Frank-n-Dank performing with Kamau and friends as part of Fresh 2003 at Harbourfront Centre's Ann Tindal Stage (235 Queens Quay West), Monday (September 1), 3 pm. Free. 416-973-4000. www.harbourfront.on.ca Rating: NNNNN
It's either feast or famine for Toronto hiphop fans, and this weekend it happens to be the former, with Harbourfront's Fresh 2003 festival Friday through Monday (August 29 to September 1) running concurrently with the Toronto Urban Music Festival at the CNE Bandshell Friday and Saturday. While the impressive TUMF lineup has rappers J-Live, El Da Sensei, Citizen Kane, Mister Roam and the Oddities at the CNE Bandshell Friday from 4 pm, Fresh 2003 - covering a broader spectrum of musical styles - includes a showcase by Detroit hiphop bad boys Frank-N-Dank at Harbourfront's Ann Tindal Stage Monday at 3 pm.
They'll also be on hand to liven up the Toronto Urban Music Summit at Harbourfront's Brigantine Room Saturday, where Public Enemy's Chuck D will join fellow artists (K-OS, Maestro), journalists (Greg Tate, Elizabeth Mendez Berry), label reps (Ivan Berry, Craig Mannix) and various promoters, managers and consultants in bitching about the sorry state of contemporary urban music.
Although the panel discussion, suggestively titled Video Hotties Or Bust, might seem tailor-made for Frank-N-Dank, who rocked the underground with their hot Jay Dee-produced Off Ya Chest b/w Take Dem Clothes Off (ABB) 12-inch single, they really should put on a tutorial dealing with how to avoid committing murder or suicide when a record label shelves your debut album indefinitely.
The horror story of how their Jay Dee-produced 48 Hrs recording was deep-sixed when MCA folded is a worst-case scenario most artists have just had nightmares about. Yet the hardcore D-town duo have to relive it each time they step out of a titty bar and see a bootleg copy of their disc selling for $25, knowing they won't get rolling paper change for all the creative effort that went into booty-shakers like Pimp Strut and Where The Parties At?
"It was a hard lesson," sighs Frank Nitty during a layover in Toronto, where they're finishing up their forthcoming X-Tended Play disc, "but it was a valuable learning experience for us. If your business ain't tight, the music don't matter. You can make hits forever, but unless you have the system in place to get that music heard, you ain't going anywhere.
"Right after we submitted our finished album to MCA, the whole label changed. All the people we'd been dealing with were gone, and then the situation deteriorated from there. Luckily, we got our walking papers before it closed down. At the time, we were mad and frustrated, but now we see it as a blessing that we were able to get out when we did - even without our album."
That Frank-N-Dank see their MCA ordeal as a positive thing says a lot about the destructive threat they were facing if they went down with the sinking ship. In some strange way, there may actually be an advantage to having their album released as a bootleg.
"If you take the financial thing out of the equation, it's all love. The music is out and we've been getting a lot of positive response without any promotion at all. I would like to be the guy getting the cheques - Frank-N-Dank could use that money - but having our stuff bootlegged makes us seem more important than we really are.
"The 48 Hrs record was something different for us and Jay Dee. I don't know what MCA would've done with it, because they were looking for Fantastic Voyage Vol. 3. They weren't ready for the new sound."
Frank-N-Dank's new X-Tended Play will again present a new assortment of flavas, even moving briefly into dirty Southern bounce territory. It's still all Frank-N-Dank dirty, though. The intriguing bit is that it's coming out in February on the Toronto-based Needleworks? Ent. imprint through Universal.
"After all we went through with MCA in the States, we weren't going to be satisfied with just another label deal. We were looking for a more comfortable place, with people who would stand behind us. That's what we found with Needleworks? Ent in Toronto. It's some young cats with good brains and a vision. We're gonna make that vision a reality." email@example.com