FlySiifu’s ‘$mokebreak’ Rings of Nuanced Tradition to Lyrical Rap's Timelessness
Evan Dale // April 20, 2021
One: Fly Anakin – a prolific lyricist whose pace of project releases both solo and collaborative seems unparalleled in the digital streaming age. The other: Pink Siifu – a stylistically fluid, oft-melodic hip-hop experimentalist whose own left-of-center signature feels equal parts old-school Southern and unfathomably modern and global in its risk-taking and genuine nature. Together: FlySiifu – the kind of duo making lyrically endowed rap that could have highlighted any moment during the last three decades of hip-hop, where other collaborative and highly poetic rap projects à la Black Starr have proved dynamic in their mosaic stylistic dichotomy. After their acclaimed 2020 FlySiifu’s – the duo’s collaborative debut that doubled as an immersive concept album painting both artists as blunted employees of a milk-crate record shop dropping bombs – not bars – in the back of the store, $mokebreak hinges on that same storyline, as an explorative albeit pointedly removed continuation of the plot and the range of sounds from where it is rooted. $mokebreak as a title itself, in accompaniment of the project’s cover artwork that sees Fly Anakin and Pink Siifu posted up amongst shelves, crates, and banker’s boxes overflowing with vinyl, point to the project’s existence as a perpetual B-Side to the FlySiifu’s narrative. As does the inclusion of the project at the tail end of the now FlySiifu’s Deluxe Edition – a 32-track marathon, to put it simply, of unadulterated and timeless cypher between two classically rooted emcees.
But as vinyl is flipped, once the break begins, the smoke starts billowing, and both rappers’ complimentary styles strike their lyrical matches, $mokebreak itself definitely feels like something new. It feels new for Fly Anakin and Pink Siifu’s own collaborative past; it feels new – potentially instead reminiscent - towards a time in the not so distant past – or many chapters in hip-hop’s illustrious collaborative history – where rap duos have crafted ingenious interweavings in one another’s company. And though 2020’s A-Side to FlySiifu’s also boasts the same delineation, $mokebreak is a different kind of different, even for two of modern hip-hop’s most unique and inventive names.
If FlySiifu’s was a long collection of storylined shorts and abundant intermissions, $mokebreak is a more traditionally structured 10-track half-hour of feature-heavy poeticism mostly removed from the vinyl shop storyline itself, but bleeding of the aesthetic that such a storyline would carry in tow. It’s undeniably timeless hip-hop; it’s rap for any old-head and any new-age fan of the poetically inclined; it’s simply two friends attacking a cypher with more flow and fervor than just about any other duo in modern music could muster.
But they don’t do it on their own. For those that don’t know either artist – or for those that perhaps know only of one – a first listen to either, and better to both, yields an undying look backwards and a steady dose of shock at the realization that both artists are figures of modern music – of the modern Black experience. Their collaborators – modern artists that, too, defy the existence of a placement within specific in stylistic epochs – reaffirm the feeling that the modern underground is tethered to all of the others through time.
Richmond, Virginia’s Fly Anakin started releasing music at an insanely prolific rate in 2008 and hasn’t slowed his roll since. A decade later, Alabama-Cincinnati rap journeyman, Pink Siifu – whose sound breathes of access to time travel – dropped his critically acclaimed ensley, though he had been releasing music for nearly five years at that point. And yet, both artists and their friends on $mokebreak seem like their sounds could comfortably exist in any other era of hip-hop, so long as they hinged to a lyrical and sharply, purposefully underground side of the coin.
A second listen yields more adherences into the current makeup of hip-hop, because though the duo’s production brims with the enduring aesthetic of jazz, soul, and R&B samples that made the vinyl shop eras most notorious past underground moments unmistakable, there is a balance between three key traits: the constant nod to Pink Siifu’s undeniably modern affinity for melody and vocalism; the calm, cool nature of both artists’ leanings towards the most texturally mellow and understated of rap; and a constant conversation about issues – though longstanding – through a more modern lens of action for Black America, that pull $mokebreak into 2021 through the megaphone of Pink Siifu’s recent past with socially motivated works like 2020 punk-hop masterpiece, NEGRO. In short, the project feels like a 30-minute breaktime conversation that could happen had the two rappers never seen the limelight, and really did end up spitting flame and speaking truths in the back of a record shop as their equally talented and also timeless friends stop in for verses.
Chuck Strangers, 3wayslim, Big Kahuna Og, Fousheé, YUNGMORPHEUS, Zelooperz, MAVI, Koncept Jack$on, Peso Gordon, B. Cool-Aid.
All of the project’s featuring names live in varying degrees of their own unapologetic discord from the mainstream and instead adhere to the most timeless of rap, hip-hop, and music at large where rhythm and poetry reign supreme and defy the very idea that any artist belong to any specifically stylistic time. Just like the stacks of vinyls on which they sit to spit their fiery poetry, Fly Anakin and Pink Siifu prove that sometimes methods from the past stand the test of time. The duo succeeds with $mokebreak as a standalone mastery of timeless hip-hop, as a succession in the FlySiifu narrative, and as a necessary addition to the annals of underground as hip-hop’s North star.