messing with our work because we still coming hard with it, man. It’s a squad, man.
What do you personally have in the works right now?
Personally I have Frenchelo Anthony getting ready to drop, man, and that’s a beautiful mixtape for me. I got a couple of features on there and all that.
What’s the overall game-plan for you this year? Like just staying steady releasing music or what?
My overall game-plan is just to stay sucker free, man, keep on doing my shows, getting paid, staying out of suckers faces, man. I’m just trying to be able to feed my family. That’s all I want to do, is feed my family, and just live my life. You only live once, so it’s time for me to do what I’ve got to do, man. I make a lot of sacrifices for music and now that I’m at the peak that I’m at I’m in a good position. It’s like, I could either turn around or I can go further, forward or turn around, and I’m not with turning around because I’ve seen everything behind me. I don’t know what’s in front of me. I’ve seen everything behind me, so there’s no need for me to turn around.
I saw your So Gone and Working Chick videos. Those are pretty good, man. I like the songs.
Thank you, man. I could really go into a white-screen studio, the green-screens and all that, and get a crazy video, but sometimes I be really thinking about the things I grew up in, where I grew up at. We don’t get a chance to explore these things and tell the world about these places, so that’s why I still do my videos around the neighborhood where I’m from. Just like how I can wake up in the morning and see a video of me on every blog site and it makes me happy, it’d make everyone in my neighborhood happy to see themselves. Because certain neighborhoods where I’m from, it’s poverty over there. They don’t have a lot. The little bit that you give them sets them off.
Where are you from?
I’m from South Jamaica, Queens, but I’ve lived in Atlanta just as long as my family’s been down there.
Were you born in New York then?
I was born in Jamaica Hospital, Jamaica, Queens Hospital.
What about your parents? Have they been in New York their whole lives?
My parents are from New York, uh-huh.
What’s your heritage?
My mother’s from New York, my father’s from Guyana.
How did your parents meet? Did they meet in New York?
My mother had always lived in Jamaica, Queens, but my father came from Guyana and met my mother in New York. He met her and they got to together.
You mentioned your family before. Do you have kids?
Yeah, I have a son.
You have a good Christmas with him?
Of course, a beautiful Christmas, man.
What did you get your son this year?
I got my son a bike. I got him all the games he wanted, a lot of clothes. I just love being able to play the games with him and teach him how to ride his first bike, you know, just certain things that I take time out for, to spend with him.
Does he live out in Atlanta with you now?
He basically has the best of both worlds, just like I did. He can go to Atlanta. We have a big family. Waka’s my blood cousin, so my son knows Waka. He loves seeing Waka. He can go to Atlanta. He can go to New York. He’s got the best of both worlds.
That must be exciting.
Every child in our family basically has the best of both worlds.
That’s great. It’s going to be incredible when he grows up.
What do you think you personally contribute to Brick Squad? What distinguishes you?
I think I bring -- I was going to say originality, but everybody brings originality to the table, because we all have our own respective styles, we all do our own thing. But the thing that I feel like I bring to the table is different, like I’m a different person. I’m outspoken, I get on a beat that you think nobody could get on. I like to harmonize. I listen to a lot of singing. I like R&B too. I listen to so many things that I sing my own hooks, I write my own music. Everybody in Brick Squad writes their own music.
Which R&B do you like?
I like a lot of stuff, man. I like John Legend. I like Jamie Foxx. I like so many things, man. Michael Jackson was a legend for me, man. There’s so many people who are legends, man. And I love OneRepublic.
Yeah, I love them, man. I just love their style. See, that’s what I mean, the weirdness that comes out of me. You would never think that. If you look at all of my interviews you will always hear me say something about OneRepublic.
They just speak to you.
Yeah, they just speak to me.
That’s cool. And in terms of your position in Brick Squad, are you comfortable in passenger seat, or are you really aiming to step up and get in the spotlight?
Basically, I look at it like we’re all in the spotlight. I had a single, it was called My Shirt Off, with Gucci and Wooh Da Kid, that single was playing on the radio every day. That’s why were were able to go on the road. I’ve been in the driver’s seat. When you have a clique of people, you can’t drive all day because everybody wants to learn how to drive. You’re supposed to keep somebody in the passenger seat so when you get tired and doze off and crash that car, he watched you so much that he knows how to drive. It’s just natural. Everybody needs to drive. We take turns.
That’s a good analogy. What do the tattoos on your eyelids say?
They say Rest in Peace G Baby [apologize for any incorrect spelling here]. That was my best friend, best friend/relative.
What happened to him? Sad story?
Yeah, it was a sad story. He was killed. There’s a lot of hatred out there. When you’re shining and you’re doing what you want to do, somebody will take you out, because a lot of people can’t shine like you. When they do see it, it’s like taking the diamond out the dirt. If you can stop a diamond from shining you’re going to stop a diamond from shining, especially if you can’t have the shine.
When you were growing up in New York what were your days like? Was it a problem finding enough hours to rap, or was there more than enough time?
There was more than enough time because the family I grew up in -- c’mon. My cousin Demi was an A&R for Def Jam. My uncle, DJ Hurricane, is the Beastie Boy’s DJ. I’ve met Chuck D, I’ve been around the Beastie Boys as a child growing up, Run D.M.C., Jam Master Jay, LL Cool J, I’ve been around these people growing up as a child. I was always inspired by what they could do, and I was a child watching that. That made me want to grow up and be like them.
So your parents, being from a musical family, they must have supported your rapping.
Yes, yes. Actually my mother and my step-father, knowing that it was my dream to rap, they bought studio equipment and put it in the basement for me. The reason they did that was because I was a street runner and I was outside so much. They knew I liked to rap so that was a way to keep me in the house.
Were there obstacles as well, things that threatened your focus on the music?
Yeah, there were a lot of obstacles, man. Just being in the neighborhood, I was shot when I was 17 years old. I’ve been shot twice. I’ve been through a lot, man, growing up. My father was killed when I was 2 years old. I was part of a big crack epidemic when I was a child, a drug dealing area. There were so many things but I was always able to get the love around all of that, you feel me?
You’re on a good path now. In Brick Squad, how does it work, do they take care of you in every way, like does the money go around?
You’ve got to look at it like this, everybody lives in the same house with each other so it’s like a family. Even before Brick Squad we were So Icey, so we were a family before that. But if you actually listened, like I told you, Waka’s my cousin, Wooh Da Kid is my real cousin, Young Joey is my real cousin. So before music we were always going to take care of each other.
Do you think other crews are doing that?
I don’t think so. That’s why other crews are breaking up. They be together for a little bit but then one person starts talking about another and they break it up. The only crew that I can say is still together and I love the way they carry themselves is LOX. They never broke up, but they always do their own thing and come back together, all the time.
That’s incredible. What’s the 1017 in Brick Squad stand for? I may have known, but I don’t now...
1017 is Gucci’s address where he grew up at, the house he grew up in. His address was 1017. He mixed it with Brick Squad. That’s where he’s from. That’s his address where he grew up with his grandfather and his father. So he basically put it amongst us because we’re like family. He’s been around us so long that we’ve turned into brothers, you feel me? It was so easy for him to have something so close to home, something that’s from his family and put us with it, because we’re family. We are family!
Where do you get your name from?
I get my name from my father. My father’s name was Frenchie.
- By Peter Marrack