Frannie Kelley

Frannie Kelley is an Editor for NPR Music.

In this position, Kelley is responsible for editing, producing and reporting NPR Music's coverage of hip-hop, R&B and the ways the music industry affects the music we hear, on the radio and online. She is co-editor of NPR's music news blog, The Record, and co-host of NPR's rap stream Microphone Check, with Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

Since joining NPR in September of 2007, Kelley has worked on a variety of projects including running a series on hip-hop in 1993 and overseeing a project on women musicians. She also ran another series on the end of the decade in music and web-produced the Arts Desk's series on vocalists, called 50 Great Voices. Most recently, her piece on Why You Should Listen to Odd Future was selected to be a part of the Best Music Writing 2012 Anthology.

Prior to joining NPR, Kelley worked in book publishing at Grove/Atlantic in a variety of positions from 2004 to 2007. She has a B.A. in Music Criticism from New York University.

Pages

Microphone Check
11:29 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

J. Cole: 'Ain't Enough Of Us Trying'

J Cole, whose mother supported him as a postal worker when he was a kid.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:03 am

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Microphone Check
4:28 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Rick Ross: 'It Was Just So Powerful To Me'

Rick Ross.
Courtesy of Def Jam Records

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 11:16 am

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun November 30, 2014

First Listen: Ghostface Killah, '36 Seasons'

Ghostface Killah's new album, 36 Seasons, comes out Dec. 9.
Stan Oh Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 9:42 am

It's fair to wonder why anybody would make an album today, much less a group of musicians who've proven themselves several times over. There isn't much money to be had, and what little there is can be got by other, less exhausting methods than touring to break new songs. Kool G Rap doesn't need to do this – everybody you respect wishes they could be like him when they grow up. Pharoahe Monch dropped an album this year that leveled whole tiers of his competition. AZ, when he cares to, rhymes circles around 99.99 % of the rapping population.

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First Listen
10:33 pm
Sun November 16, 2014

First Listen: Your Old Droog, 'Your Old Droog'

Your Old Droog's self-titled new album comes out Nov. 25.
Seher Sikandar Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 3:28 pm

If this is the first time you're hearing of somebody called Your Old Droog, don't even trip. Some people know the name; those people spent the spring and summer speculating if an unknown entity who posted a better-than-it-should-be debut EP on Soundcloud was in fact Nas, our (hip-hop's) Jeff Buckley, minus the tragedy.

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Microphone Check
7:35 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Run The Jewels: 'I'm Taking This Life'

El-P (Jaime Meline) and Killer Mike (Michael Render) are Run the Jewels.
Timothy Saccenti Courtesy of Biz 3 Publicity

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 5:59 pm

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Microphone Check
3:19 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

Dante Ross: 'We Wanted Our Own Universe'

Dante Ross at an Anthony Hamilton performance in New York City in 2006.
Ray Tamarra Getty Images

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Tiny Desk Concerts
10:36 am
Wed October 29, 2014

T-Pain: Tiny Desk Concert

Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 3:06 pm

T-Pain's fingerprints are all over pop and R&B and hip-hop. He wasn't the first musician to use Auto-Tune as an instrument — he noticed it on a Jennifer Lopez remix, and remembers "Deep" well — but it was, as he says, his style. For a while, in the mid-2000s, he lived at the top of the charts. He dominated that brief moment of our lives when ringtones were a thing.

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Microphone Check
7:01 am
Tue October 21, 2014

T.I.: 'We Make Music That Come From The Heart'

T.I. at NPR's New York City bureau.
Polina Yamshchikov for NPR

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 7:03 am

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The Record
1:34 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Outkast And Atlanta: Until They Close The Curtain

Two dope boys on a Cadillac: Andre 3000 and Big Boi in the early days.
Michael Ochs Archives Getty Images

Originally published on Sat October 4, 2014 11:37 am

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Microphone Check
7:03 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Andre 3000: 'You Can Do Anything From Atlanta'

Andre Benjamin during a Q&A at The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles following a screening of Jimi: All Is By My Side last weekend.
Justin Baker WireImage

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Microphone Check
9:30 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Microphone Check Live: The Stories Of The Notorious B.I.G.

Polina Yamshchikov for NPR

Originally published on Mon September 22, 2014 9:57 am

On Sunday, Sept. 14, 20 years and one day after Biggie Smalls' debut album, Ready to Die, was released, Microphone Check gathered four of the musician's friends in Brooklyn to recall the man they knew.

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Microphone Check
2:00 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Joell Ortiz: 'I Refuse To Compromise Me'

Joell Ortiz at a DJ Booth cypher in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in September.
Polina Yamshchikov for NPR

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 5:09 pm

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Field Recordings
12:15 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

KING Makes A Record Lover's Paradise Even Better

NPR

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 1:52 pm

On a steamy morning upstairs in a record lover's paradise KING laid down a gorgeous version of one of the songs that lit up Twitter three years ago and put the trio on Prince's radar. Sisters Paris and Amber Strother and partner Anita Bias couldn't believe it when he asked to meet them, but now they think nothing of calling up the legend while they work on their first full-length album.

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Microphone Check
7:20 am
Wed September 3, 2014

Souls Of Mischief: 'It's Like Catching Lightning In A Bottle'

Souls of Mischief are, from left to right, A-Plus, Tajai, Opio and Phesto.
Courtesy of Audible Treats

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 7:58 am

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Field Recordings
7:03 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Ledisi Steals The Show

Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 1:46 pm

There's too much happening in New Orleans' French Quarter — especially on a holiday weekend, and especially when hundreds of thousands of people are in town for the annual Essence Music Festival. There are living statues and five-piece bands and drinks a foot-and-a-half tall and people from all over the world ambling in the middle of the street.

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Microphone Check
10:57 am
Tue August 19, 2014

The Underachievers: 'We're Still Young'

AK (left) and Issa of The Underachievers onstage at SXSW in 2013.
Sean Mathis Getty Images for SXSW)

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 2:52 pm

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Field Recordings
12:55 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Jazmine Sullivan Fades A New Orleans Barber Shop

NPR

A few blocks from New Orleans' Superdome, just off Canal Street, there's a barber shop called Clear-Vue, which has been in business since 1948. While we were in the city for the Essence Music Festival, we asked Jazmine Sullivan to meet us there.

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Field Recordings
1:00 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Sevyn Streeter Knocks Us Out

Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 1:30 pm

In the spring of 2013, songwriter and R&B singer Sevyn Streeter released a song called "It Won't Stop," which she's called her "baby." Over the year and change that's followed, the song has sunk into our collective consciousness through commercial radio play and a music video viewed more than 35 million times, and on the recommendation of a growing group of critics and fans.

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First Listen
10:02 pm
Sun August 3, 2014

First Listen: The Underachievers, 'Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordium'

The Underachievers' (Issa Gold is on the left, AK on the right) new album, Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordium, comes out Aug. 12.
KCBLA Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon August 4, 2014 10:34 am

"I ain't just rhyming," Issa Gold, one half of The Underachievers, says in "Chrysalis." "Keep up." He's rapping, which is much more difficult. Rapping requires him and his partner AK to choose a flow, or melody, for their lyrics; something they can use to parry the beat or run it down or surf. The duo puts the pedal to the metal here more often than not, exercising a slightly archaic style of MCing: deft, speedy, highbrow, tough to perform at the end of a set. Colloquially, rappity-raps.

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Microphone Check
3:43 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Cormega: 'I Just Want To Be A Soldier For My Culture'

Cormega.
Vshootz Courtesy of Jerry Graham Publicity

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 10:39 am

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Microphone Check
6:07 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

YG: 'I Gave Y'All What I Seen'

YG.
Courtesy of the Cashmere Agency

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 10:40 am

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The Mix
11:44 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Essence: Songs From America's Biggest R&B Festival

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, performing at the Essence Music Festival at the Louisiana Superdome in 2008.
Sean Gardner Getty Images

Originally published on Fri July 4, 2014 12:08 am

The Essence Festival, in New Orleans this weekend for its 20th edition, calls itself "the party with a purpose," for cause. The goal of the three nights of performances at the Superdome and three days of panels and talks at the Convention Center is to brand and supplement Essence Magazine — but what actually goes down every Fourth of July weekend in New Orleans begins in airports all over the country.

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Microphone Check
1:02 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Pete Rock: 'Real Could Be Another Word For Original'

Pete Rock.
Courtesy of the artist

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Microphone Check
1:34 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Ab-Soul: 'It's A Lot'

Ab-Soul.
Courtesy of Top Dawg Entertainment

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 10:42 am

Ab-Soul, the most philosophical member of the by now vaunted Top Dawg Entertainment, met Microphone Check hosts Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley in Los Angeles two weeks before the release of his latest album, called These Days ... After only one listen to the album, the three of them had a conversation about Ab's high expectations of his audience and what he's trying to make for them.

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Music
3:49 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Sound Off: Where The Military's Rhythm Came From

U.S. Army soldiers take part in a morning run at Camp New York, Kuwait, in 2002.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 2:13 pm

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Microphone Check
12:00 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Mannie Fresh DJ Set: 'We Bounced Everything'

Mannie Fresh behind the decks at NPR's Washington, D.C. headquarters.
Becky Harlan for NPR

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 1:56 pm

In the middle of our live interview with Mannie Fresh at NPR's headquarters in D.C., Ali asked Mannie how he approaches DJing — does he play what he wants to hear? Or does he feed the crowd? "When I want you to understand something, I remix it," Mannie said. "If it's Earth Wind and Fire, and you not getting it, I'ma make you get it."

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The Record
12:17 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

D'Angelo: 'I'm Trying To Go Deep'

D'Angelo with Nelson George (left) onstage at the Brooklyn Museum Wednesday night.
Drew Gurian Red Bull Content Pool

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 7:48 am

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Microphone Check
4:51 pm
Sat May 10, 2014

Inside The XXL Freshmen Issue

Vanessa Satten, center, with Lil Durk to the left and August Alsina to the right.
Courtesy of XXL

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 10:25 am

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Microphone Check
12:55 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Freddie Gibbs: 'I Think I'm The Best Rapper'

Freddie Gibbs.
Peter Beste Courtesy of We Get Press

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 1:43 pm

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The Record
2:05 am
Thu May 1, 2014

'Illmatic': The Making Of A Classic

Nas in 1994, the year Illmatic was released.
Danny Clinch Courtesy of Sony Legacy

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 6:53 am

This summer Nas is traveling the world performing his debut album, Illmatic, in full. The crowds coming out to see him — in Texas, Germany and California — are turning up because the 20-year-old record is an acknowledged classic.

In the early '90s hip-hop was just beginning its takeover of popular music. It was landing on the charts, but more often than not, the songs there were novelties (see: MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice).

For the people who took hip-hop seriously, and especially the fans in rap's hometown of New York City, this was a problem.

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