Frank N Dank's Cross-Border Connections

BY Del F. CowiePublished Jan 1, 2006

Having grown up in Detroit as childhood friends of respected underground producer Jay Dee, a Canadian influence for Frank n Dank seems like a long shot. But after guesting on J Dilla's critically-acclaimed Welcome To Detroit album and recorded an album for his label (through MCA), things quickly turned sour in the wake of major label merger fallout.

"We had no deal, no records out, nothing," says Frank. The group was at their lowest ebb, dealing with label, housing and bankruptcy issues when they were offered a show in Toronto, where they met up with Needilworks? Entertainment. They're not residents, despite frequent visits, but they're quick to acknowledge the role the city has played. "Toronto has helped Frank n Dank grow and has taken us to the main stage were we needed to go," says Dank.

This business connection extended to the creative process of their X-Tended Play full-length. After poring over countless beats, and selecting contributions from Jay Dee and Madlib's younger brother Oh No, some Canucks made the cut too: Van City's Kemo (Rascalz), Saukrates, the rapidly ascendant Tone Mason crew and world champion turntablist DJ Dopey (also their tour DJ). While a couple of unapologetically radio-friendly joints are present, it's clear the balance of power belongs to purveyance of dirty synths, rugged bass lines and off-kilter minimalism the duo built their rep on with J Dilla.

"When you came to Dilla's crib you had better bang that shit out, ain't no going back," says Frank. "You only had that one take because the system we were recording on was just like that," says Frank. "All we had room for was the beat and one track of vocals." But restrictions proved beneficial. "It taught us discipline, I can't front. We're very disciplined artists." With their Motor City origins as their guide, Frank n Dank aren't putting any restrictions on where a studio is located. According to Frank, "This shit was gonna happen whether we were in Pakistan or Uganda."

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