If you’re not yet familiar, it’s time to get to know FRKO, the Atlanta-raised creative collaborating with everyone from Action Bronson to Gucci Mane.
Rap fans may recognize FRKO’s raunchy illustrations from the cover of their favorite albums, but not as many know about the creative mind behind the crudely-humored works.
Born and raised in the unofficial hip-hop capital of Atlanta, FRKO (born Richard Montgomery) rose to prominence for his work on Action Bronson’s 2015 album Mr. Wonderful. Then, as Gucci Mane celebrated a triumphant release from prison with a new single entitled “All My Children”, the trap star enlisted the much-buzzed artist to design the accompanying visuals.
In case you’re curious, here are 10 things you need to know about FRKO, the visual artist killing it in hip-hop right now.
His art is a direct reflection of growing up in Atlanta
Long before Atlanta became a gentrified metropolis of Beltlines and hipster markets, it was a brazen city of Freaknik and all-night parties. FRKO’s work reflects this old-school ATL, with the artist often receiving compliments from local fans that miss the city’s old spark. “I have people come up to me and they’ll say my work reminds them of the old Atlanta, back when it was raw. I saw a lot of crazy stuff growing up and I want to share it through art.”
He’s a big fan of the city’s creative scene
“Right now, I’m a huge fan of my friend Brandon Sadler. He’s a muralist I look up to a lot, and I don’t even think he knows it.” When he’s going through bouts of creative block, FRKO gathers inspiration from his arsenal of creative friends, which is in no danger of falling short, as the artist prefers to surround himself with other creative individuals.
If he wasn’t an artist, he’d probably be a professional BMX rider
Growing up, FRKO was more often than not cruising around on a BMX bike with his friends. He still spends his free time the same way, and figures that, if he wasn’t an artist, he’d probably be riding professionally. Even though he isn’t able to dedicate much time towards actual biking, art collaborations with Animal Bikes allow the creative to mix work with pleasure.
He received a formal art education at Howard University
Though FRKO didn’t make it to graduation (the young artist was a few credits shy when he had to leave for financial reasons), he studied for a few years at the Washington DC HBCU. “While it doesn’t necessarily have to be at a collegiate level, I think formal training is super important. It helped to break the mindset of “I can’t” and allowed me to develop a more conceptual attitude.”
His dream creative collab is with MF Doom
Looking up to the British-born rapper for his experimental style, FRKO often draws caricatures of MF Doom for fun and wouldn’t mind seeing the sketches realized on a mixtape. “He’s a visual artist himself, and I always love the wild stuff he comes up with.”
Snoop Dogg is a fan of his work
Proving that a lot more goes down in the DM than Yo Gotti would like you to think, FRKO once received fan mail from none other than Snoop Dogg himself. The rapper sent him a direct message on Instagram, expressing his admiration for the artist’s work. While FRKO hasn’t created anything for the West Coast musician just yet, he’s open to doing something in the future.
Despite the celebrity fans, he’s not looking to become famous
The laid-back creative has little interest in fame and hopes to avoid the stress that comes with increased notoriety. “I don’t want to put myself out there that much. I want to keep it exclusive.”
He’ll present his first solo show this September
For one week beginning September 16, fans will have the opportunity to view FRKO’s work at Atlanta’s Murmur Gallery. His first solo show, the exhibition will consist of installations and reveal a different side of the artist’s creative mind.
He released a track entitled “I Need Data”
Just in case drawing for other musicians doesn’t work out, FRKO has begun work on a budding rap career of his own. Sampling Orbital’s acid house “Halcyon and On and On”, the song tells the all-too-familiar tale of cellular network woes, before breaking into a plea for more data. For the single’s artwork, FRKO stands amidst a crowd of Benders in a stroke of comical genius that only he could get away with.
He’s a proud black artist
If there is one thing the ATL-based creative wants fans to know, it’s that he is a proud and unapologetically black artist. “A lot of people are afraid to discuss the presence of black art among our generation. My work might not look the same as the old shit I used to see in my grandma’s home, but I want it to be the continuum of that.”
Despite the light-hearted tone utilized in his art, FRKO enjoys his position as a black artist and hopes it can give an even younger generation of black artists something to aspire towards.
For more art content, check out our interview with Morley, one of today’s most prolific street artists.
- Words: Gloria Cardona
- Lead image: FRKO