Philly supports Philly, but not just because the person or thing is coming out of Philly, but because what is being presented is genuinely dope. Philly will support what they like, and when they find out that what they like is homegrown, the City of Brotherly Love will show an extreme amount of love to their brother/sister…and right now no one should know this better than R&B singer Beano French.
Whether killing stages or collaborating with other local artists, the West Philly crooner has always had the support of his friends and neighbors, so once Beano finally dropped his debut project Just Beano EP, it was no surprise how excited fans were to hear and see how Beano could stand on his two feet as an artist. I was able to sit down with Beano and talk about his early beginnings, his debut EP and what he has in store for this year — including a headlining appearance at Coda a little later on this month.
The Key: Like many artists your music career started in the church. What are some things that you picked up singing in church that you use when performing or even in the studio?
Beano French: Singing in the choir, I learned more control over my voice, how to make it blend — that’s like your first training in harmony. So singing in the church taught me control over my voice, how to harmonize with other keys and also how to strengthen my voice. My mom was a big advocate of “If you goin sing, you goin sing in the choir,” and I give her praise up to this day how strong it made my voice to how high I can sing and everything.
TK: You said that you started getting more serious about singing after you won BET’s 106 & Park’s Wild Out Wednesdays. What was it about that victory that made you more focused?
BF: Girls. [laughs] Being totally honest, when I talk about music, most of the guys that get into music [do it because] cause girls like singers. So I saw that I could really do it, I had fun doing it, and girls liked it. So that was really it, because my first love was sports, still my first love. On football Sundays, you probably can’t even get in touch with me because by 9 a.m., I’m up watching the pregame show all the way up to the kickoff show all the way up to 11:00 when Sunday night football is going on and sometimes Thursday and Monday you can’t get to me. So when it became a thing that football is possibly not going to be a career, I started really falling in love with music, like performing and everything like that. So my love came from just doing it more and girls liking it.
TK: That focus helped you create a buzz that got you in positions to open up for big names like The-Dream, Musiq Soulchild, Ryan Leslie, Bilal, Ty Dolla $ign and Mac Wilds. Out of those six performances, which one do you think was your best one?
BF: Out of all of those which was the best one? I’ll be honest: it was The-Dream jawn. When I opened up for The-Dream, that was my first big show. I give all praise to my bro Yusef Muhammad. He gave me my first opportunity, he presented me to Live Nation. He was telling them about me, he pretty much sold them to me. So we did it, and it was not heard of to give your opener tickets and I think I sold over a hundred tickets to The-Dream show myself at 35 dollars a pop. It was my first big show, a lot of people in the city were excited for it and I gained a lot of fans that night because a lot of people didn’t know I was from Philly. Because I have a big family and people know me in the city, people were posting videos of me on Instagram and people were like “Oh this is such and such.” I remember one girl to this day, she posted a video of me singing on her Instagram like “I don’t know who he is but he can sing,” which made her follow me and three more people started following me and has been showing love ever since. So I think my favorite one might have been The-Dream, and I got to share the stage with my dad, because he was in my band at the time.
TK: You also worked on a project with hip hop artist Chill Moody and producer Hank McCoy called Who Do You Love More? Describe the differences between working on a group project and doing one of your own?
BF: The difference was this was more, when you collab with somebody, you’re yourself, and it’s bits and pieces of everyone. With my solo project, I got to give y’all more of just who I am. I had fun working on those projects, I won’t lie, but with this I got to give y’all who I am and more of my artistry. Even back then, I might have been scared to put out solo music, because when you’re a artist and you’re known for your features, someone can say “I don’t like the song, but I like his part.” When you’re doing a song that’s all you, there’s no crutch, it’s either I like it or I don’t like it.
TK: And that’s crazy because as much as Philly loves you, the only knock against you was that you never had a solo project. We knew you could sing, perform your ass off when you got on stage and make sure to stand out in any feature you were on, but there was never anything that showed your own artistry until this EP. Tell me about the process that went into making Just Beano EP.
BF: The process into making Just Beano was Dilemma. Shout out to Dilemma, he took a chance on me, he saw me working really really hard. I was working hard to the point that I was trying so hard to make solo music done but every situation wasn’t working. And there’s a reason it didn’t work: I’m a very religious person, so everything that didn’t work out for a reason, God put everything in motion. So when Dilemma called me, he said “Look man, I really want to take a chance on you,” and a lot of people didn’t know he was about to leave Philadelphia. Him and his wife Ashley were about to move to LA, but he said before he leaves, he wanted to do a project with me, and as of right now, my project as kept him in Philly a little while longer. He really took a chance with me and I give all respect and praise to him for doing that.
TK: You can hear different genres in Just Beano EP such as hip hop, doo wop and even different types of R&B like traditional and acoustic. Was trying different sounds something Dilemma lead you to, or was that something you already wanted to do?
BF: The thing with Just Beano EP that made it so easy to work on was that me and Dilemma are friends, he’s known me for years. One thing he’s always said was how much music I digest. I listen to everything and with that he said “I know you can sing, but I want people who listen to this project and like this project to hear different textures of your voice. Let’s show them that you can do more than just belt out loud and do runs. Let’s show them some swag and some sexy.” So him knowing me and what I could possibly sound good on and just trying things, because this project was a lot of just trial and error, trying and seeing what happens. Then we worked with some amazing writers and happened to come up with some really good records and all of it sounded good together.
TK: Who are the songwriters you worked with on this EP?
BF: Noel Scales, who is an amazing artist herself. Stephanie Chambers, a girl named Cheyenne Lavene from LA, Annie Miller who’s actually on the end of “Darling Baby.” Blake Winters who is now a platinum songwriting artist because he wrote on Chris Brown’s Heartbreak on a Full Moon. City Rominiecki, Darius Coleman and my sister Just Frenchie as well. It was just a big bowl of collectives working on this project and it was dope because I wanted to do that. I wanted people to feel that this is as much yours as it is mine. I had a whole squad working on different records because I wanted everything to sound the same but with different flavors. Getting different people to bring different things out of you so that was a big part of it.
TK: What are some things that you learned about yourself as an artist and a person when making your debut EP?
BF: One thing I learned about myself is trusting in my abilities that God gave me, because I’m not afraid to try new things. But there is some insecurities there, because it’s not what I’m used to. So just learning more of my voice and how to use my voice and things like that and how resilient I can be. I really learned to keep pushing even when it’s not the best day, I’m not going to complain.
TK: You have also hosted a couple of open mics like Cool Beans and Rents Due. Describe the local talent you’ve come across in your city.
BF: I’ll say this, Philadelphia hands down is the most talented city, and it’s not just because I’m from Philadelphia. I’ve been to other cities, other open mics and things of that nature, but Philadelphia’s consistency in talent not just with singers I’m talking about our MC’s, musicians, everything. It’s some of the best talent, and the best thing about Rents Due is how much talent comes out every month. I’m talking about singers, rappers, poets, painters, like we’ve had everything at Rents Due and I make sure to let people know it isn’t a Beano show. This platform is for y’all, I might sing one time but this is for y’all to get out there and do y’all thing, because I want to know the other talent in the city because we have so much of it.
TK: What else does Beano have for 2018?
BF: 2018 I have coming up my first big headlining concert. I’m headlining Coda March 18th. I got videos that I’m about to start working on and more shows. The goal right now is to get the music to as many people as possible. I want to be an artist that’s from Philly, not an artist that’s in Philly.
Beano performs live at Coda on Sunday, March 18th. Tickets and more information on the 18+ show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.