York rapper has something to say about himself, city
When Shannon Brabham and his friends were sitting around a TV one day, watching unknown and unsigned rappers freestyle, the then-teenager did something he'd never done before.
He started rapping.
"We got pumped," one friend, Tim Armentrout, recalled recently of listening to Brabham.
As Armentrout remembers, Brabham got inspired from his friend's excitement, went home to write and three days later came back with a bunch of lyrics.
That was early 2009, and could be considered the early start of Brabham's now deep dive into hip hop.
Today, Brabham, 23, who most know by his music names Shann Beezy and Frank Petrelli, is a bit more grown up.
For one, he's a father of three, his daughter Alaya is just 9 months old. In February, he married his girlfriend Ashley. In August, he started working at York Container after leaving his job at a construction company in York because the summer heat made his asthma flare up.
It's all part of the picture of who Brabham is, and how he's making moves to better himself and his music, culminating, he hopes, with two upcoming projects including the release of his first studio album and launch of his own company.
"I watched him grow into Frankie Petrelli," Armentrout, 23, said. "I saw the drive in him, and I wanted to help. He knows people and what appeals to people."
Added Armentrout, "his music has gotten more mature."
From Pokemon to rap
As Brabham remembers from that day in 2009, he liked to watch unsigned artists because, in his eyes, they were more passionate. He said it's similar to the differences in college and professional players: "They have a lot more heart," he said.
Brabham can't remember his first rap lyrics.
But, as a kid growing up, he can remember his mother, Gloria Hawkins, who adopted him the day he was born at York Hospital, always playing music in the house.
Everyone from the Temptations to Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra. She likes old jazz, or as she put it recently, "alls the ones that are dead now."
One of his biggest influences musically was Michael Jackson.
Hawkins remembers an event held at the now-shuttered Blockbuster, which had a store in York, and Brabham going dressed up as Michael Jackson. There's video of him doing the moon walk, she said.
"I just let him do what he wanted to do," Hawkins said in her Fireside neighborhood home in York, where Brabham is back living with his wife and children.
Aside from music, Brabham describes himself as a nerd ("I'm not a club person," he declares matter-of-factly). On his and his wife's six-month anniversary, the young couple stayed in and watched movies, including a horror flick.
As a kid, he tended to stay inside. His mom worked a lot, so at his baby sitter's he played Sega Genesis games like "Zelda" and "Mega Man X." He liked to play Pokemon, and he was a big wrestling fan; up until middle school before he started dating, he had an online wrestling show.
'The best lyricism comes from contemplation'
In 2010, what Brabham said was his "incubation period" in music, the rapper released his first mixtapes titled "Night of the Living Nerd" under the name Shann Beezy. On one of the opening tracks, he uses a clip from a Batman movie.
He said the name Shann Beezy or Shann-B was given to him from his cousin who first got him into a studio. The mixtape can still be found online; he would go on to release two more parts of "Night of the Living Nerd."
Several mixtapes later, though, what's next for Brabham?
Well, the rapper has a lot in mind.
For one, he goes by Frank Petrelli mostly these days. He said Frank is for Frank Sinatra. Petrelli is for Peter Petrelli, a character from the NBC television series "Heroes," who could copy other people's powers.
"I feel like I can get in any setting — any rap setting — and destroy," he said. "I feel unstoppable."
And he has some body ink as reminders.
Recently, Brabham got a star tattooed on his neck. Although he passed out while getting it, he said "my vocal chords are going to make me a star."
He also has the eye of wisdom tattooed on his hand.
He wants to start his own cartoon show, written by him and his friends including Armentrout, a graphic artist.
They plan to make T-shirts and other merchandise — Brabham just came up with this idea and will put everything under the name of the company "199i."
He was born in the 1990s and says he loves that decade.
And then he plans to release an album "Good is Not Great Enough."
The album will feature eight or so songs, with a few off of "B the EP," a mixtape he plans to release this fall.
"I want to get back to the basics where I focus on writing," Brabham said.
He will write everywhere — during breaks at work, at home brushing his teeth, filling up his phone with lyrics.
"The best lyricism comes from contemplation," he said.
Brabham likes to keep all of his songs personal.
In "Pressure," a song he released last year, Brabham writes about the responsibilities of being a father, being part of a family and asthma.
"I'm wearing my heart on my shirt like a target. I could cry a river but I don't ball often. My mama she thinks I lost it. These panic attacks keep coming. I'm wheezing, I'm coughing...my parents are leaving, I need my own place. My daughter is coming. My problems are building but I'm never running. I face them all day."
But other songs, like one he titled after York's Mayor Kim Bracey, have a bigger message. The song, he wrote, was for anyone who lost someone in the city over the last six years, and spoke about violence among the youth. He released it two days after an 18-year-old York man, NaGus Griggs, was shot and killed last September.
It is that dynamism of his music that he hopes will impact people, and for now, the rapper looks on, song by song.