Frankie Hi-Nrg

(Torino, 1969 – )

Francesco Di Gesù, aka Frankie Hi-Nrg (his stage name derives from a style of uptempo electronic disco music that emerged in the late 1970s in the United States and Great Britain), is one of Italy’s most iconic rappers. His pioneering activity began in the 1990s with rap songs in which the language of the video takes on no small importance and complements the song’s literary and musical elements. For example in “Fight da faida” (1992), which rails against the abuses of those in power, the Mafia and violence in all its forms, the video image is bipartite, with stock footage on the left and the rapper’s video on the right. The piece, which includes a nursery rhyme in Sicilian dialect, ends with a short video clip from Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987), in which Robert De Niro, as Al Capone, challenges the public and the media. “Fight da Faida” was released in February 1992 in what seemed like a premonition, on the eve of a period of Mafia massacres in Capaci and Via D’Amelio, in which Judge Giovanni Falcone—along with three security agents and his wife Francesca Morvillo, also a magistrate—and then Judge Paolo Borsellino as well as five agents, lost their lives. In the lyrics of “Fight da faida,” to which Frankie devotes great care—so much so that he titled the album Verba manent—assonances, rhymes and free-style reminiscences combine with a lively performance that fits the political and social polemic that distinguishes the rapper’s commitment to activism. In another iconic song, “Quelli che ben pensano” (1997, feat Franco Califano), Frankie Hi-Nrg attacks the hypocrisy and lust for money of those who try to climb the social ladder by hiding behind the well-meaning respectability of clichés.

While Frankie has not released a full-length album since 2014, he did produce two singles during the first summer of the pandemic: “Estate 2020” and “Nuvole” (2020) describe, in the Turinese rapper’s usual articulate language, the collective frustration over forced confinement due to COVID-19. Thirty years after his debut, Frankie Hi-Nrg continues to enrich Italian rap with refined pieces, such as “Pedala” (presented at the Sanremo Festival in 2014), of which Maria Elena Rosati offered an interesting analysis. In a 2019 interview on Fanpage, the artist explains that “rap serves to emancipate oneself from the present” and that he appreciates the new recruits to Italian hip-hop, pointing to a certain continuity and synergy between the early generations and newer artists.

While Frankie has not released a full-length album since 2014, he has instead produced two singles during the first summer of pandemic: “Estate 2020” and “Nuvole” (2020) describe, in the Turin rapper’s usual articulate language, the collective frustration over forced confinement due to Covid 19. Thirty years after his debut, Frankie hi-Nrg continues to enrich Italian rap with refined pieces, such as “Pedala” (presented at the Sanremo Festival in 2014, of which Maria Elena Rosati offered an interesting analysis. In a 2019 interview on Fanpage, the artist explains that “rap serves to emancipate oneself from the present” and that he appreciates the new recruits of Italian hip-hop, pointing to a certain continuity and synergy between the first generations and the newer artists.

Translated songs: