Mr. Franklin a.k.a Kamikaze
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Mr. Franklin a.k.a Kamikaze

Jackson, Mississippi, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1999 | SELF

Jackson, Mississippi, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 1999
Solo Hip Hop Hip Hop

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Kamikaze Course
Southern hip-hop pioneer Kamikaze continues his career as Mr. Franklin
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By Justin Ivey
Posted Feb 27, 2013
Brad “Kamikaze” Franklin may not be a household name among hip-hop fans, but his influence on the growth of Southern hip-hop is unquestionable. As one half of the duo Crooked Lettaz, Franklin – alongside Lavell “David Banner” Crump – helped give Mississippi a voice in the rap world.

In the mid ‘90s, Kamikaze and David Banner joined forces, looking to make a name for themselves and their home state.

“There’s nothing out there right now that represents Mississippi,” Franklin remembers telling Banner during their early brainstorming sessions.

“We recorded our first demo in December of 1995,” he recalls, “and by July of 1996 we were in [The Source’s] Unsigned Hype.”

The buzz from that feature in The Source magazine started their rollercoaster ride through various record labels, bouncing from Ichiban Records to Correct Records before finally landing at Penalty Recordings.

“We were one of the first Southern groups to get signed to a New York label,” Franklin said.

The duo released their debut album, Grey Skies, in April of 1999, and made it to No. 75 on the Billboard charts with little promotion behind the project.

Despite critical praise and an enduring reputation within the Southern hip-hop community, Grey Skies was the only album by Crooked Lettaz. However, it was not the relationship between the two artists that led to the group’s demise.

“There was no breakup, no beef, no problems, no artistic differences,” Franklin explains. “We had a manager that robbed us of close to a half a million dollars out of our deal. We went into litigation with him and Penalty [Recordings] to get out of our deal. One of the stipulations was that we couldn’t use the Crooked Lettaz name for a certain period of time.”

With bills piling up and an inability to record under the name they worked so hard to establish, the duo decided to part ways and develop their respective solo careers. A move to Atlanta helped jumpstart David Banner’s career as a producer and a solo artist, quickly making him one of the most recognizable hip-hop artists of the 2000s.

“If anybody deserved to make it, it was him,” says Franklin. “He literally put it all on the line. I’m happy for what he did.”

While his former Crooked Lettaz cohort achieved mainstream success, Franklin was content with his status as an underground stalwart.

“I put my own independent record label together and did very well,” he proudly affirms. “I made a nice living, made a lot of show money, and was able to run a successful business.” Yet after years of devotion to hip-hop, Franklin took a hiatus in 2009. He branched out musically with the rock band Storage 24, got married, and turned his focus to public relations work.

“I moved on to another facet of life that was comfortable for me,” Franklin explains. But the love of hip-hop was just too strong to keep Franklin away for very long. “A ridiculous love and passion for hip-hop brought me back. I’m a child of the culture. I live this.”

Franklin bought into a nightclub in Jackson, Miss., and used the venue to give independent artists an opportunity to perform by creating the bi-monthly showcase Generation NXT. His involvement and work with this new generation of artists helped reignite his love of hip-hop.

“I missed it. The passion and the energy that I lost, it returned,” he declares. “I was like, ‘I can’t continue to sit on the sidelines. I’ve got to do something.’”

Franklin spoke with his wife, and he was all in once again. This time around, he wanted to approach it as brand new artist. It’s why he has taken on a new moniker, Mr. Franklin.

“I’m not going to try and get respect and get favors for being Kamikaze of Crooked Lettaz,” he asserts. “I’m not resting on Grey Skies. I’m not resting on those laurels. I consider everything I’m doing now to be brand new in the grand scheme. It’s 2013; it’s all about Mr. Franklin.”

“I want to be looked at as a new artist trying to gain new fans,” Franklin continued. “I just have the luxury of having some old fans that have stuck by me and been with me for a while.”

Mr. Franklin is hitting the road with fellow Mississippian Big Sant, who is looking to re-establish himself as well. Sant has become better known for his role as burgeoning star Big K.R.I.T’s hype man than his own solo work. Franklin hopes this tour can go a long way in making Big Sant a name hip-hop fans remember on its own merit.

“One of my personal goals for this tour is to make Sant as big of a household name as K.R.I.T. is right now,” Franklin declares.

When planning for MFxOG The Tour began, Baton Rouge was an obvious choice for Franklin. His strong ties to the city made it a must-stop.

“Baton Rouge is very near and dear to me because Baton Rouge played a huge part in the beginning of my career as a professional hip-hop - DIG Magazine (Baton Rouge)


Listing overlooked Southern MC's. Kamikaze makes the Top Ten List - Amazon.com


Kamikaze joins Crooked Lettaz bandmate and the Game in Prague for a series of shows - AllHiphop.com


Kamikaze joins Crooked Lettaz bandmate and the Game in Prague for a series of shows - AllHiphop.com


An aritcle on the anniversary of the Release of "Grey Skies" - Jackson Free Press


Coverage of Mr. Franklin's concert tour of West Africa. Cape coast and Accra in 2008 - Modern Ghana


Discography

2000 "GREY SKIES" Penalty/Tommy Boy Records (As a member of Crooked Lettaz w/ David Banner)

2005 "AKA MR. SHO-NUFF" OurGlass Entertainment

2007 "2 BROKE 2 BALL" OurGlass Entertainment

2009 "DRAFT DAY I" OurGlass Entertainment

2009 "DRAFT DAY II" OurGlass Entertainment

2010 "DRAFT DAY 2.5: THE REBOOT" OurGlass

2012 "THE REINTRODUCTION OF MR. FRANKLIN" OurGlass Entertainment

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Bio

The South has been the much-maligned bastard child of Hip Hop. Rarely given its credit due for its creativity let alone its lyricists, the South has managed to pave a way for such Hip Hop icons as Outkast, Goodie Mob, Three 6 Mafia, and Nappy Roots. In that same time, the Magnolia state, better known as Mississippi has carved niche for itself as the home of some of the culture's most groundbreaking MC's. Think David Banner, Big K.R.I.T, Tito Lopez to name a few. However, you cant name those artists without naming one of the pioneers of "SippHop" Mr. Franklin aka Kamikaze.

Mr. Franklin is formally one-half of the critically acclaimed group Crooked Lettaz with Banner. In 2000 they were signed to Penalty/Tommy Boy records and released a southern classic that many praise as one of the most slept-on albums in hip Hop history "Grey Skies". That album spawned regional hits "Firewater" featuring Noreaga and "Get Crunk" featuring Pimp C of UGK. Afterwards he garnered much success as a solo artist releasing 2 albums on his own OurGlass Entertainment. Those albums sold nearly 20,000 copies independently and led to extensive tours of both the Czech Republic and Ghana, West Africa. He won Mississippi's first "Patietly Waiting " Award for Ozone Magazine. He's also won 3 Southern Entertainment Music Awards and 4 Jackson Music awards.

In 2009, Mr. Franklin took a hiatus from recording and performing to concentrate on other pursuits. First was nuturing talent for his label. Next was forming a rock band Storage 24 (storage24.org), and then concentrating on writing and acting as well as other outside business ventures. But in early 2012, he decided to return back to his aritstry. Franklin says there was a lane in Hip Hop that wasnt being satisfied.

"The "industry" has relegated music to listeners 12-25 in my opinion. What about hip Hop fans who yearn for more mature content?" He said. "I want to do music for those who LOVE the culture of Hip Hop. those who enjoy and appreciate lyricism and great live performances without the "swag".

Mr Franklin is slated to release three projects beginning fall 2012. The first out now. A mixtape comprised of his most dynamic features from 2012 entitled "The Re-Introduction of Mr. Franklin". The second will be an EP called "My Strange Addiction" and 3rd quarter of 2013, he will drop an album creatively coined "Tacos For Breakfast". Franklin adds that each of these projects will have special meanings and purposes in his musical mission.

"I realized that 3 years is virtually a lifetime in Hip hop. I knew that even though I have a loyal internaltional fan base that I would basically have to re-introduce myself as a new artist to gain new fans too," Franklin says. "My Strange Addiction speaks on what some would describe as my fanatic obsession with Hip Hop. Tacos For Breakfast descibes where I feel Listeners are these days. They are waking up wanting something different. I plan on giving them a viable alternative to what they are enundated with today."

Having already shared stages in 2012-13 with the likes of Big KRIT, Big Sant, Tito Lopez, Nappy Roots, and Yelawolf, Mr. Franklin is planning to tour extensively this year.