When the young rapper from Monticello, Illinois first walks in, one can’t help but to be surprised that an emcee with such a laid back yet powerful delivery comes from such a young and skinny kid. Don’t be fooled by Frank Leone‘s (make sure you pronounce the last e) looks, though, it’s clear that this kid has talent. And with features from promising artists such as Kame de Chukwu and Vic Mensa already under his belt, it’s clear that he is starting to make an impact on the local scene. UPC got to chop it up with Frank this weekend and share a few laughs about this lovely little part of the midwest we reside in. We also got to ask him a few questions about his influences, the grind and where it’s taken him thus far, as well as his upcoming projects.  Read the interview below.

UPC: How long have you been rapping for?

Frank Leone: I’ve been rapping for a little over two years.

UPC: So did you start when you were 16?  Are you 18 yet?

Frank: No, I’m actually 17, I’m really young. I started when I just turned 15, just messing around. Then it got a little more serious as time went on.

UPC: What was the first song that got attention?

Frank: Well, I released this mixtape called Imperian East last year in late May. One of those songs got posted on some; I don’t even remember the name of the blog; it was just some little blog. That wasn’t really a milestone event, but I did a song with my dude Dave Coresh from Champaign called “T.F.U.” and that got on FakeShore about two and a half minutes after I sent it to him. That was the first thing that kind of popped, it was on Ruby Hornet too.

UPC: You produced that track right?

Frank: Yeah I did.

UPC: Are you still messing around with production?

Frank: Definitely. I’d say I do lyrics and production equally.

UPC: Are you looking to produce your own project eventually?

Frank: That’s what I’m doing right now, there’s an album in the works.

UPC: So is there a particular artist that influenced you to start rhyming?

Frank: Definitely Kanye. It was right after My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy dropped that I kind of felt like I should start doing this. I was just really impressed with how he would take charge of each project and make it his own. There wasn’t ever really one defining sound he had. With each album he would redefine his sound and at the same time influence everyone else in the industry, even other genres of music, so yeah, that was probably the start.

UPC: The album you’re working on right now, is that going to be a debut album for you, right?

Frank: Yeah, I would definitely say it’s my first larger project. I can’t say too much on it yet, it’s still pretty early on in the stages, but I’ve got a few cool things planned. Deep Ocean was pretty calm and laid back. I sort of tried to convey that feeling, but this is going to be kind of like a fucking roller coaster, if you know what I’m saying. It’s going to be epic.

UPC: Yeah I was going to say, most of your stuff thus far is pretty chill.

Frank: Yeah, the first single is called “Monsters” and it actually features a friend of mine, the Village member Monster Mike. That shit is just nuts. When I perform that I want people to (go crazy).  You’ll see, it’ll be good (laughing).

UPC: Do you have an aim for when you want to release project? Do you even have a name for it yet?

Frank: Yes [pauses] and yes. That’s about all I can say right now [laughing].

UPC: Being in the early stages of your career, what are some of your goals for the near future?

Frank: Definitely just keep making good music and working with cool people. I’m trying to do a bunch of shows. I still don’t have a video, which kind of sucks. I have a couple in the works now, one is off of Deep Ocean and one is just a standalone record. Just keep making good music and getting more people in the know.

UPC:  Yeah, getting a visual out is definitely important. Lately, there’s been a wave of young artists making an impact, we were just talking about Chance, there’s Joey Bada$$ and Earl. What do you feel you need to do to separate yourself from that pack, or even to join that wave they’re creating?

Frank: Really, I feel like right now, I think my sound kind of stands out. The first step is to make music that you yourself enjoy, because if you’re not, then why are you doing it? As far as separation goes, each artist kind of brings their own story, their different styles and what influences them. Like for me, I didn’t really get into hip-hop that much until late middle school and I still listen to a bunch of different shit. I’ll even take indie rock and Broadway influences, I just pull different sounds. When it comes to being a part of it you just have to put out the music. It’s not as much of a conscious decision to be a part of the movement as much as it is, “you’re in that age range,” and the music’s good.

UPC: How did you relationship with Save Money start? And being from Monticello, how hard was it to break into the Chicago scene?

Frank: The Save Money dudes, they’re the homies and there’s a couple ways it happened. A year or two ago there was a Lupe Fiasco concert at Assembly Hall and I was there with a few friends of mine. The Cool Kids opened, so that was super tight. I was walking out and I looked to the left; I found Kids These Days because they were posted on Jay-Z’s website like several months earlier and they were definitely one of my favorite bands at the time, they’re still my favorite band I love the music; and I just see Vic (Mensa), Nico (Segal) and Greg (Landfair) posted up just chilling over there, so I went over. We got a photo; I was fanning out pretty hard to be honest. I hit up Vic later and I had been working on a remix for the Imperian East mixtape, [Kids These Days] had a song called “Be” and I looped the instrumental part of it and sent it to him. He really liked that shit and he ended up tweeting Imperian East, so that was super cool, that was a way it started. Then the producer Coldesack, he had released a few things so I recorded over one of them. I sent him a couple joints I just recorded. They haven’t come out or anything but he really liked what he heard, so that’s how I got involved with him and all them.

UPC: Is that how the collaboration with Vic Mensa happened? 

Frank: Originally I had sent him “Moon” to just be his and he really liked the song. But then I started realizing damn, I really want this on my project. So eventually we worked it out, he put his verse on there and killed it. I’m pretty sure that was the first verse that came out where he took on the Innanet persona.

UPC: Do you have more collaborations with them in the works?

Frank: Oh, hell yeah, there’s always shit going on. I got a couple of beats on Malcolm London’s new tape and I just sent Kami de Chukwu a monster instrumental that I hope he uses.

UPC: Do you have a single coming out any time soon?

Frank: Yeah, I have a few in the works, just a bunch of stuff for summer and I think around the end of summer is when the first single for the next album will probably come out.

UPC: Anything else you want to speak on; beefs to address?

Frank: Shouts to Yung Polo, realest spitter in the south. Follow me on Twitter I have like 2 followers. @FranklynRaps

UPC:  Oh yeah, how did you come up with that name ‘Frank Leone’?

Frank: First off, just to clarify, it’s all good because everybody gets it wrong. It’s Frank LeonE, (got to pronounce the e). It came from a bunch of different things. I remember when I was little; I was playing Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City and there was the Leone family and I thought that name was super tight. I don’t know, I’m really interested in 30s and 40s era music, it doesn’t always come out in what I’m making now but it will. Just a combination of different things.