A desire to entertain drives Denver’s Shane Franklin. Whether he’s singing, dancing, rapping, playing the drums, acting, performing under his moniker SF1, or even working as a radio personality, the Denver artist is constantly juggling multiple forms of expression. And he’s making it work.
Franklin’s musical style is best described as alternative hip-hop, but that’s too limiting: He’s a multimedia Renaissance man, sampling across genres and picking and choosing when to apply his many talents to draw in fans.
His live performances are less straightforward than his recorded music. Depending on the night, audiences might see ballet and tap dancers, a drumline or a full backing band on stage — or he might perform a slew of tribute songs paying homage to one of the most greatest hip-hop groups of all time, OutKast, as he did during his “Night of OutKast” this past January at the Oriental Theater.
Despite the success of that performance, Franklin is quick to note that he nodded to the rap duo not to become Colorado’s latest-greatest OutKast tribute act, but to put his own twist on classic material while showing people a good time.
Even so, his ability to earnestly re-create the rhythms and rhymes of Big Boi and André 3000 with an original take is something to marvel at. When he performs at the Westword Music Showcase on Saturday, June 23, Franklin plans to include OutKast material along with original songs and visuals.
“Because I’m a drummer first, I always try to make sure I’m drumming. I’m also a tap dancer, so I make sure to add that to the performance. I grew up in the theater, so I always want to make sure that things are entertaining,” says Franklin. “I don’t want people to just hear a song and say, ‘I could have heard that in my car stereo and saved ten dollars.’”
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The shape-shifting, genre-bridging art he creates is not a marketing gimmick — though there’s no doubt that Franklin is one of the savvier ambassadors of his own brand in town — but more of a byproduct of who he is: an affable and curious person, interested in unlocking new ways to reach an audience, be it through a hit single on the radio or a play in a local theater.
“With me having a varied background, I want to showcase a little bit of everything. If I’m not dancing, dancers will come out. If I’m not singing, I’m going to get someone else to come out and sing it. I just want to display what the piece actually means.”
Franklin’s desire to be involved in many different forms of art and media is perhaps the result of learning to appreciate them all at a young age. He finds balance in his life when given the opportunity to explore different types of expression.
With plans to release music and music videos every other month in 2018, a three-track EP expected to drop in June, and a horror film titled Lot 24 that just premiered at the Cannes Festival in France, Franklin is hoping new audiences will eventually find something in his music and performances to latch on to.
“I want to be an epicenter of everything. When people come to my shows, there’s always something for everybody: There’s rock, there’s Latin, some jazz, there’s some punk rock — but everything’s on top of that hip-hop foundation, because that’s what I was raised in.”
Franklin’s original songs are mashups themselves, sampled from familiar sounds. One song can feel like a b-side from an early Childish Gambino record while another feels like a bridge between OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and Incubus.
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Rather than measure his success with each song, movie appearance or play, one ought to consider Franklin’s work as parts of a larger whole in which he makes use of his full range of talents. His malleability very well could be his work’s greatest quality.
In another era, Franklin could run the risk of appealing to no one in his attempts to appeal to everyone, but not now, when an artist’s brand often carries more weight with consumers than a genre or medium. With his multifaceted and tireless approach, Franklin might just be on to something.
“For me as an artist, it’s all to evoke emotion,” says Franklin. “It’s for that auditory and visual to come together.”
SF1, Westword Music Showcase, 5:30 p.m., June 23, Vinyl Rooftop, 1082 Broadway, westwordshowcase.com.