by Garrad Lee

“Who is Mr. Franklin?” You might know him better as Kamikaze (aka Brad Franklin), his former moniker before retiring from the game in 2009. Introduced to the world as one half of Crooked Lettaz with David Banner in 1998, Franklin has also enjoyed a successful solo career. After a nearly two decade run, he put it all on hold to focus on other things, like his record label, writing and acting, various business ventures and his rock band, Storage 24.

By 2012, though, the hunger to rap had returned, and Kamikaze made his comeback as Mr. Franklin. “The era of Kamikaze has run its course,” Franklin says. “The name change signifies a maturity of me as an artist and as a man. It’s all about progression and growth. Points in your life will be different. If they’re not, you aren’t growing.”

Mr. Franklin is in a generation of hip hoppers watching the culture they love (or at least the popular face of it) seem to get younger and younger while they get older. The gritty rhymes and cautionary street tales that a lot of people were raised on don’t necessarily appeal to a generation that is growing up and accepting more “adult” responsibilities. Franklin’s new material, which he dubs “grown folks hip hop,” tends to deal with those very issues. We sometimes forget that many rappers have to figure out how to balance their music with wives and kids while trying to manage not only their music and business, but also their households.

“Many artists try to act like a 20 year-old,” Franklin says. “There is nothing more wack than a grown man acting like a 20 year-old. Be you. Be a 37 year-old guy who loves hip hop.” Franklin sees the issues in his music as being “more real life” than the gratuitous sex, violence, crime, and drug use that is rampant in a lot of the “keep it real” hip hop in the mainstream.

Part of Franklin’s balancing act involves his involvement in Fondren, where he sits on the board of ourFondren Neighborhood Association, a group that deals with everyday issues and happenings in the neighborhood. Growing up in a North Jackson neighborhood, Franklin got a taste for what a well organized and active neighborhood association could accomplish. “When we were looking for a place to settle down, we felt that Fondren exemplified that kind of neighborhood,” he says. “You get the best of both worlds. There are architects offices right in the midst of where artists, small business owners, musicians and MCs live and work. There is no other neighborhood in Jackson, really, where you can experience that.”

But, not everything is perfect, he points out. His current major neighborhood cause is Fondren Park on Northview Drive, that has, in Franklin’s view, been under-used. Never one to just sit idly by, Franklin is working on plans to introduce movie nights and live band performances to the park in the near future.

Overall, Mr. Franklin works with an ethos that is easy to appreciate, whether he is rapping or working in the community. “I want to affect change by being involved,” he says. “I don’t want to sit around and complain about things. If I am involved then I know what’s happening and can work to make things like I like them, and hopefully how other people do as well.”