University freshman Frank Leone prepares to release new rap album

With the upcoming release of his new album “#EnterWILD,” rapper Frank Leone is bringing music that he calls “unique, loud and powerful” to the music industry.

Leone, also known as Samuel Flannigan, freshman in Music, performed Thursday night at The Canopy Club and promoted the future release of his first full-length project, “#EnterWILD,” expected to come out in late May or early June. The album, produced entirely by Leone, centers around his outlook on the world and social issues going on today.

“It revolves around my perspective and how I view the world and people and kids my age,” Leone said. “I just think I speak on certain things that need to be spoken about more. I don’t think there are many artists that think how I do.”

Nayeli Miranda, freshman in DGS and concert attendee, said Leone’s style of incorporating real world problems into his songs is what makes him unique.  

“He talks about big issues that are happening in his songs,” Miranda said. “In one of his songs, he talked about people calling gays insulting names. It’s important.”

Leone also believes “#EnterWILD” will be unique to the music industry because its influences are not usually linked with his genre of music.

“The production is interesting,” Leone said. “I got a lot of influence from Broadway, world music and things that I like to listen to that I don’t think are necessarily grouped in with hip-hop or that style of music.”  

Before Leone went on stage, fellow rappers Saba, Mick Jenkins and Klevah opened the performance. Once Leone began interacting with the audience, he gave shout-outs and told the audience to “go crazy.” He also did a call-and-answer to energize the crowd.

“When I say ‘enter,’ you say ‘wild!’” Leone said beginning the call-and-answer. Although it was a smaller concert, attendees were singing along and jumping to the beat of Leone’s music.

Diana Flores, freshman in Education and show attendee, said the crowd had a good vibe.

“There are a lot of people enjoying him here,” Flores said. “I think the size of the crowd is good enough for the performer.”

Leone said he felt the concert went great and fulfilled all expectations he had for the night.

“It sold out, and I had great people opening for me that I’m huge fans of,” Leone said. “To be honest, Champaign isn’t huge on rap, but it’s good to see who can come out when you do a show like this. It was a great experience.”

Leone started to create his own music during his sophomore year in high school by playing piano and writing lyrics. That summer, he had his first real performance at a youth program for a talent show in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and ended up winning with his rap skills. 

“I performed for 5,000 people there,” Leone said. “I’ve been chasing that number ever since.”

Before creating “#EnterWILD,” Leone released other tracks in high school.

“I released an EP called ‘Deep Ocean’ that came out my senior year of high school,” Leone said. “I did it with Vic Mensa from ‘Kids These Days,’ and guys from ‘SaveMoney.’ It was short, but it showed me how to make better music from this.”

In 2011, he began collaborating with Kids These Days after showing them a remix he had done of their track, “Be.” Leone has now opened for other artists at The Canopy Club, such as The Kid Daytona and Alex Wiley. He has also worked with artists such as Antidote, ProbCause, The GTW and other big names in the Chicago music scene. Over the years, Leone has gained a following for his music.

“There’s a certain buzz that’s building right now,” Leone said. “This year, a couple of my songs like ‘BUMP in the Night’ and ‘Twenty 14’ have helped me gain followers, and hopefully it keeps getting bigger.”

Leone believes his success comes from his hard work and dedication to music.

“I just worked really hard and fell into the right group of people,” Leone said. 

His future goals include continuing to promote “#EnterWILD” and going on tour this summer. Leone also hopes to one day work with his own musical inspirations: Frank Ocean and Chance The Rapper.

“I just want to keep making weird things people haven’t heard before,” Leone said. “I’m just going to keep making good things and inspire people.”

Christine can be reached at [email protected]