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Franz Diego: 5 Questions with his wagness

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I remember first seeing Franz Diego on a Fifth Element stage, back in the days when the store was cut in half and a huge graffiti mural rained down on visitors heads. It was the popular Open Mic night, this sole night is one of the reasons the scene started to harness a flame to what our thriving scene is today. He was still in high school and his group at the time, Illuminous 3, just finished rocking their freestyle. They had endless energy, but one member in particular stood out. That was Franz Diego. As they came off the stage, other local rappers with dreams of building a record label rushed towards them like wannabe Jimmy Iovine clones with insty print business cards in their hands, flocking to the group. You could tell they seemed shocked by the attention. The other rappers and producers showered them with praise and promises. But Franz wasn't buying it. Years later and Franz still isn't' buying it. He's creating it.

You rarely see him without a vintage sports snapback on his head, who was rocking them way before they became popular once again. His clothing style could be a mix between Tiny Tim and RUN DMC and he's often cruising around on his bike or in company of some very attractive females. But he's no pimp or got Musab type game, he's just real with his natural charisma. 

 He uses his University of Minnesota education to display his outspoken views, never threatening or offensive but he gets his point across. He deeply cares about his city and the hip-hop scene; years of City Pages editors have felt his email and Twitter wrath on this very topic. He's been working with children and the youth for ten plus years, getting his start and experience with Yo! the Movement. But when he's not traveling worldwide teaching kids about Chicano Studies and Cultural Anthropology, hosting numerous rap parties and dance nights or designing homemade jewelry. He's building up his moxie to create a new rap movement based off a famous local Southside wing joint and Franz just released an epileptic challenged video for the new slang. We sit down and "wag" out with Franz with five questions: 

 So how does someone "wag on the scene," explain this to the hipsters in the dark? The wag movement. 

 Well "wag" is just some slang that we use in the Minneapolis to describe sort of our energy and style and taste. It was an inside joke first shared among a circle of folks in the hip-hop scene and then through word of mouth and social networking it got embraced and became something of its own; it really resonates with younger people who follow hip hop. Part of its allure is that it isn't necessarily definable; it's more an energy or an attitude; its aggressive, bold, lively, creative, positive, fun and very Minneapolis. 

 ...so it's not influenced by the classic  Shorty & Wags? (RIP) 

 Oh yes it most definitely does!! There was a song that Mike Mictlan and Freez had just done at the time called "Minne-Triple-Rockalis" and in that song Mictlan has a line that goes "I call you and your shorty "Shorty & Wags" and when Illuminous 3 gets together we like to joke around a lot and make play on words and do parodies and stuff. So we were joking around freestyling in the car and one of us used "wag" as a verb, something like, "See your shorty? I wagged her," and it was just something dumb and funny and with Illuminous 3 and the way we milk a joke we started using different ways of saying "wag;" so much so that we had created an ongoing inside joke that lasted. 

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 In past few years you were known for your great hosting of parties and events, you think that almost overshadowed your rapping ability? 

 Yes and no. I think I was meant to find myself hosting parties and shows. People underestimate the power of a true MC who controls the party, the people, the vibe, and the audience. The person who communicates what we are all here to do and encourages everyone; that's what a real MC is supposed to do. Minnesota dance floors can be real stiff sometimes and a lot of it is just people being too self-conscious. If they can see someone confidently engaging everyone and having fun and hyping the DJ and the music they are playing, they can lose some of their inhibitions and that's when we can all really enjoy each other! But I never stopped rapping. During this time I was always recording music, doing shows with Illuminous 3 and doing side projects with other musicians, but I was trying to find a truer identity and a sound that was more current and relevant to my lifestyle. While searching I ran into J-Hard who was a kid from North Minneapolis that I used to sort of mentor when I worked at YO! The Movement, he shared the beats he had been working on recently with me and they worked perfectly for the new sound I was going for which is what can be heard on "Sense of Self."

 ...so whats the ultimate goal of your career or movement? 

 My only real goal in life is to get paid to be myself. If I can find a way to make a decent living off of what I have to offer as a unique human being than I will be happy. I already am very happy with all the things I do; but now I'm really trying to figure out how to make things sustainable. My interests are vast and I want the freedom to do what I want whenever I feel like it. 

 You got a real passion and love for the local scene, what are some issues that bother you in this scene? What would you want to see changed? 

 This is a loaded question with a long list for an answer, but Ill try to be concise. The biggest problem I see right now is segregation and communication. We live in a very small city, but some how we have huge pockets of people who are often left out and unrecognized. Its hard enough just to get writers or news anchors to run a story on hip-hop period; and its even harder if that artist or group of artists are low income, young or of color. If you don't know how to speak the language that the press wants you to speak they'll go look for the more "articulate" artist or the one that "speaks" to them more. Well then, all you have to do is look at who's writing the articles and then you see the disconnect.

I am talking about segregation like how the Northside of Minneapolis is cut off from the rest of the city and is not considered a relevant audience to write about or for. I'm talking about Mexican rappers from St. Paul rapping about a hard life or a native kid from over south rapping about his culture or when young kids from Northeast drop a new song or video, there is no real publication in the Twin Cities that will really cover these artists and expose them to the rest of the city. It's a problem that affects everyone in the city but it really hurts the more disadvantaged. 

 ....and the hate for City Pages? (and a few editors. *wink*) 

 Man, it's not like that but I'll say it like this: maybe I've read into the name of the publication too deeply but if it's called "City Pages" I assume it's for and by people who live in the city. However more often than not I see little to no representation of so many things that are happening in this city that effect all of us, particularly people of color, young people and low income people. A while back, a writer for City Pages asked why I was upset with an article and the conversation played out to me asking if they had any writers of color there, which they then replied there were none, then I asked how many people there write and actually are from Minneapolis and the number was very low, so then I asked "well how can you accurately say that you represent the Twin Cities?" and the writer admitted that I had a point. I just want fairness and I was taught to ask for what you need. I read the City Pages often and it can be an amazing resource, I just want to see everybody benefit! 

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 You have always had a "swag" style with the '90s retro look, but what happens when this style gets played out? You going to jump to the grunge era or revert to some John Travolta "Grease" look, with a T-Birds jacket or something? What you going to do?

 MAN!! It's true I was ahead of the curve!! But really I just try to do stuff that speaks to me and push boundaries. I like surprises and colors and outrage and I like expressing myself. I hope I can always dress however I need to and be able to communicate something special through it! 

 You've always had a semi-political interest, is Obama still wag status or does he have something to worry about in 2012? 

 Man, I don't know what to say about Obama. That's a complex issue. What I will say is that I think that he is far more well intentioned than most politicians out there, but I don't know what that really means in our 2012 government. Things are really out of whack and Obama is definitely not the only one at blame for that. However, I don't really see anyone stepping up to the plate right now that could do a better job. I guess I'll have to do some more research but it doesn't look good.




You can download "Sense of Self" on February 7th for free here. You can also check out Franz Diego w/ Turnt Up! January 21st at the Nomad and also January 27th at Honey. Vintage Pro Player apparel and pimp cups are optional.



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31 comments
Rebecca McDonald
Rebecca McDonald

I respect the critical lens through which Franz is addressing City Pages. Since I began freelancing with CP over four years ago, I too, have used a similar lens to guide my coverage. I am passionate about, and have a responsibility to represent for the community, Hip Hop, people of color, and issues of class, gender and sexuality. Much love to Rodrigo for recognizing my commitment. Folks in community with me, who have taken the time to understand my location and biracial identity can even further understand this responsibility I speak of.

Most recently as CP staff, I have the opportunity to work with the editorial department. I will continue to be a resource and strong voice from my aforementioned location, a place where I can understand what Lars means when he refers to "Musab-type game." LOL. I appreciate people like Guante who check my white privilege, and am always open to have difficult conversations. I am also seriously concerned with sustainability. Community and communication across boundaries is needed to forge these relationships folks are speaking of wanting to nurture. 

Also, in response to Mavin MC's suggestion about a media workshop/gathering for artists, planning and implementation is already underway for such a thing. Holler at Sean McPherson at McNally for more information. Media professionals, such as myself, Jon Jon, Jake Schafer and others will provide insider information/tangible product that is needed to navigate this industry. Look for more information on City Pages soon.

So, if we are serious about building, we know where to find each other.

Rafael Gonzalez
Rafael Gonzalez

The homie Guante nailed it. This quote wags, "Getting yourself press coverage is a very particular kind of skill, one that both established acts and up-and-coming white acts often already have because of embedded privilege." Now with this being said, there should be more of a conscious effort from all local media outlets AND artists with these skills to reach out to those who don't have this privilege. There also needs to be more initiative taken by artists to gain these connections and knowledge. On a communal level, I'd like to organize a workshop where experienced artists/local media outlets can share their knowledge about getting local coverage to the up-and-comers and deserving artists that don't get covered. Not only that, this could be an even better opportunity for our local journalists to gain knowledge of so many artists they have yet to learn about. If any of you are interested, please shoot me an email mavinmc@gmail.com. Let's build. Let's organize. 

Although we openly feel the City Pages could be doing a better job of covering what's going on in the Twin Cities, especially with artists of color, the north side, etc., I'd like to thank the CP for the love they've given us throughout the years. I don't want folks to leave this discussion with the idea that we don't get coverage at all. Now, It may not have been as much love as other groups, but we do appreciate the exposure. I hope to build better relationships with CP so we can build a scene that supports talented artists all over the Metro fairly. 

What I admire about my brother Franz is that he's setting the tone for an environment where people can get called out when something isn't right. We're not bitching either. We're being assertive and addressing what needs to be addressed. We do this to protect our city/culture. 

Lars
Lars

Wow. Alright, let me start out with this. My name is Lars Larson and I write for City Pages.We will play the numbers game.

1. I have seen the comments about my writing, and yes I will admit I am not the best technical writer. But obviously, they saw something in me to give me a job and so far a great majority of the scene has applauded this hire also. Some of my favorite journalists/writers are also flawed "technically" and well...that's the way it is. I will also admit that I have had a 103 temp for three days straight and it's hard to write anything when you see dots bouncing around and your head is pounding like a Timbaland beat. So it was hard to give it my best ability, for that I apologize to Franz and my editor. 

2. As for the anonymous email saying I don't know what I am talking about because I am white. (sigh) I really don't want to get into this, but for some coward to question by creditability was upsetting to me. I hate to brag and boost, that's just not me. I was raised to be humble. But I feel I have done much for this scene and never asked for anything in return. Before there was Facebook or Twitter, there was DUNation.com. Which I created and ran for six years. Ask any local rap vet about the impact that website made on this scene. I've also worked for First Avenue, Rhymesayers and even Prince. I would like to think I have some creditability when talking about music and Hip-Hop in general. I don't ask for much, never did. But don't question the thing that I have dedicated and gave so much energy to over the years. I've paid my dues and put in the work.

3. No matter what happens, no one is ever going to be satisfied with the coverage of this scene. That includes Vita, City Pages and others. You can't please everyone. For how great this hip-hop scene has become over the years, it's still pretty small on the grand scale. I can count on one hand how many rappers can sell out the Mainroom. This is a rock dominated city, and it always will be.

4. I'm still really sick so I am going to take a nap before the Timberwolves game starts. Thanks for the comments and the support from many, including Jen Boyles. Got something to say, got a scoop? Email me: aldenmedia@gmail.com. Just don't be anonymous. Good night. Wag.

Idrathernot
Idrathernot

In Big Zach's book he spoke on how Rhymesayers and Slug in particular got the attention of media outlets such as City Pages. Slug, having apparently learned from Rock acts, acutally courted the writers and journalists. He was hanging out with them, buying them drinks... he was playing the game. I'm not saying that I agree with the way the game is played, but I respect that Slug saw it and got to hustling. It seems lots of people feel they're entitled to press but don't take the necessary steps to getting it. Where are your press kits? Are you sending writers copies of your work for review? Are you inviting them to your shows? Those are all things that artists need to be doing. These dialogs are important, we do need to hold accountable those who claim to be representing our scene and our city. At the same time though, it is important to understand the strategies others use to get the attention you all want.

Twellis
Twellis

I continually see Franz as one of the most passionate, supportive, and active artists in the TC hip-hop community. It's great to see him get some words in here.

GeneralWAGatron
GeneralWAGatron

all ima say is yall write about howler too much... 

Aaron Fitch
Aaron Fitch

Props for representing your roots and your city Franz... I feel like what you and Grease and the Suspects and Illuminous are doing is helping bring up new generations of positive hip hoppers and rappers from all different parts of both our cities.  Yall aren't doing it for money or fame either.  Yall aren't using the city as a way to make money.  Its pretty ill.  Thats the only reason I can think of that yall aren't gettin tons of face time in places like the city pages.  With that said.  This was a dope interview that maintained the positivity and taught me some new things

Colleen_Powers
Colleen_Powers

As a side note, this article is very poorly written and needs an editor. Demand not just coverage, but coverage that stands up as serious journalism.

Colleen_Powers
Colleen_Powers

I have been thinking about this issue a lot lately, as a journalist and a hip-hop fan who sometimes considers herself a hip-hop journalist. Zach talked about the need for more diverse coverage in his book, too.

I think constantly complaining about there not being enough diversity in local hip-hop coverage is counter-productive. Yes, diversity is essential to good coverage, but saying that local writers are just white kids from the suburbs who don't know what they're talking about is alienating. It pushes me to try harder in some ways, but it also makes me feel like an outsider. No, I didn't grow up in the Twin Cities, but I do make an effort to go to multiple shows a week and to talk to people there. 

Rather than throwing out whiny tweets about not getting covered, promote the people you think deserve attention, and help them promote themselves. I would love to get more press releases and to learn about the artists I'm sleeping on. E-mail me: colleen.r.powers@gmail.com

Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria
Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria

Jen,As Franz stated, in the article, the discussion about writers of color is addressed and at the time of the interview the writer of the city pages admits that there weren't any. I applaud that Bfresh is on staff, because Bfresh has a pulse on the hip hop community. last time i felt that this publication resembled what the community was doing was when Pete was reporting. Yes, i know staff overturn is common, but i think that if you want to represent the community, you need to involve them. Perhaps a weekly guest blog feature by local artists (not only music) would be an option worth exploring. I don't know if these are things that have been implemented, since i dont really read the city pages, because honestly i dont see it representing me. i see it more as a resource for Music and Arts, things going on. But i dont see features on for example hmong plays, award spoken word events like EQ at the Loft Literary, or other community focused events. I understand that these things i mention may not come to your attn due to the flood of info you guys receive, but as franz said, we want to see fair coverage. Thanks for taking your time to read this.rsc

Guante
Guante

Regardless of the particulars, Franz makes a great point about how the cultural "gatekeepers" in the TC are overwhelmingly white.  And for me, that doesn't just mean that a lot of them actually identity as white people; it's a bigger issue of white culture-- ways of speaking, how social interactions play out, what is considered "relevant" to readers, etc. etc.  It's not as simple as just race, but race obviously plays a huge part in it.

I think local media could ALWAYS do a better job of reaching out to underrepresented communities; even when they do a good job (as CP does sometimes), it's up to the people to keep the media on their toes.  If we focus the discussion just on hip hop, there are probably somewhere between 50 and 100 acts in the TC who legitimately deserve coverage.  There are always going to be acts who get slept-on and acts who get more attention than they deserve.  I think our goal as a community should be to simply help each other out.  I've facilitated a half-dozen workshops on writing press releases, writing bios, effective outreach & promotion and all that, mostly for teen MCs, and it's been cool, but it's just one example of how more experienced artists can pass on knowledge.  I'd like to see MORE of that happening, both formally and informally.

Getting yourself press coverage is a very particular kind of skill, one that both established acts and up-and-coming white acts often already have because of embedded privilege.  In the end, I guess that's the beautiful thing about the wag movement-- it's people building their own thing and helping each other out.  When they're successful, they don't NEED press coverage.  But for everyone else out there, all the crazy talented artists from all over the community, I think it's going to take a lot of collaboration and community-building to even the playing field, so to speak.

Guest
Guest

First thing I thought when I saw a CP interview with Franz was....well I guess this is what happens if you complain and bitch about not getting any interviews or support...way to bitch your way into an interview Franz!

Why does City Pages exist?
Why does City Pages exist?

Jen Boyle, not only are you UGLY, you are also playing a catty ass game. My goodness, is there anyone on the City Pages staff that doesn't play like a teenager? Fuck.

Joan Erakit
Joan Erakit

I appreciate Larson taking the time to interview, write and share this article.  I also appreciate Diego's point of view and understand it.  The publishing industry in this city (in general) is a tough one to gage, and no, I don't believe there is a lot of diversity. Which is why I applaud all individuals who take steps to create outlets where all voices can be heard.  And I equally respect all editors who are aware of this and take action to respond.

Reader
Reader

 This article could really benefit from some fundamental proofreading

FranzDiego
FranzDiego

Hey Jen! The conversation being cited in this interview is more than a year old and if you read what was written I said that the CP staff told me that there were no writers of color on staff. In that time since, I have seen a bit more writers of color on cp as well as articles that cover a wider diversity but I can only express the feelings I have and the info I know.  The Ray Cummings article still leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I would love to talk to him and others about the reasoning on that article and the outrageous follow up! If you read the comments on both of those articles I am not the only one that's upset.This interview has already gotten tons of retweets and reposts with people who share similar views, I am not the only one. But anything I can do to help I'm down!

Jen Boyles
Jen Boyles

Additionally, my assistant Rebecca McDonald (aka B Fresh), and staff writer Greg Pratt identify as non-white as well.  Did you miss Greg's cover story on immigrant scams last week?  Rebecca, meanwhile, was just featured on MNOriginal as an artist to watch for her coverage in the hip-hop community.  If you have story ideas, you can always send them our way. We read them.

Jen Boyles
Jen Boyles

Franz, I read and appreciate your point of view. But to say that no writers with CP are of color is a gross misrepresentation in itself. The other week you were bitching about Ray Cummings being racist, and I had to tweet you to inform you he's black.   Surely you haven't forgotten that? 

Willie Shu
Willie Shu

#WAGatron.

-Willie Shu (Turnt Up! Crew)

Jen Boyles
Jen Boyles

I appreciate everyone sharing their point of view here and have read all that you've posted. I assigned Lars to do this interview because I knew he would have interesting things to say. Thanks for reading..... -jen

Guest
Guest

sounds like internet-day payola to me.

Jen Boyles
Jen Boyles

Our new music editor's first day was Friday. Patience plz.

Mpls Mpls
Mpls Mpls

Thats weird. I am fairly certain he was interviewed because he has a new project coming out soon? I thought that is how it works? I follow him on twitter, and I have seen no complaining or bitching. Just thanking people for the local love and support. I would also like to add that Franz Diego is one of THE MOST supportive artists when it comes to promoting and helping out other artists.

Jen Boyles
Jen Boyles

You can think whatever you like about me, it doesn't bother me. But I just want to note the irony of you calling me catty while hurling personal insults. 

really???
really???

Bfresh Identifies as "non_white" ?

really???
really???

people can be racist against their own race btw

Franzdiego
Franzdiego

Thanks Jen! Im really glad that Lars asked the real questions he did and we could have this topic brought up! I didnt expect anyone to take offense to my answers, but I guess that means there are things to talk about!  Im very grateful for the coverage and hope that this dialogue helped open up some eyes and minds! Im glad that CP put Lars on the team and Im excited to read the next things he covers!

Guest
Guest

If you follow him on Twitter than you MUST of had to have seen plenty of his whiny rants...keep it real.

really???
really???

that being said I should say I have no background on the Ray Cummings issue you speak of so not saying that he is or isnt

Mpls Mpls
Mpls Mpls

Perhaps I missed what you are referring to because they didn't come off as whiny to me? I think it's a valid complaint. A lot of local hip-hop artists that don't fall under the Rhymesayers umbrella get passed over, or don't get the credit they deserve. It's amazing to me how artists with little-to-no substance (Prof, for example) get so much fanfare, while thoughtful, talented artists that are a great representation of MN are seen as "whiny" when they point it out. Reality-check time, pal.

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