Jose Franco Remembers His Father On The 'Pretty Ugly' Demo
Nobody gets through life without bumps and bruises, nor are we supposed to. On the Pretty Ugly demo, Jose Franco writes up his life over 9 vulnerable minutes. But this isn’t an exercise in beating yourself up. Like the title suggests, Franco’s goal was to show himself at his realest without becoming somber or overly “conscious”, fun and at times beautiful music reflecting life’s ugly moments.
“I really wanna make music that talks about my life and let’s the ugly side out...I don’t want to be a rapper that’s just like ‘oh, oh, my life sucks’, and be super serious. I want to talk about the ugly shit, but make it sound pretty. That’s what Pretty Ugly is.”
The album art for Pretty Ugly is adorned by Franco’s father, a handsome man with a conspicuous scar crossing his face. He passed away in April, when only 3 tracks of the album had been completed. The project wasn’t supposed to be about his dad, although he was mentioned in the original (“Haven’t seen my father in a minute / I feel like he’s serving his sentence / like he’s tucked away with the villains / but really he’s fighting his demons” - “Blindspot”), but events like these have a way of changing things. The presence of Franco’s father looms over the album.
“Thanksgiving 2017 was the last time I saw my dad alive. “Haven’t seen my dad in a minute”, he was still alive when I wrote that.”
The album was already meant to be about making approachable music dealing with the troubles life throws at us, but this turn of events blindsided Jose. Despite a tumultuous relationship in the past, there was love between them, and as the oldest son he stepped up to take care of arrangements and be the man of the family. In those incredibly stressful moments, writing helped make sense of it all.
Jose’s writing comes in waves - he hadn’t really been making music recently, and had put together just three songs in the last year. When he heard the news about his father, the last two songs came together in less than 48 hours, on the way to the funeral in Texas. One resulted in his best song ever written, “Side x Side”.
“I listen to “Side X Side” everyday - it’s definitely helping me cope with everything. I’m reminded of what I felt, and I’m able to be calm because that (“Side X Side”) was the expression of everything I was feeling”...when I listen to it, it’s almost like listening to it from a third party.”
Losing a parent is tough. Maybe they seemed invincible, and all of a sudden your own mortality is on display. Or maybe they let you down, and now you never quite have the chance you wanted to make things better. Jose, “didn’t live with him for a reason”, but was blessed with a reconciliation. “I had a lot of resentment towards my father. And when I turned 19-20 I got really, really depressed...my Mom didn’t understand…she reached out to my father and he called me, and said everything I needed to hear...that conversation, I instantly forgave him for everything, was at peace, and lost all that resentment I had towards him growing up.”
I know Pretty Ugly is about more than this, but music is in the eye of the beholder, and to this writer it’s beautiful that through one demo, Jose’s made a memorial to his dad that will honor the deceased forever. The lyrics to “Side X Side” are as follows. Please listen to the Pretty Ugly demo.
“My pops just died /
I’m sick to stomach I cant eat my face to the sky /
I’m getting fucked up just to keep my feelings hiding /
Had to tell my brother i couldn’t look him in his eyes /
He just asked me why /
How come u not lying /
Crack another seal cause I can’t feel I’m out my mind /
I gotta get high /
Can’t take back time /
we were supposed to talk man i just wish I’d hit your line /
I numb my face can’t let my momma see me crying /
Reaper want me all my demons in disguise /
Sippin’ clay my heart gone ache until its fried /
Sick sad to my casket my pops passed the same way I’m /
We side by side /
Just him ‘n I”