The streets fell in love with Frankie J when he laced the hook of Baby Bash’s huge summer hit of 2003 “Suga Suga”. After completing high school in his hometown of San Diego, the Mexican-born crooner got his shot in the music business as lead singer for the successful group Kumbia Kings, and has since been developing his own sound and style on the solo tip.
Now releasing his fourth studio album The One, he is here to show and prove that he is more than looks and hooks. AllHipHop.com Alternatives got a chance to sit down with Frankie J during his stop in Philadelphia to discuss his road to stardom.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: For those who don’t know, how did you get started in music?
Frankie J: I have always loved music. I grew up listening to a lot of greats but I loved music by people like what George Leman and Sweet Sensation Girls were putting out. Eventually my brother started to introduce me to his friends who were really big in the clubs, and I actually got started professionally when I was like 12 or 13 years old. I was really involved with people who were in the industry, and ended up signing with a Canadian record label, and I started doing a lot of the dance music I heard in the club. After that I started doing performances and started bringing down artists, and that’s basically how I got started.
AHHA: How did you end up signing to Columbia?
Frankie J: Initially I was a lead singer of this group called the Kumbia Kings for like three years, which consisted of like eight members and one of the members of the group was actually Selena’s brother, [A.B.] Quintanilla. One day he heard me sing, and he just brought me into the group and I started touring with the guys. Eventually I knew that I would want to go off and do my own thing, so I started writing my own songs and stuff while I was on tour, so I could start getting some type of feedback to see if I could do the whole solo thing.
When I left the group my single “Don’t Want To Try” got leaked out and my manager helped me get it to radio and see if it would get spins and the song blew up. Eventually Columbia got a hold of the record and basically it was a big bidding war between a lot of major labels for the song, but I finally ended up signing with Columbia because it was the best deal in my interest. So it worked out really well.
AHHA: So who are some producers you are working with on the album? I know you teamed up with Irv Gotti and Mario Winans, and I also heard that you teamed back up with Happy Perez who did “Suga Suga”.
Frankie J: Yeah, I teamed up with Happy because we had such an awesome chemistry when we did “Suga Suga” that I had to go back. So we teamed up to do “Obsession”, the first single off the album. Actually Happy, Baby Bash and I all teamed up to do the single, because we wanted to see if we could re-create the magic we had with “Suga, Suga” and I think that we did because the single is hot.
AHHA: What would you say is the difference between The One and your previous album?
Frankie J: This album is definitely more mature and it’s more of what I wanted to accomplish with the urban and R&B feel that it has to it. I got a chance to work with Mario Winans, Irv Gotti and Brian Cox. I really got a chance to work with a lot of people I didn’t get a chance to work with on my previous albums. All my fans who listen to this album will definitely see and hear the difference, because it’s produced a lot better and the songs are just incredible this time around.
AHHA: Speaking of being more mature, your first single “Obsession (No Es Amor), is hot and the video definitely captures how racy the song is. How was it working with the director and Vida Guerra as your love interest?
Frankie J: The director, Gil Green, was very professional. What he really wanted to do with the song is bring it to life and that is what he did. The song is about a guy being obsessed with a girl, he’s been seeing her for quite awhile and he thinks it’s love. But, at the same time, he knows its dangerous for him because she’s playing mind tricks on him, and that’s exactly what the video captures. As far as working with Vida, she is incredible, very professional and we became really good friends. To be honest with you, I was the one out of everyone that was the nervous wreck because I had never done a video like that before. I had never been in a tub with a girl, in a video that is. [laughs] You know everything we were doing was different, but I liked it.
AHHA: What was the toughest for you when you were shooting the video?
Frankie J: That fact that I was in the back of a car and there was like forty people watching us and cheering telling me to kiss her. [laughs] I mean we can’t escape the fact that she is Vida Guerra, the FHM model of the year, so everyone was really watching and cheering. But overall I liked it and I’m glad we found her and that she fit the part, because she truly is amazing.
AHHA: What is the concept behind The One?
Frankie J: I really think that this record is the one that will take everything to the next level. I wanted to work with different people and just get a different feel and different vibe from the first album. I wanted to get more urban, and get in more with bigger names. It’s just better to work with people who are where you want to be, and by me reaching out, this album has more of an urban feel, more of a street feel, more of an R&B feel to it. To me it’s definitely the one.
AHHA: Now the music front has really seen the re-emergence of Latin artists. How do you feel about Latin and Spanish artists finally being recognized for a sound that you contribute to, versus having to cross over to find success?
Frankie J: I just feel it was a long time coming. I honestly feel that now we are being appreciated more than ever for what we contribute. I mean Fat Joe has been around for a while, Big Pun was around for a while, even J.Lo is doing her thing as far as making a Latin album with Marc Anthony and I thought it was hot how they did the Spanish song at the Grammys and was applauded, because it definitely shows we have come a long way. I mean now we have a lot of Spanish people in almost every genre of music except R&B, I mean Marc Anthony really does Pop and so did Ricky Martin, so I feel that if the people let me, I can definitely fill that void because there is definitely a big gap as far for R&B vocally.
AHHA: Are you planning on releasing an all-Spanish version of your album?
Frankie J: Yeah, we are definitely working on that, they actually had me record an all Spanish version of “Obsession” and another single from my album called “How To Deal” produced by Brian Cox, so I definitely think an all Spanish album is on the way soon which will be hot mixing R&B and Spanish.
AHHA: For all the ladies out there, are you single?
Frankie J: Yeah, I am very single.[laughs]
AHHA: What is your type of woman?
Frankie J: I love a woman who can cook. Definitely one who is very loving because I am very loving and I get attached very easily, so I am definitely looking for someone who has a big heart and can take care of me emotionally, because I will do all I can for her.
AHHA: How do you find inspiration for the songs that you write?
Frankie J: It all comes from love or situations that I have been in or people I know have been in, that’s definitely inspiring when it comes from within and it comes from something so personal that they are experiencing a part of you and your life.
AHHA: What’s next for you?
Frankie J: We are planning a U.S. tour in April that will pass through 40 cities, and after that I am going to be touring in Asia, Australia and Europe. I think it will be an experience, because I have never been to some of the countries like Asia, so it will give a chance to experience different people. I probably won’t get to go home until December. [laughs] But it’s all worth it to live out my dreams and get the music out to my fans, because after all they do come first. So no matter how tired I get or how long I’m gone I won’t stop, because I love my fans just as much as they love me. But most importantly, I want to continue to bring them good music.