“Gin straight”, “cheap s*** like Icehouse”, “Four Loko for endurance” and “whatever kind of weed is near”; these are the ingredients that fuel the creative mind of Freako Rico. The Stone Mountain, Atlanta native has been garnering attention over the last few months for complementing the meticulously descriptive lyrics of Queens rapper, Action Bronson, with equally detailed cartoon imagery. The world of Freako Rico — real name Richard Montgomery — is home to strippers, prostitutes, druggies, and hobos. The streets are littered, buildings are decrepit, and every kind of debauchery is the norm. His artworks are manifestations of the 26-year-old artist has seen. “The East Coast is weird man, you’ll see some crazy s**t,” he explained over the phone. Action Bronson is only one of many inhabitants of “FRKO World”; Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Plies, and even the Muslim prophet Muhammad have all paid a visit to his perfectly perverse planet.
Rico has been classically trained in art since high school — participating in several art programs during his most impressionable years — which fueled his innate artistic abilities. He honed his skills at Howard University, on a full arts scholarship, majoring in painting and minoring in sculpture. “A lot of black people don’t go to HBCU’s for art programs anymore, and they should because they’re preparing you to be a minority artist in this country … that’s what it prepared me for,” he explained. Though the financial strain of living in Washington D.C. ultimately caused him to drop out, one of his last courses in photography fostered a new trajectory for his art form. Using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Rico realized the infinite potential of digital art. “It didn’t come to me until I took the second [part of the class], ‘I can draw on this’,” he said, “I don’t even have to use paint.” Without any formal graphic design training, FRKO taught himself the rudiments of digital artistry.
Fast forward to 2012, FRKO hears “Demolition Man” off of Action Bronson’s Alchemist-produced mixtape, Rare Chandeliers, and he was an “instant fan”. FRKO proceeded to listen to Bronson’s Blue Chips mixtape and eventually “binge listened” to his entire discography. “I listened to that s**t like religiously,” he recalled. His affinity for AB’s music stemmed from the combination of the rapper’s adept attention to detail and colorful sense of humor; which reminded him of his own brand of comedy. Soon he began dissecting the rapper’s most lucid, vivid lyrics, and conjuring up illustrations, which he posted to his Instagram page. Lyrics like “Hand up her a** like a Muppet baby, it’s crazy./ While she do a buck-80 in a mustard Mercedes” received crude cartoon imagery, which were lauded by his followers. What makes FRKO’s art interesting is it’s ability to be both figurative and literal; no matter how ridiculous Bronson’s metaphors and bars are, FRKO matches his wit and vision artistically. Bronson took notice early on, reposting his first piece and many thereafter. This was the beginning of what proved to be a fruitful tandem, which ultimately resulted in Rico landing the role as Bronson’s “In-House Illustrator” and the cover of Bronson’s debut album, Mr. Wonderful.
While the majority of FRKO and Bronson’s correspondence had been done through a third party (Bronson’s manager) and over the phone, they did have the opportunity to meet on the Atlanta leg of Bronson’s Mr. Wonderful Tour.
FRKO’s artistic arsenal is spans beyond just digital illustrations, painting being primary “I would definitely describe my content as raw and unexpectable. I surprise my damn self sometimes. Technically I would say my style is a realm between cartoon and reality where crackheads can fly and Action Bronson can jump 20 feet in the air. People dont know anything, they just know how to compare me to other artist and shit they’ve seen on Adult Swim. I came up with my own style because it felt right to move my hand in those motions. God guides everything in my life so I can’t explain exactly why I draw the way I do, but I tried.”