[Lex; 2020]

On his sophomore album Negro, released back in April, Alabama underground rapper Pink Siifu threw everything he could at the wall. Elements of jazz, punk, Afro-beat, and, yes, some hip-hop thrown in for good measure. But part of the allure of underground rap is how richly diverse it is in its execution and sampling. There’s not much traditional ‘rapping’ coming from Siifu; his words come across as prose, sometimes in fragments, but there’s barely a rhyme scheme to be found. Negro was a very angry record, and its experimentalist forefront would sometimes overshadow the undertones Siifu wanted to promote.

It’s this polarization that makes his collaboration with Fly Anakin, FlySiifu’s, a bitter pill to swallow. Two of underground rap’s most enigmatic voices come together here, but this is no Watch the Throne; it feels less like a collaboration and more like another Fly Anakin record. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Siifu’s subdued background noise doesn’t elevate as it did on Negro – in fact, his presence at times is hardly even noticeable. The two trade verses here and there, but it’s all set to a lounge rap mood that downplays the visceral and cutthroat aesthetic felt on Negro, which benefits Anakin and stand-out guest Liv.e, but stifles Siifu. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the flow of the record wasn’t disrupted constantly by disposable vignettes, which are supposed to continue the album’s concept of FlySiifu’s being a record store run by the two rappers, but they add nothing to the album – the most annoying of which comes from the instantly skippable “Demon Tyme Skit”.

Much of FlySiifu’s feels like a Hollywood Squares-esque ‘who’s who’ of the scene – featuring a myriad of fresh-faced producers and a handful of new rappers. The most notable appearances come from Liv.e, whose 2020 album Couldn’t Wait to Tell You is one of the year’s best debuts, and she steals the show on the two tracks she features on. Her delivery on standout “Mind Right” adds some much-needed finesse to the project, “What do I do when I’m stuck between pick and choose?” she bemoans, offering the only non-repetitive verse on the track.

There are several other guests that make a good impression, though. $ILKMONEY’s assist on “Foisey’s Interlude” shows promise, while Liv.e’s second spot on “Clean” gets paired nicely with Lastnamedavid’s shimmering production. B. Cool-Aid improves the feel of “Open Up Shop” with a 90s-like groove that won’t quit. All of these guests, though, undermine the project from the start, as most outshine the two leads.

If FlySiifu’s is an attempt to highlight under-sung champions of underground rap then it’s a resounding success, but as a collaboration album to showcase its two most well-known rappers, it’s less rewarding. Lead single “Richard Pryor” is one clear standout where the two leads shine, as the power seems balanced perfectly with Siifu’s verse: “Papa moving birds just so we can keep living / Nowadays it make sense if tha shit add up,” keeping up with Anakin’s “Uncle Sam gave me his hand / I put the cash in it.”

Unfortunately, Fly Siifu’s strongest elements are buried under mundane production – nothing pops, it’s all monotone and uneventful. Not even Madlib’s fingerprints on “Time Up” make much of an impact, as it runs one beat the whole time. The record finishes strongly though, with Animoss’ production on “Dollar Dr. Dream” giving some flair via piano keys that make for a lighter send off.

Throughout Fly Siifu’s, the duo offer nothing more than a chill rap record, which has highs and lows. It’s a fine record to put on in the background, but a slog to try to focus on, as so much of it blends together with hardly anything to standout in the end. As individuals the two are dynamic, so it’s a shame that this collaboration fails to capitalize on their two polar opposite styles. A record of that magnitude would definitely be more exhilarating than this.

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