DCWS exclusive interview with Conny Franko about his new video "Half Stepper Kings", upcoming album and much more

Conny Franko is an Omaha based emcee who just dropped a very DOPE video entitled "Half Stepper Kings" which is the first single from his upcoming album "La Maga", due this summer.  Conny has been recognized for his intelligent and witty word play by NPR, Pitch, Say Hey There Music and more; Hear Nebraska calls his music “...refreshing, comfy and genuine old-school hip-hop.”, and on top of being an ill emcee, Conny has been skateboarding for 18 years.  We connected with Conny to find out how he got started as an emcee, how the concept for the incredible "Half Stepper Kings" came together, as well as learn more about his love of skateboarding and much more. 

Carlton Boyd

Tell us about how you got started as an emcee and who are some of your musical influences?

I got started rapping with my homie Klassic.  We had a lot to say.   Much of what we said was a release of the bullshit that we acknowledged as society's norms and undeniable misunderstandings that effect us all as outsiders looking in.  My influences have been the streets I walk and people I meet.  Knowledge is everything we see.  We forget how much we can learn from another's mistakes and another's "rewards" for both merit reasons and invalid reasons. My musical influences are across the board. Hugo Wolf, Jeanette (Mexican Singer), Ben E. King, Nina Simone, Nas, Edith Piaf, Rakim, Big Pun, Chet Baker, and Qwel.  All music is relevant to me.  Composition to content, drive me as an artist. 

We're totally amazed by your new video "Half Stepper Kings"; how did the concept for the video even come together and who did the animation?

With the whole project we wanted people to digest the project as art.  So with that, we wanted to solidify that sentiment with visual art.  My buddy Jack did the animation.  I explained to him the concept of the song.  He did his rendition of the song within his capacity.  So often we find emcees standing in front of a wall of graffiti, of whom they don't know the artist or the culture.  With this video I left it to a friend to dictate a visual representation of a song I made.  It's extension of the song through the mind of artist that has had little exposure.  So many visual artists get slept on and I felt it was important to share his art. 

I can imagine that you very excited to finally drop your new album "La Maga" after working on it for the last few years. Tell us about that process and having to travel back and forth from Mexico to record with producer Oscar Carillo?

Traveling to Mexico for this project was gnarly.  My friend Oscar ( Sm Grims) was deported years ago so it was the only way to work on this project hands on.  In Mexico I learned a lot about Sm Grims situation and Mexico's situation as a whole.  I wrote raps while he made beats every day while i was there.  We ate a lot and we conversed more about U.S./Mexico relations.  It's not easy in Mexico and there's not the opportunity or the convenience that there is here in the U.S.  This is all thanks to the U.S. prior and continual interventions it has had with Central and South America.  After my stay with Sm Grims I traveled on to Guadalajara and onto Mexico City.  The following year I came back to finish the record and more importantly to catch up with my homie.  It's fucked because I wish I could buy him a plane ticket and have him in the production room at the studio but that's not even an option.  He lives in Juarez now with his wife and his beautiful new born baby.  They moved from Cozumel to Juarez so his wife could work in El Paso for proper dollars and for their family to be closer to the states where they rest of their family lives.  We booked Tijuana in July so he could come to the show and see what we're doing with this project live.  I fucking miss my homie. 

To follow up on the last question, how is "La Maga" different from your first album "Calm Kids"?

La Maga is darker.  It's beyond living off 20 sacks of regular brick weed like we had, that came from Mexico!  It's sentiment is resentment and perception.  This record was not made to be appeasing to the masses.  It was made from the lack of understanding we all have for each other, no matter where one comes from or what ethnicity we claim.  La Maga is a testament in defiance of ethnocenticity.  This world is big and at times its super fucked.  Like we spend a lot of time fucking off because economically we can.  So sad, but so true.  Wages don't translate when buying imported manufactured goods from neocolonial countries.

Tell us about your love of skateboarding? Do you ever get ideas for new songs while you're on your board at skate parks?

I have been skateboarding for 18 years.  The only way I would quit is if my bowlegs broke from pressure.  It's my first true love.  I think of ideas for songs while skating all of the time because I am in the streets.  Skating NYC, LA, Omaha, to Mexico City, my mind is always being opened to sights, sounds, food, liquor, and women...  From Tepido of Mexico City to Long Beach, we can all learn a lot from being out in the streets.  Skateboarding is an universal language and no matter where I go, I got friends who love what I love.  My homies from Beat Skateboards in Mexico City have put me up each time I've been there thanks to another best friend of mine, Roberto.  I feel blessed to be apart of the skateboarding culture.

Why should someone not just stream "La Maga" but purchase it when the album drops soon?

The integrity that went into creating the content sonically is embodied in the 150 gram vinyl we pressed for the project.  La Maga's art is another extension of its story.  We only have 500 units of this project on vinyl and anyone who purchases one will have a piece of my life's portfolio.  I have worked every job, shoe shiner, record store clerk, construction, grocery bagger, and drug dealer.  This is my true job, my life's career.  We're not out here trying to exploit avenues to guarantee capital at the sake of consumers.  We are the people on the bus stops next to old boy trying to stay content with every sip of Mccormicks vodka.  I am the man/child in the bochito doing 55 mph on the interstate in hopes of smiling a few times a the day because I know exactly what its like to not be able to.  If the only option is for one to steal the album, I aint mad at you.  At least took the time to do that.  But please buy it:) 

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