The A&R Report got a chance to sit out with Franky Vasquez. If you don’t know who he is you will now. Franky 1st started out as an engineer at Snoop Dogg’s recording studio, & after years of recording with Snoop; he became his jack-of-all-trades. He’s an A&R and Project Coordinator at Doggy Style Records and a Manager at Stampede Management. Read below and find out more about Franky and his journey thus far.
Hello Franky and thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Let’s start out by telling our readers what you do and about your background.
So I started out as an engineer back in 2006. I went to the Musician’s Institute and got my RIT degree. I was the only kid doing Rap/Hip-Hop music from my class. At that time, my mastering professor was in touch with Snoop’s engineer who was a former student of his. My professor just gave me his number and was like, “Here call this dude, he’ll give you a job, if not an internship”. He didn’t tell me the guy worked for Snoop but just to call him ASAP! The same day I graduated I called him, went to the interview, and started the next day. When I arrived I realized I was at Snoop’s studio; I saw Kurupt and WC in the hallway. I was his engineer/studio manager for about six years. A few years later, Snoop went fully independent and started doing more in the digital distribution world. The workload was a bit too much for his current A&R, who was already deep into the “Reincarnated” project, so he brought me in to the picture. That’s when I went from working in the studio to working with artists and indie labels. By working with Snoop, I’ve literally had the chance to work with almost every rapper you can think of, from the new to old school. Soon after that, I started to A&R directly for Snoop and began looking for producers and artists to work with. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing for the past three years. At one point or another, I’ve basically held every job at Snoop’s label; I was the runner, the maid, engineer, studio manager, and now it’s A&R.
Do you still engineer on the side?
Yessir. I still do that whenever I get the chance cause that’s really what I love doing. I love being in the studio, I love recording; I also produce for a band too. So yea, I still stay doing my own stuff aside from what I do for Snoop. Engineering/Producing is my passion and A&R/managing is something I’m learning.
From all those jobs/positions you have held which would you say was the toughest?
It’s hard to say, each one challenged me in different ways, but if I had to choose, I’d say the interning phase was probably the most testing. It was tough. The studio was infamous for running thru their interns. During my 18-month stint, 20+ interns easily came and went. They really ran you thru the ringer to see if you could hang. But once I picked up on their workflow and really got the hang of things, people became comfortable with having me around. That phase definitely thickened my skin and got my chops together.
I’m curious how does it feel working with all the artists and legends you grew up on? You mentioned you have worked with many and you still are working with Snoop.
It’s trip to see it happen right before your eyes, like these guys are REALLY good at what they do. I love to see Snoop work because he’s a natural, a lot soul in his music. I did many sessions with Lady of Rage, Terrace Martin and Kurupt before I officially became Snoop’s engineer. I had to earn my way to Snoop. I still remember when Terrace told Snoop “He’s ready.”
When I really think about it, it trips me out that I was 5 when I first heard Snoop and now I get work with the guy. It’s crazy!
What’s one piece of advice or thing Snoop told you and you never forget?
We’re having a conversation about influence and he replied with:
“Man Franky, if you only knew how much we influenced your generation; from the shoes you are wearing to the way you talk to the way you smoke… We taught you guys all that stuff.”
I was like “Damn…true true.”
So you’re working with Raven Felix, a rapstress from the Valley. I know she got a co-sign from Snoop himself. How did you two meet and how’s that going?
The cool thing about Snoop is that he always keeps his ear to the streets and is always down to support new artists. He doesn’t see the newcomers as competition; he looks at it as, ”I’m your big homie”. That’s why they call him “Big Uncle Snoop”. Ted Chung (Snoop’s manager) and I were talking about the void of a Latino/Hispanic artist to represent in the Rap/Hip-Hop music scene. I would get submissions from new artists because I was also working on “Underground Heat”, Snoop’s Top 10 video countdown on YouTube. My boy Max Powers had sent me a few videos and Raven was among those. Once Ted caught wind, he said we HAD to work with her. Soon we met with her & her producer/publicist, so she already had somewhat of a team together. For us, it was about helping her get to the next level of her career. I got brought into the mix since I was already A&R’ing and scouting for new artists for Snoop to work with. It’s refreshing to work with Raven since she’s Hispanic and plus she’s from the Valley; & I’m Hispanic and from the Valley too. The connection was there.
Working with Raven has been really different for me because when I started with Snoop, he was already Snoop and will forever be Snoop. Now with Raven, it’s been a different experience; we’re building something from the ground up. We have an awesome team and we all have the same goals. We do our best to bring out the best in everyone.
What is the Underground Heat? Can you please elaborate on what that is?
Underground Heat is a weekly YouTube music video countdown that I help Snoop produce. Basically, it’s Snoop’s version of Rap City-The Bassment/TRL. Snoop wanted to create a show where he could showcase all the new music videos he liked and the artists who created them. He also wanted the fans to have a voice in determining the rankings by giving them to chance to vote for their favorites.
That’s what makes this show special, it benefits everyone involved.
New artists have a platform to get their videos viewed, fans are engaged to represent for their favorites, and Snoop is credited for exposing new artists. It’s a win/win for everyone.
How has the Underground Heat help you develop into an A&R?
It really opened my eyes to how much good music is out there. You just need to look for it and sometimes that can take a lot of patience. It also helped me realize how crucial the visual element is nowadays.
It’s amazing what a good music video can do for an ok/weak song *laughs*… but it is awesome when people get it right. The visual element is just as important as the music itself.
What other artists are you working with right now? What artists should be aware of that you have on your radar?
We’ve featured some really dope artists on the show. Really diggin’ Boogie from the LBC.
D.R.A.M and Sunny & Gabe out of Virginia are super dope! Little Simz from the UK. Mick Jenkins is also a favorite of mine, glad to see him getting more recognition.
I want to touch on race since you mentioned it and especially since you’re Hispanic/Latin; you don’t really see that in this industry. What do you believe makes it hard for a Hispanic/Latino to make it in this industry?
I just think it’s not really out there in the mainstream as it could be. Being Hispanic, Caucasian, or Asian adds that extra level since you don’t really see it often. Sometimes off the bat people think since your Mexican you’re doing Chicano Gangsta Rap or if you’re Puerto Rican you’re on some Reggaeton shit. It’s a stigma. There’s so much more in between that. Latino culture has so many different flavors and perspectives, just as any other culture.
And now, we’re at a point in this country where Latinos influence a big part of American culture. We’re going to have louder voices, and will be more represented.
Representing for my people and culture, I love it!
I wanted to touch on how Snoop has developed or change depending on how you look at it, but I love it and respect the progression. What’s your take on that? How would you respond to the critics?
One thing about Snoop is that you can’t put him in any specific category, he’s a rare case in that respect.
He draws on so many different styles of music for inspiration. He just does what comes naturally, he’s always had a certain versatility. Even on Doggystyle, you can hear influences of Reggae, Funk, and Soul. I think that it’s been a natural progression for him. From Reincarnated with Diplo, to 7 Days of Funk with Dam Funk and now the Bush album with Pharrell, Snoop is touching on all the different sides to his style.
Can’t wait for you guys to hear what he’s done with Adrian Younger.
As he would put it “If it feels good to you, it’s good for you.”.
Any last words or advice you want to give?
Stay passionate! Never forget why you’re doing this in the 1st place. As long as you genuinely love what you do, you’ll continue to do it well. If you’re trying to get rich quick then this isn’t the job for you. That’s why I try to stay passionate, you have to have that fire inside you to succeed.
Where can they reach you at or get in touch with you?
Follow me on Twitter at @MrFrancoValli and Instagram @Figmento87. I’m always excited to meet new artists, producers, & talented individuals to work with. You can also submit videos to Snoop & myself at www.theundergroundheat.com. Thanks for having me.