FMHipHop had the pleasure of interviewing FrankHaveMercy once again. This time Brandon Nixon joined in on the conversation. The interview gives us great insight into the friendship and business partnership they share. Brandon Nixon and FrankHaveMercy are a dynamic duo we need to have our eyes on.
Q&A With Brandon Nixon and FrankHaveMercy
How did you two meet each other?
FrankHaveMercy-Me and Brandon met in ninth grade. We went to high school together in North Carolina. Fayetteville. So, we grew up together. We were just in the same classes and we both took a liking to each other real early around the age of 14. We had a lot of similar interests. It was just a close bond really quick and we were best friends ever since then.
How would you two describe the friendship you guys share?
FrankHaveMercy– I think it’s definitely evolved over time. So like Frank mentioned, when we were younger, there were certain things that we aligned on initially, like sports. Growing up in North Carolina, sports were huge. Also, being in high school and listening to different music in the era of like downloading music versus streaming and mixtape era, things like that we aligned on. But as we’ve grown up and gotten older, we had like different journeys, but they kind of intertwine along the way.
When I went to college, Frank went to the military, so we were in different places, traveling, you know, visiting different places, not together but like separately. We’re able to talk about going to Paris for the first time or like going to New York for the first time, things that we weren’t used to as kids. We also went from 14 years old, living in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to now we live like down the street from each other in downtown L.A. So it’s like a cool full circle moment and evolution from being kids to being adults.
Brandon, what did you get your degree in? I know you went to Harvard.
Brandon– I graduated from UNC Charlotte, actually, with a philosophy degree but I did a program at Harvard Business School. And so not to get too much into it. I started school, I wanted to be a doctor. So I was pre med, majoring in philosophy. Midway through my college career, I had an internship at Google that changed kind of my mindset and my trajectory. And so, I still remained a philosophy major, but started doing business internships that allowed me to study at Harvard and that allowed me to get internships at Google. Which led to my full-time career from that point on.
It’s funny because a lot of the things that I’m learning in business have come from like just doing the work versus like anything that I learned in school. And that goes for the same thing with all the music and art things that Frank and I’ve been able to do. We’re learning as we go and trying to do it to the best of our ability and at the highest level, without any type of like formal education or degree.
Frank, how did you develop your sense of creativity?
FrankHaveMercy– I felt like my sense of creativity just came to me from wanting to express myself on a high level. And also like I said, I just feel like from a young age, I was really into aesthetic. What made people cool versus what didn’t. I feel like we grew up in a era and we seen so many style changes. We went from like, baggy clothes to like super tight clothes. Then watching these certain athletes have different styles like AI, MJ and LeBron. I feel like just through all that, it just helped me help me want to be creative. To be more specific, I feel like when I came back from Afghanistan, I got into photography as a as an outlet to like, you know, get over my depression and being detached.
How did the working relationship between the two of you begin?
FrankHaveMercy– So, like B said, he went to school, I went to the army. We kept in touch. I remember being in Afghanistan and hitting him and we were talking on Facebook. And I’m just like Bro like we were always into clothes and stuff and I’m like we should start a brand together. So, we started this brand together. I came back from Afghanistan, I was in Texas at the time and I told B, I’m like, man, we got to do like a pop up or something back home. Something where we showcase art and we also show our brand and stuff. So, I think this was back in, what year was that? B? 15?
Brandon– Yeah, December 2015.
FrankHaveMercy- So, December 2015 we did our first art show together. We sold art there, we sold clothing. We did it at a downtown store in Fayetteville, back in our hometown. And then after that, it just kind of blossomed. Once we did that and we saw that okay, we can bring people out. We had like, maybe 80 to 100 people come, we were like we could bring people out, we could sell things. And then we just started expanding from there. Every idea we ever had, we was like, let’s do it somewhere and include people that way we can reach out and touch them. From there it just blossomed into business. You know, we just started making money together.
Brandon– Frank, just hit me on both occasions to start the brand, but also to do the event. And I felt like that was kind of stuff that I always wanted to do, but I didn’t necessarily have the outlet to do it through school or like internships at the time. So, it provided me personally with a platform to do stuff that I always wanted to do as a kid. I feel like even though I wasn’t necessarily doing the pieces, the photography or those types of things that we’re showcasing but like the kind of activations themselves to me were like a piece of art. So doing things from like the first pop up and showing short films to we umm a couple years later, we rented out a entire movie theater in our hometown to showcase a film that we did. And then that evolved into like, installations at galleries that stood for like, you know, six months at a time we’ve done classes together where we taught people both the creative and business side, you know, help them along their creative journeys. So, it just kind of evolved and I feel like that starting place was such a like, modest and just simple place, but it’s really become something that still feels like that. We get excited when Frank performs, whether it be in New York or here in LA, it still gives that like original feeling that we were excited about, you know, to show something to our friends and family. Even though now it’s like more like strangers or people that we don’t necessarily know but it still has that unique or that familiar feeling that (we had) when we first started, even though it’s scaled much bigger.
FrankHaveMercy– Brandon just handles everything like business wise. I feel like as a creative for me, what separated me from our peers was having somebody that was thinking about things more on a business level and more on a corporate level, so that we can expand and scale so fast. So, it was just the right duo that happened. I was super creative doing my thing, super ambitious and then Brandon was super ambitious in the fact that he just wanted to like do activations and do real things in person. And then also find a way to mesh that with tech and business and things like that, and then all the way down to the music. I mean, he A&R’s all the projects, he handles all the bookings for the shows, he negotiates all the deals. You know these are things that people usually got to go to agencies for or hire people to do these things.
Exactly. So, does all of that fall under the F. Mercy Studios? Is that under one umbrella?
Brandon– So, F dot Mercy Studios is specifically like our clothing brand and more creative projects. Any like type of visuals or things like that that come out of it. And then the music side of things is housed under Frank’s artists name, FrankHaveMercy. So, we recently went to Chicago, he was booked to Chicago for a show. That’s all under his name. But all like the clothing and more like visuals, like films and things like that are under that specific brand.
So, you do say the dot in F. Mercy Studios?
Brandon– Yes sir. It’s F dot Mercy Studios
How do you come up with ideas for F. Mercy Studios? Is it a collaborative process between the two of you?
FrankHaveMercy– It’s super collaborative, probably the most collaborative out of anything we do, because we sit and we talk designs and we both design things for the brand. It’s just a ping pong thing. You know what I’m saying. These are things that we’re really into and even if we weren’t making money from it, we will still just be so immersed in it just because we always been like that since we were 14. So, it’s a passion first, you know what I’m saying and then on the backend, we make money from it just from the result of making a dope product. Our idea is always to make the dopest thing we can make together and then as a result, make money from it.
Brandon-Yeah, I think we think of ourselves as like, who people are familiar with like the Kanye’s and Virgil Abloh’s. There may be a face like the Kanye but then having someone like Virgil as like a creative mind and creative director, kind of in the mix and behind them. I think that’s our like relationship oftentimes, like, we have a lot of ideas that are like, you know, kind of built together, created together. But then you know, Frank with his platform, his following was able to push it to the to the masses, just a bit further. We’re both able to get in Photoshop, get in Illustrator and design and you know, sketch things out, and I think it’s cool to see something to come from that stage. And then we’re able to put it out and you know, see people wearing it, we wear it. We do everything from design, all the way to shooting the campaigns, to packing everything up and shipping it.
“Clothing made with sorrow” how did this tagline come into existence?
FrankHaveMercy– I feel like it was always a slogan I had, like “turning your pain into art” right? Just from when I was doing photography and stuff, and just how I was able to go to like that dark place and get to a place where I was able to share my art with people. And then I felt like we always channeled the same thing with the clothing and we took things that inspired us when we were younger. Or even things that might inspire our future and put that into clothing. At least that’s how I feel like it came. Brandon, you can speak to it if you want.
Brandon– Yeah, I think Frank kind of took the lead there as a creative. But yeah, I think, again, going back to the expressive piece. I think that’s essentially why we’re making clothes because we wanted to wear something or show something in public and everything that we actually had a hand in designing and creating. I mean, we love brands and we love to shop and do all these things, but I think it was important for us to get some pieces that had our DNA in it and our emotions and feelings and everything that kind of we liked and enjoyed. It was just kind of a canvas for us to do that with.
Ten years from now, where do you see this collaboration taking you two?
FrankHaveMercy– Man, that’s a good question. I mean, to like piggyback off what B was saying I really see us on a level of like, people like Kanye West and Virgil Abloh. People like Jay Z and Dame Dash. Like those dynamic duos that we know today, that just like branched off and did something that was so much bigger than whatever they were doing at the present time. I feel like right now, we reach so many people through the music and it’s just starting to translate well. From the art direction that we do, to the merch that we do, from how the shows look and feel, to even our personal relationships with people. How we approach that and the genuine relationships that we create. And then just attacking things from a corporate standpoint and things like that. I just see us really building everything equal to like a Fortune 500 company.
Brandon– I agree 100%. I think right now we’re laser focused on music and developing fans and the audience there. But in 10 years from now, I think we want to either have our hands in our own or be a part of the biggest companies like the Googles, the Apples, the Meta’s but always remain kind of grounded in a sense that we still remember where we grew up. We still give back to the community that raised us, those types of things. So, I think scale wise, we want to be involved with tech. We want to be involved with real estate and development property and all these like big, big things, but also remembering where we came from and also having a hand back home. I think is important to us as well.
As prolific figures you have achieved a lot thus far. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?
FrankHaveMercy– Now honestly, I feel like just everyday waking up and aspiring to do something better than we did the day before. Because people from where we from, I feel like by the time they turn 23/24 wherever they’re at that point, they kind of accept that and that’s what they live in every day. So, I feel like me and B waking up every day and wanting to impact millions of people wanting to be a part of these fortune 500 companies and build our own companies. And just create things that people can enjoy and do things like that to me is a achievement in itself.
Brandon– Yeah, yeah, not to sound cliché, but I yeah, I agree. I feel like each day is like my biggest accomplishment personally, like, trying to keep that mindset because I feel like Frank said, a lot of our peers that we grew up with, and we’re still friends with and keep in touch with every so often, they meet a ceiling and which is like totally fine. They’re like able to feel comfortable and at peace, but I feel like we consistently every single day we wake up and want to be better and want to strive for more. And so, I think as far as accomplishment go, like each thing that we accomplished is our biggest accomplishment along the way. I think we’re just so much in it, that there’s not even one that really sticks out. But I feel like you know, maybe 25 years down the road we’ll be able to pick one thing.
FrankHaveMercy- I mean, Xavier you know how it is bro, like journalism and stuff, people quit. You know what I’m saying, when they don’t see certain results and they don’t see certain things, they stop and they just go do something else in life and go work for somebody else.
Brandon– Or to start all the way back over in a space and then have to, you know, do some of the same things, so that the accomplishments never like, build upon each other. It’s like almost always like starting from ground zero.
What inspired you two to want to start creating speaking events?
FrankHaveMercy– Yeah, it’s interesting, almost like we were forced into it. You know what I’m saying. It was to the point where we were doing so many things that people had so many questions. We were like, “Alright, man, we got to go somewhere and figure out a way to put hands on these people and really look them in the face and speak to them.” Then we have people reaching out to us that wanted us to come to their spaces and speak. So, it was something that just kind of happened organically, you know. Then just having all the knowledge that we do have, we’re able to talk to different people.
And we see that, you know, this is knowledge that people aren’t really afforded the luxury to have because they don’t jump out on a whim and do certain things and these experiences man is so rich. And I feel like it’s priceless to be able to. We never really had nobody come talk to us from a perspective of this when we were kids. Were we grew up everybody was into sports, you know, they were athletes or they were going to the army. Yes, that’s kind of how we grew up. Or they were going to work a regular nine to five. I almost felt like we were just chosen to do it.
Brandon– I always think about like my 17-year-old self like what would I would have wanted to see. What could have helped me along my journey? I think that’s, you know, something that’s just important to us. Even when we were like, maybe it doesn’t make the most sense for us to go back home. Maybe prices or whatever is like kind of a stretch or time wise we might not have the most time to do it. I think we prioritize that because of the fact or the chance that whatever we might say or whatever we might do, might inspire somebody back home. They might just need that little spark to be well on their way in a certain space.
Is there anything you two want your followers to know that we haven’t discussed?
FrankHaveMercy– Yeah, I mean, I feel like you got a pretty good grasp on it. I just want people to know that what we’re doing is not something that is normal and not something we see often. Usually we see artists get big and they got to go seek out a manager that’s signed to label or it’s vice versa, where the big managers at these labels are seeking out the talent. It’s very rare that people come up together and when their young they decided they want to be doing what we’re doing. I mean, since we started this back in like 2014, when we really started formulating ideas, it’s almost been 10 years of us putting our all into this. So just like you were saying, man, we really like on some Dame dash and Jay Z shit and Kanye West and Virgil and just those powerhouses that were able to just affect everything. I feel like wherever we go, whatever we do, whatever company we rock with, we would just improve everything there. From the design, to the setting, to the products, to the output, to the revenue, to just everything. So, I just I just want people to understand that.
Brandon – No, I think that captures most of it. I just yeah, just stressing our emphasizing that. We really do like love all the things that we put our heart and soul into. Everything that we do, we wake up and try to get better at everything, every single day. And we want to continue to just tie everything back into our simple, modest, beginnings and just make all our people proud of everything that we do to.
Xavier “Writer X” Griffin