Would you like to help us Spread Culture & Good Music?


July 11, 2008

FWMJ (Frank William Miller Jr)- Interview w/ Scheme MAG



Frank William Miller Junior, from Brooklyn, NY, to the Philippines, to Texas and then back to New York hip-hop has been to Frank William Miller Junior what Shaq means to the Phoenix Suns; without that dominate force the Suns will never grasp that illustrious championship and hip-hop will never have had access to the unspoken stories without FWMJ’s RappersIknow. Working at hip-hop pioneer radio station HOT97 by day, FWMJ is their Art Director, by night he’s on a mission to put out the greatest music that may or may not ever reach the mainstream airwaves and since were about history making and people who have made unconditional contributions to hip-hop we present to you the internal workings of FWMJ.

Scheme: When did you first run into hip-hop and the music?

FWMJ: Probably like the late 80’s, ‘87-’88, my father was in the Air Force and we were stationed in the Philippines. Of course the few Black people on the base would have house parties every now and then. My family went over another persons families’ house and someone was playing LL Cool J in the house, it was strange to me because it was unlike anything else I heard. Then there was another neighborhood on the Air Force base and this guy used to make mixtapes and Rakim and LL Cool J were some of the first joints I heard. As I got older I was buying the Kris Kross and the Hammer tapes and that was pretty much it.

Scheme: When did you actually decide that you were going to get involved with the music, because you work for HOT97 currently?

FWMJ: Yeah, I came to HOT97 about two years ago; as far as working for music, the very first thing I did? My sister’s friends older brother back when we lived in San Antonio where I went to high school, he was one of the only kids in my area that was into quote un quote hip-hop back in the 90’s. A lot of people in Texas identified with a west coast sound than the east coast sound because they figured the east coast sound was a little to exclusive and what not. Plus he was half Japanese and half White so he was really into the Wu-Tang and things like that. So he made records and I used to like his beats and so I did a record cover for him. That’s right around the time I was getting into graphic design. When I went to Houston for college [Rice University] that’s when I met DJ Cipher, and through him I met everyone else through in the Houston underground. I figured if I could make the covers look as good as the music maybe people would pay attention.


Scheme: When did you move from the Philippines back over to the states, how old were you?

FWMJ: Born in Brooklyn, my dad was born and raised here and shortly after my mother had me my dad joined the Air Force and we moved from the Philippines in ‘83. We moved to England in 1990, then moved back to the states in ‘92 or so. I didn’t get to Texas until I was twelve or so.

Scheme: Talk a little more about that underground scene in Houston?

FWMJ: Me coming from a jazz background from my dad I liked Tribe, De La, Gangstarr and all that diggin in the crates type stuff. I was familiar with U.G.K. and DJ Screw’s music for the longest but honestly it didn’t resonate for me because of my background and sample and drum sound. I didn’t really understand the whole “slow it down” thing because obviously I wasn’t driving yet (laughs). So when I got to college I was on some east coast revere sh*t. So Lil’ Keke, Paul Wall and Chamillionaire were all doing stuff, but I’m glad I did catch on, it’s another voice, another narrative and something we need to take into account and just because some people don’t understand it, it doesn’t make them any less unintelligent.


Scheme: Do you think that’s one of the big problems with hip-hop is that some people don’t take the time to understand artists from other coasts, regions or cities?

FWMJ: I’m not sure, I run in a crowd that listens to everything. Like Cipher and Kay [of the Foundation] and when I was in my angry underground stage they laughed about it but as I got older and started listening to more stuff I came to accept a lot more things. As far as people being in their own little silohs and little worlds I don’t know if thats really the case. All those people that are adamant about hip-hop being a certain way those are kind of the “Johnny Come Lately” cats that started listening to rap in the late 90’s after Biggie and TuPac died and started claiming the music their personal soundtrack. To me working at the biggest hip-hop radio station in the country and therefore the world, it’s just a matter of variety in stuff that gets played. At least on the underground level cats in Detroit are working with cats in Houston are working with cats in Los Angeles are working with Cats in New York, so people are working on the underground level and the internet has played a big part in that. The stuff that the major labels sign based on youtube numbers and myspace downloads and the stuff that the radio plays based on those numbers, is to me what’s messed up with hip-hop. It’s just the variety which is what people have been harping on what gets played today versus back in the day. Now that they have a formula which is any song that has a dance to compliment it, or club, Patron, Henessy etc.

Scheme: How did you get plugged into HOT97?

FWMJ: I dropped out of college in the summer of 03′ and took a year off to collect my thoughts and I finished up in ‘05. My mom was like, “You need to get a day job.” She was like, “You’re doing all these covers for broke rappers.” (laughs). The loan people kept calling. So we were doing RappersIknow for about a month and then I went up to New York and had an interview from NBC and I got an offer from them, but I decided I didn’t want to wear church shoes and slacks to the office everyday, so I was going to hang out in New York until it was time to go back to Texas. My friend Monica who is Ali Shaheed’s manager sent me this job link and she told me I should apply for this, fifteen minutes before she called I saw the exact same job posting. I applied and they gave me an interview two days after I was supposed to go back to Texas and I’ve been stuck in New York since (laughs). (laughs).

Actually the art director for the parent company that owns HOT97 was familiar with the Foreign Exchange art work I did. When he saw it was me applying for the job he put in a good word for me in New York and they went with it.


Scheme: What are some of the album covers that you’ve done?

FWMJ: The first one that anybody really might have paid attention to was Little Brother’s the Listening, and I got hooked up with Little Brother via Slopfunkdust. He introduced them to me when they were trying to put it out on their own before they got linked up with ABB [Records]. Then I did the GetBack their latest album, I did a record cover for Encore, Casual, K-Otix, I did some stuff for the Foundation and I’m doing Jean Grae and 9th Wonder’s album cover right now. So I’ve done a few things, I have to do some more, I have to balance my schedule a little better (laughs).

Scheme: What’s the process when you create these album covers?

FWMJ: Well earlier on when I was really working on the grassroots level I would get the record early and I would listen to the record non-stop just trying to get the vibe and then I design from there. I’ve been fortunate that most people let me have complete creative control and I just go with it. Usually I execute it properly, or at least they seem to think so. Whatever the music makes me feel or whatever artistic mood I’m in, it’s usually on that tip.

Scheme: So what exactly is your role at HOT97?

FWMJ: My official title is Interactive Brand Manager but basically that means I’m HOT97’s Art Director. Any pamphlets, decorations, billboard advertisements, logos or the website is most of what I do up there. The look and feel of HOT97 is what I’m responsible for. So a lot of hours “doctor’s” hours is what I tell people.

Scheme: What’s that mean for you to work for THE hip-hop radio station in the country and the world?

FWMJ: I have to be honest, I’m a backpacker, they call me THE backpacker at work and at meetings. Regardless of what they have to play 70% of the people at the station are backpackers and listen to underground stuff or non-mainstream stuff. So I’m a little conflicted because I understand the legacy that HOT97 had or has as far as opening hip-hop to a lot of people, but at the end of the day I like the music that I like and we don’t play it. So I just have to remind myself that I work in the radio business just not the good music business. For example the program directors tried to get that Snoop song from his last album that had Dr. Dre and D’Angelo on it and for a kid that grew up listening to that sound that’s a nice little throw back track for me. I’m sitting next to a girl in my office and she was like, “that sh*t is wack” (laughs) and I’m looking at her crazy like how is this wack!


Scheme: So is that basically one of the reasons you started RappersIKnow

FWMJ: Definitely, I spent a good number of years in Houston, I remember the first example [Kay of The Foundation & DJ Cipher’s first group together] album the EP that I did the artwork for and they sent it out to a record company and the company was like it’s not exactly what were looking for it’s a little to jazzy and and we want more of that street sound like Mobb Deep or something produced by the Alchemist. So we got tired of sitting on this music because we didn’t have any official distribution. So we decided to give stuff away on the internet, we initially did it with the first Foundation album, we gave it to a couple of labels on the west coast and we had it circulating on the east coast for a while and people would be like, “Yeah it’s dope, but we don’t have enough numbers to prove that there’s an audience there. So that got frustrating and so we put it out on the internet for a while and people were downloading it like crazy, word spread and we actually got a couple of different offers from independent labels and that’s still in the air, I don’t know what’s going on with that right now.

The name started out as a joke between me and Kay and we were trying to figure out what we were going to call it when we were giving away all these songs and at first we were going to call it n*ggasIknow (laughs), but then I thought, my mother might see this website so we decided to go with RappersIknow. Basically it’s my frustration with the lack of balance and to get people’s stories and narratives who have been shutout.

That was an Interview with my homie Frank & Scheme Magazine. I hope this shed light on the man behind many Amazing album covers and one of the greatest outlets for (real Talented) Independent Artists www.RappersIKnow.com . Frank William Miller Jr, is one of the few people who are brutally honest about Music, Art, Movies and one of the only opinions that holds any weight in my book.  If you get two Thumbs up from FWMJ, you know you have a classic on your hands.

Pe@ce and Blessings, 

The Hobbyshop HERO
(Cooler than Corey Haim)