FlySiifu’s Records & Tapes is the backdrop to the world orchestrated by Fly Anakin and Pink Siifu on their first collaborative project FlySiifu’s. Four years in the making, this album released mid-November towards the close of a year that has been difficult to acquiesce. Setting the tone for brighter horizons, the stylistic marriage of Anakin’s picture painting lyrics fit incredibly well alongside the silky slick talk smoothly spouted by Siifu. Both artists also released solo projects earlier this year. Fly Anakin, from Richmond, Virginia, released his album at the end of the day. working in house with Mutant Academy producers such as Graymatter and Ohbliv among others. Birmingham’s Pink Siifu released his album NEGRO in April, a project that exudes rage and at times feels as uncomfortable and chaotic as the world we’re currently living in.
Both artists have also been part of collaborative projects similar to FlySiifu’s prior to their linking up. Siifu released two collaborative projects toward the end of last year with Black Sand, a full length project with Brooklyn artist AKAI SOLO, and Bag Talk, a full length with Los Angeles artist Yung Morpheus. Fly Anakin frequently collaborates with friend and Mutant Academy rapper Big Kahuna OG, their two most recent collaborations being 360 SANTANA and Holly Water. Their ability to connect with other artists to create a product that is both cohesive and uniquely identifiable are strengths of both Anakin and Siifu. FlySiifu’s exemplifies that across its steady 47 minutes and 22 tracks. Littered with skits in the form of voicemails for the record store in between songs and guest features, the album unfolds to the sounds of Soul and Funk chops found in record crates.
The concept behind FlySiifu’s allows the audience to be a ‘fly on the wall’ for a regular work day at FlySiifu’s Records & Tapes. In between tracks we learn not much work is actually happening, as evidenced by the messages left on “Fly Siifu’s Voicemail”. You can hear the frustration on tracks like “Black Bitches Matter Hoe” and “333 GET@ME” with customer complaints of not receiving records, the strong weed smell of the store and the overall poor customer service from Anakin and Siifu. Ironically as FlySiifu’s customers plea for music, the listeners are handed dozens of recommendations, with Aaliyah’s One In A Million, MF DOOM’s Madvillainy, and Big Freddia’s Just Be Free sitting on the shelves in the cover art. There are even recommendations buried in those customer skits, from Jimmy Cozier’s “She’s All I Got”, J Dilla’s Welcome 2 Detroit, and Devin Morrison’s Bussin. The album’s biggest strength is in the back to back verses that feel like a conversation between Anakin and Siifu, especially on tracks like “Suitcase Special”, “Richard Pryor”, and “Runthafade”. You’re caught head knocking to Siifu spitting, “Bangin’ like speakerphones / Songs blasting heat / Seeing God in that living room / She a God but a hoe too, that’s duality” over dusty drums and tumbling bells produced by Lastnamedavid. When Anakin tags himself in rhyming, “Intimidate the weak / Rally the sheep / They said the storm coming / Panama plus / My short comings gave a nigga leeway to get paid”. The transition from one verse to the other is aided by how well both artists’ voices compliment one another as they are able to dip in and out of the same pocket while addressing the same topics. Anakin and Siifu, however, piece their lyrics together using a slightly different cadence which adds a tangible bounce.
“Dollar Dr. Dream” the first single from FlySiifu’s released back in August gave us a snapshot of how these two veteran rappers would sound together. Produced by Animoss, and used to bookend the album, there’s a symbiosis between the way both artists rattle off quotables in true tag team fashion. Using this track as a finishing move Siifu raps, “Pray before grace / Extended faith / Can’t hide a mirror / I flipped a pack / Bought gold teeth / Now I need a mirror, we looking back”. while Anakin adds in, “This life a seesaw, you on or you off / Might take an L a day / Shit that’s several if the pack involved, I’m tryna elevate / Niggas copped the music in Prague”. Lines that spin off each other in Dudley Boyz fashion both addressing the uncertainties of life with the need to stay prayed up, medicated, while enjoying the fruits of one’s labor pursuing music.
The album ties itself together perfectly through the beat selection which features a medley of producers, populating the world of FlySiifu’s Records & Tapes through the interludes and music videos. The guest features each help add another element to the listening experience. $ilkMoney has a feature on “Foisey’s Interlude” produced by Foisey that sounds like it could be an intro to NEGRO, starting his verse with, “They hung another nigga up yesterday / They killed another black woman again / Then let the cracker killers walk away”. Its a militant and direct commentary of the black American struggle, and a stark shift from the energy felt on tracks like the Playa Haze produced “Richard Pryor” where the track ends in a sample from Pryor himself who’s sentiment does mirror $ilkMoney’s in a more “digestible” joke form. Liv.e similarly stole the show with a hypnotic verse over Jay Versace’s winding pianos on “Mind Right”. She steps in with her buttery smooth voice, ending the track echoing an entrancing idiom, “Need my mind right, money right, leave me alone”.
What really cuts through on this album is how personal the relationship between Anakin and Siifu clearly is. You can see it in their acting in the video for “Mind Right”. The video has a Clerks feel to it, making you want to experience every antic that takes place at FlySiifu’s. The video for “Razberry” produced by Ohbliv shows both artists outside their record shop interacting with the city in front of Ras G’s mural in Leimert Park and flipping rhymes in tandem akin to Heltah Skeltah. While the visual for “Richard Pryor” flashes between past portraits of the artists, present day sipping Hennessey, and smoking joints in dapper color coordinated linen suits.
FlySiifu’s release party was broadcast on Twitch with a small group of Mutant Academy collaborators, supporters, and friends in attendance. The show had beat sets from Graymatter, Foisey, Ahwlee, and a rap performance from Henny Lo. Broadcasting from FlySiifu’s Records & Tapes, using two cameras to capture everything going on in the surroundings, really made it feel like you were at the store with the whole team. The beat sets provided auditory candy while one camera took you “backstage”, chopping it up with a less than sober Fly Anakin and Pink Siifu as they got ready for their set. As it began, an ear to ear grin crept across both their faces, it was a celebration of being able to share their work after years of trying to manifest it. They made a point to acknowledge Ras G as the reason we have this album today, pointing out his image near the bottom of FlySiifu’s vinyl cover. As the raps began, Anakin and Siifu toiled their bars, interacting with us and the audience in attendance. In their first performance as a duo ever the celebration was felt as the moment never slipped away, while they ran down an impressive track list. That fly on the wall moment was truly actualized as we got to hear the unedited version of what a shift at FlySiifu’s might look and sound like.
Pink Siifu’s personality brought out more of Fly Anakin’s personality on camera (along with some Tequila swigs) and it was evidence of their symbiotic connection. The duo display a masterful taste in composition getting additional production from Madlib, Creme, Budgie, Malik Abdul Rahmaan, iiye (Siifu’s producer tag), and Mejiwahn. Two bonus tracks are hidden on the physical copies of FlySiifu’s “Blame” produced by Black Noi$e and “Morph’s Interlude” produced by Yung Morpheus, rounding out a complete body of work. They provide a timeless score giving everything you’d expect from these two talents. It’s more than just a compilation of rap songs, but a well rounded album that has to be listened to multiple times, to fully experience the universe created in its soundcape. While every track is a hit I keep coming back to the following: Mind Right, Creme’s Interlude, Runthafade, Richard Pryor, Foisey’s Interlude, Dollar Dr. Dream, and Shloww. Though more than any individual song I just wish FlySiifu’s would open up a shop in my neighborhood, I’d be there damn near every day.
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