Frank Leone’s hip-hop experiments make for a beautifully bizarre debut album | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Frank Leone’s hip-hop experiments make for a beautifully bizarre debut album 

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click to enlarge Frank Leone

Frank Leone

Christian Haahs

Rapper-producer Frank Leone grew up in the town of Monticello, just southwest of Champaign, and began taking music seriously after a chance meeting with Vic Mensa at a downstate Lupe Fiasco show in 2011. Since dropping his debut mixtape in 2015, he’s reworked his sound, moved to Los Angeles, and scrubbed the Web of large chunks of his catalog. His self-released new debut album, Don’t, is full of playful experimentation: He pitches his voice down till it oozes like molasses, and up till it squeaks and hiccups (“Don’t Want”). He builds entire tracks out of languid, subterranean-sounding lounge instrumentation (“Don’t Go,” “Don’t Need”). And sometimes he strays so far from rap’s established sonic vocabulary that he could give “real hip-hop” heads a migraine—on “Don’t Clip,” for instance, he croons in a pitched-up voice atop oceanside indie-rock guitar riffs and cooing background vocals. When people call music “genreless,” they’re often just talking about songs that borrow from so many genres they end up formless pop wallpaper, but Leone’s grab bag of styles cuts against that grain. Nothing on Don’t would recede pleasantly into the background of an ad—its sudden outbursts and unusual shifts feel emotionally purposeful, not calculatedly commercial.   v

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