The Many Shades of Franky Fade 

The Francophone singer-rapper invites us into his world one song at a time. 

by Alexander Nicol

Photo by Barbara Lajeunesse

“I was ready to do a full-fledged project by myself,” says Franky Fade as he settles down to chat on a picnic table under a tree on bustling rue St. Zotique in Montreal. The young MC lives close by, but he doesn’t hang out at cafes much so we’re talking to him outside surrounded by rich autumn colours. Relaxed and at ease, he’s more than willing to talk about all manner of subjects; from his work making music with his best friends in the celebrated alt-jazz hip-hop group, Original Gros Bonnet (OGB), to his relationship to the Gaspè where he’s from, and of course subjects closer to his heart like romance and the nature of collaboration.

These days Franky spends most of his time working on music at his home studio, one which doubles as his bedroom. Recording alone is something new for him as OGB operates as a septet; the group rose to prominence after winning the Francouverts competition in 2019. And while the furious seven will continue to craft their experimental compositions, Franky is ready to show a more personal side of himself on his debut record, Contradictions. “I learned a lot about myself,” he says about the making of the album, which he focused on during the pandemic. The album naturally took on a conversational style, like a back-and-forth dialogue with himself. “Some songs complete other songs that have questions in them. The whole contradiction concept, that’s how it’s presented,” he explains. “I’ll present a way of feeling and sometimes another song will complete that thought — or oppose it.” 

Take, for example, the contrasting energy of the album’s first two songs: “Mètal” and “Rewind.” “Mètal,” as Franky explains, presents the anxious, worried, and uncertain side of his identity. It’s a part of himself that he carries with him at all times and often defines his mood. “I’m overthinking in this song,” as Franky ́puts it. But right after comes “Rewind,” a declaration of his confident side. “It’s the complete opposite,” he says of Rewind. “I’m going with instinct, being quite independent and arrogant. I have this confidence that I could buy the whole world with,” he says. 

Franky Fade deftly personifies this confidence by staging his own version of an MTV Cribs episode in the music video for “Rewind.” But there’s a twist. True to the intellectual nature of his music, Franky’s MTV Cribs persona is an imposter. “I’m in a crib that isn’t my crib,” he says with a smile. The caricature winds up stealing expensive stuff from the mansion instead of pretending it’s his lifestyle. The punchline is that the arrogant side of Franky, which he explores on “Rewind,” is kind of like a poser; it’s not a true reflection of his reality, or his ambition. You get the sense that Franky delights in creating these multiple meanings in his art – like a chef who delights in making a dish with several layers of flavour.

His final statement on the question of male confidence is “Murder My Ego,” in which, over a slow brooding beat and haunting synths he sings, “Took a while / every millisecond worth it man / Took a while / aint no body did it for me man.” This type of dialogue with himself is typical of the album, and typical of the constantly evolving nature of Franky’s perspective. 

Another conversational theme that Franky comes back to a few times throughout the record is love. “Vertige,” for instance, sees Franky earnestly question a fear of commitment in the context of a new relationship. “At the beginning I was in the early stages of the relationship, when I was feeling really uncertain, out of my element,” he says. Much like any new relationship with a person you have deep feelings for, he wanted to make it work but was held back by nagging feelings of doubt. “I was very curious, and wanted to experience that sort of commitment,” he explains. “But I think it was fear, lack of trust in myself, and maybe in the other person, fear of being hurt or hurting the other person.” 

These emotions come out in “Vertige,” but they do not define his attitude. In part to bring the kind of idealized love he dreamed of into existence, Franky wrote the song “Vèsuve.” “‘Vèsuve’ is a projection of where I wanted to be in a relationship. That I could die and be happy as long as I was with that person. I wanted to manifest that.” But every relationship has the risk of failing, and what is left after that? In “Bon Ami” (which translates to “Good Friend” in English), Franky describes a love that has turned into friendship – a form of kinship that can be as meaningful as a committed relationship. So where is he at now in this relationship? “Through the year I’ve worked this out and now I’m in the relationship and it’s going pretty great!” 

In touching on the intellectual tensions that define his inner life, Franky invites us all to reflect on how we all flow in and out of contradictory thoughts and feelings. “These feelings I describe in the music, they are not linear,” he says. Like the inner life of every person, the feelings and perspectives Franky explores are not meant to be firm statements. “They come and go, they co-exist, they hit each other. I’m still working on a lot of stuff I mention in the music.” This very much represents the way in which Franky views himself, and he paints this intimate portrait in the music. “One song won’t define me,” he says, “but put them all together and you have a pretty good idea of who I am or who I want to be.”

Contradictions is out now via Bonsound. 

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