"My windpipe was the size of a coffee straw," FranceauThaGod says.
Born with a rare abnormality, the Atlanta rapper didn't have any vocal cords as a baby and had to undergo a series of surgeries to widen his windpipe.
"I was taking sign language classes because I wasn't supposed to talk," he says. "I wasn't even supposed to be alive. I actually died as soon as I came out. I don't even know how they got me to be where I am today."
Where he's at today is an unlikely position for someone born without vocal cords: FranceauThaGod is a buzzing young rapper getting hundreds of thousands of plays on his songs and attracting attention from major labels.
Instead of sulking about his misfortune, FranceaThaGod realized that the raspy voice that came as a result of the ordeal was actually his biggest strength. It made him unique. No one sounds like FranceaThaGod. "If it didn't happen, I'd be a typical ass rapper," he explains. "It would be harder for me to get discovered because everybody sounds the same. But I've got a story, so I'm thankful."
He also realized he can use his position to inspire others. "I always tell [people] I was put on this earth to give them faith and hope," he says. "I feel like I can give somebody hope and make them feel like they can do it. All I do is encourage people. I never tell anyone they can't do something."
Watch his videos for "100 Times a Day" and "Okay" above and below, and continue for our full interview with FranceauThaGod.
Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell me where you’re from and how you first got into music?
I'm from Richland, Virginia. I got into music in 2010. I started off by mixing other people's music to learn the software before I started recording my own stuff. I wanted to make sure everything was right, because I've got this voice. I don't want to have bad quality. I didn't want to do anything to compromise my voice, because of how I felt about it. If I felt a way about it, I knew a million other people felt the same way about it. I wanted to do something that would keep everything perfect, so I learned everything. Pro Tools, FL Studio, everything. So, I started mixing before recording my own music, but I was always writing.
Do you know how gauges work? They had to do that to my windpipe with tubes, because it didn't grow with me.
Did you have friends who were doing music back then, too?
Yeah, Noah Woods. He's with Private Club now, with MadeinTYO and 24hrs. It was us two and some other guys who aren't doing music any more.
I heard you were born without vocal cords. Can you talk about that and the surgery you had when you were little?
Yeah, I was born without vocal cords and my windpipe was the size of a coffee straw. Do you know how gauges work? They had to do that to my windpipe with tubes, because it didn't grow with me. The reason this all happened was because my mom didn't know she was pregnant with me, so she was still getting pregnancy prevention shots. It messed up my development and I was born without vocal cords.
Do you know how rare something like that is?
At that time, there were only three or four other cases like mine.
The doctors originally didn’t think you’d ever be able to talk, right? And you even started learning sign language?
Yeah, I was taking sign language classes because I wasn't supposed to talk. I wasn't even supposed to be alive. I actually died as soon as I came out. I don't even know how they got me to where I am today. I can't even answer that.
How long after the surgery did it take for you to be able to start talking?
I started talking when I was like six. The surgery took three years. I didn't get the tracheotomy off me until I was like three years old. The scar on my neck is from that tracheotomy.
I think one of the coolest things about you as an artist is that you seem really comfortable being yourself. Have you always been like that? Was there a moment you started fully embracing being yourself and being confident?
I'm not even going to lie—when I went to SXSW. My first time at SXSW, I had ten shows and I was injured. I was like, 'Man, I can't go out like no wimp.' This was my first time being in front of a lot of people. But when I went through with it and got good responses, that's when I felt like I could actually do it. Because I'm not going to lie, I don't really fuck with my voice like that. Me personally, I think it's aggravating, because I know the truth behind it. If my mom would have known she was pregnant, it wouldn't have been like this.
To me, it's a curse, but it's a blessing at the same time. Because if it didn't happen, I'd be a typical ass rapper. It would be harder for me to get discovered because everybody sounds the same. But I've got a story, so I'm thankful.
A career in rap isn’t the most obvious choice for someone born without vocal cords. Do you remember the moment you decided to pursue this?
Yeah, when I got locked up. I know that's some stupid shit to say, but I always had the studio around me, and I was kind of abusing it. But when I got locked up and I had to sit down for some time and I couldn't just turn on my computer and record, I felt it. I really wanted to write. When I was writing in there, it was all sad stuff, though, because I was in confinement. So when I got out, I went all in.
How long ago was that?
Okay, so a few years ago now. I'm curious, has your style of rap always sounded like the stuff you’re putting out now from the beginning? Or has it evolved?
It's evolved a lot. I've been doing shows all over and experiencing other cultures. It's given me a wider variety of wordplay and lingo. I've also found my pocket. Artists need to find their pocket. That distorted 808s shit is going to die out soon and lyrics will come back. I feel like once I blow up the way I need to blow up, it's going to be hard for me to come down, because of my lyrics and the way I deliver and structure everything. It's no microwave shit. By me putting thought into my music and caring about my music, people are going to pick up on that. They'll pick up on the message and the quality.
I don't want to have any mishaps because of my voice. All it takes is the wrong song, the wrong visual, or the wrong move, and I feel like I'll be fucked.
I see most of your songs are produced by Tee $’teez and Ricky Racks. Can you tell me about those guys and how you started working with them?
Yo, shout out Tee $’teez and Ricky Racks. Tee $’teez is the reason I'm here. To this day, I still haven't met Tee $’teez—he lives in Louisiana—but he makes a lot of my beats. When I first heard of him, he was only 13 years old in middle school, pushing tracks. I had to FaceTime call him and tell him to make a beat in my face because I didn't believe he was actually making them. [Laughs]. He was 13 pushing out stuff like that—that's kinda crazy to me. So I told him to make a beat in front of my face. And he made a fire ass beat.
How I met Ricky Racks—My sister's boyfriend is Ricky Racks' right-hand man. So he heard my music and fucked with it. At first I thought he was bullshitting, because he had just come out with "Best Friend" by Young Thug. So I was like, "If I got a Ricky Racks beat, that would be amazing.'"So, last year, I sent him a couple songs and a couple months went by. 300 offered me a deal and we ended up not taking it. They told me to hold off on the video for "100 Times a Day." And some other stuff happened and we kept holding it. Then when I came back from tour, I was trying to keep my momentum up, so we checked back in with Racks. And he sent me an email with 50 beats.
That shit was crazy. I listened to all 50 of the beats and chose five of them. I was doing something called Restricted Wendesdays and made a mixtape in front of my fans' eyes with those Ricky Racks beats. He actually helped give me my buzz. When I put that tape out, it helped a lot. He put me on a whole new level. His production is different, so it pushes you to be creative.
Your visual style and your music videos are really cool and well-put-together. Why do you think it's important to have solid visuals?
It's important to have good visuals because people will take you more serious. If you have great visuals and put money behind your music, they'll take you seriously because they know you mean business. And again, like I said, I don't want to have any mishaps because of my voice. All it takes is the wrong song, the wrong visual, or the wrong move, and I feel like I'll be fucked.
I've been through so much that if I explain it to someone, they'll think I'm lying.
Some of your more recent songs like "100 Times a Day" are getting lots of plays. Was there a turning point when you noticed people were paying more attention to you?
Yeah, I was that ni**a who was only getting like 500 plays or 1000 plays. I was that guy. But when I put out "100 Times a Day," we started doing real promotion and cracked that code. In a month, I got like 40,000 on that song. So "100 Times a Day" really did it for me.
You’ve been compared to other artists with raspy voices like The D.O.C. and DMX… but I’m curious, what rappers are you personally inspired by?
Not trying to sound boastful or anything, but I just really like listening to myself to perfect my craft. As far as artists I look up to, I listen to Sam Cooke, Gil Scott Heron, Erykah Badu, The Roots—that type of music. It's about melody. Oh, and George Clinton. I've got a song called "Don Cheadle," and if you listen to the bridge in that song, it was inspired by George Clinton.
It seems like most people born without vocal cords would see that as a disadvantage, but it feels like you've turned it into an advantage. Do you see it that way?
Yeah. If I don't run from problems and I can set aside my personal self doubts, it's a blessing. It makes me stand out. And I know that it'll be inspirational for other people with this problem. Like, 'Damn, this man's talking and he don't know when to shut up.' [Laughs]. When I'm talking about my music, I deserve to pop my shit, though, because I've been through so much. So much that if I explain it to someone, they'll think I'm lying. But it's all good. I'd rather talk about my music and keep it positive.
Do you see yourself as an inspirational figure for people?
When I meet new people that I'm comfortable with, I always tell them I was put on this earth to give them faith and hope. I feel like I can give somebody hope and make them feel like they can do it. All I do is encourage people. I never tell anyone they can't do something. If I tell them they can't do something, it's because they're not doing it for themselves. If you don't want it for yourself, then you can't do it. But I usually don't tell people that they can't, I tell them that they can. I was telling my sister this the other night: The reason people aren't entrepreneurs is because they don't know where to start. If everyone had somebody in their corner to talk to and come up with a plan, everybody would be successful right now.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Anything fans should be looking out for?
I've got a project coming out called 30 Days in NY. And there are more visuals on the way, too.