Fly Anakin, along with the Mutant Academy collective, have been putting Richmond, Virginia on the map hip-hop-wise for quite a while now, so it’s crazy to think that FRANK is considered to be Fly Anakin’s debut despite years of excellent output. Panama Plus with Koncept Jack$on and Tuamie was one of my favourite releases of 2017. Since then, Madlib has openly stated that Fly Anakin is his favourite emcee, and has gotten a plethora of high-profile cosigns from greats in the hip-hop community. And it’s maybe because I’ve seen Fly Anakin on numerous occasions over the last few months in London – opening for Pink Siifu, the collab Fly Siifu show with the Touching Bass Crew, and more recently his headline show in London, that has made me such a fan of his work. There’s just something so good about his slightly high-pitched but direct vocal delivery. The way he enunciates his words, his incredibly intricate wordplay and the incredible production he raps over – all of this is present throughout FRANK, and it really is excellent because of it.
The album contains 17 tracks over a 38-minute timeline, and from the get-go the album hits in all the right ways. “Love Song (Come Back)”, produced by Foisey, is one helluva opener. An angelic soulful sample with beautiful synths and keys, and Fly Anakin rapping about affirmations and spitting bars like “I bared my soul for peace and now I got a void as big as earth” make this such an emotive, beautiful opener. I wanted to briefly give a shoutout to all the producers who worked on this album. There are so many incredible beats on the album, giving Fly Anakin space to rhyme effortlessly throughout the sampled, raw instrumentals. “Sean Price” produced by Evidence is an example of this. The moody, subtle beat contrasts Fly Anakin’s animated verses throughout. The muffled “Underdog Theme” produced by Lastnamedavid is fantastic, as Fly Anakin’s intricate and witty rhymes shine through. There’s something so raw and powerful about the way Fly Anakin raps. It’s unfiltered and showcases his ability to create these engaging stories about self and growth that are inspiring. “Black Be the Source” featuring Pink Siifu and Billz Egypt, produced by DJ Harrison, is another highlight on the album. With heavy drums and short but punchy verses, and one of the most focused verses I’ve heard from Siifu in a while, at least on a feature, this track is another one of my favourites on the album. The heaviness of “Ghost” featuring Nickelus F and produced by Life is a heavy, poignant track, while the Madlib-produced “No Dough” is a dynamic, fantastic track, as Fly Anakin proudly proclaims “All my life I had to fight so it’s fuck you”. “Grammy Snubhouse” produced by EARDRUM is gorgeous, with these ethereal synths and subtle beat that complements Fly Anakin’s upbeat flow. He is truly relentless in terms of his emceeing throughout the entire album. It’s as if he takes one breath at the start of the album and keeps it, rapping in his raspy and dominant voice and spitting throughout about the struggles and successes that have made him who he is today. In addition to this, the soul samples and warm, organic feel to this album are what make it so great.
As a debut album, FRANK encompasses everything I’ve come to love about Fly Anakin’s music. The soulful, groovy beats provide a platform for Fly Anakin to rap effortlessly from start to finish. His vulnerability and honesty makes him such a relatable emcee, as well as his hunger to constantly grow and evolve creatively that makes him someone to always look out for, for years to come. Go support Fly Anakin’s new album FRANK below via Bandcamp and don’t forget to support!