“This Real Fam”: A Conversation With Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin

Brotherly ribbing and deep respect inform their inspired new collab LP, FlySiifu’s.

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Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin (from left). Credit: Jack McKain.

Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin interact like brothers. They rag on each other, talking constant trash about style, taste and everything worth bickering over. Since they’re both hysterical, it’s all in good fun. But when it comes to their art, neither is having any slander. When TIDAL asks the duo about competition as collaborators, the Alabama-born Siifu is deferential to Anakin, who hails from Richmond, Virginia. Anakin — or Frank, as Siifu calls him throughout the interview — is the more traditional, bar-heavy rapper. (There’s a reason Madlib called him one of his favorites.) But Frank doesn’t care for the way Siifu devalues his own work in the duo. “You [Siifu] be flowing, and that shit be making me really think about my approach sometimes,” Anakin explains. Their new LP, FlySiifu’s, is as funny as their conversation, but the differences in their voices also make it a thrillingly eclectic listen.

Siifu, who grew his reputation in L.A. before recently relocating, has become a critical sensation through his last two LPs, NEGRO and ensley. Within the duo of twentysomethings, Siifu is the less predictable stylist. On “Richard Pryor” his flow is smooth as silk, bouncing around the pocket but always coming back to where he began. It’s untethered to the drum-less beat, but his percussive voice adds enough weight to carry the sample-laden production. Anakin has a classic voice, somewhere between Westside Gunn’s nasally flow and Ghostface’s snarling swagger. He raps every bar like it may be his last. 

Anakin is the de facto leader of the Virginia-based Mutant Academy, and on the LP, guests are split between Siifu’s world and Anakin’s. FlySiifu’s is loosely based around a fictional record shop that Anakin and Siifu return to now and again, but mainly this is a classic throwback collab album, a format that is all too rare nowadays. Anakin and Siifu have bridged the gap between their two singular styles in a magnificent way here, and the album moves with the pace of two friends just enjoying an afternoon of shit talk. It’s a thrilling look into two worlds coming together, although with Siifu and Anakin, things seem to always be family affairs.

How did you two come together and why did you want to make an album?

Pink Siifu: I want to go first.

Fly Anakin: Go ahead!

Siifu: Man, I said I want to go first.

Anakin: Oh yeah, then go first. Go first. Fuck you talking about?

Siifu: I didn’t even know what I was going to say.

Anakin: You actually a bum ass n---a. Alright, so officially I met Siifu on Twitter, and the n---a was like, “Yo man, I fuck with yo shit,” and I thought he was from my creepy family, so I didn’t pay him no attention. Then I met him in New York and we ended up having to shake down the promoter for $60 because he tried to give us $8 for the show, and ever since that, this n---a been like one of my best friends. The day after that, we recorded our first song together.

Siifu: I was already a big ass fan of this n---a. I got put on this n---a through old blood, so I was already like, “I’m going to try to make music with this n---a heavy,” so it just came together organically. It just took a long time to make the shit, but it has always been in the back of our heads, ever since we made that first song.

And how did the idea for the concept come about?

Siifu: Who brought up that shit?

Anakin: I ain’t going to hold you. I feel like it was me.

Siifu: I can’t remember that.

Anakin: Nah, because we was trying to come up with a name for the longest [time].

Siifu: I feel like after we made “Open Up Shop,” I was like, “It should be like a venue or some shit,” and Frank agreed. Then we just went to make it a store or some shit, and we just expanded off that shit. I don’t really know how we got to an actual record shop, but I remember “Open Up Shop” was like we made that track and it was inspired by the OutKast shit. Was it Aquemini? I’m tweaking. It was Aquemini. The joint where they had the skits and shit. 

Anakin: We played off of that shit. We was like, “Yeah, let’s just make a whole shit off of that, because ain’t nobody really done it.” It has just been like little skits and shit, so we can just make a whole album about that shit.

When y’all first linked up to get in the studio, did you start talking about themes for the whole album, or were you just going song by song and then it all started to come together?

Anakin: This n---a came to Richmond and we started knocking shit out. We had intention to stack up for an album, but we didn’t have much of a plan. We was just recording.

Siifu: Then it started forming itself. Literally after we recorded “Open Up Shop,” we was like, “Oh, that’s it.” 

Siifu, with how conceptually heavy your last album was, was it nice to take a break from that and make something looser?

Siifu: Trauma is a loose theme. Not saying my last album was mad inspired by trauma or whatever the fuck, but if you want to take it like a step back at it, it’s kind of a reflection of Black trauma and Black pain, so that’s as loose as you can get. Like for real for real. This shit mad conceptual, so yeah I took a step back I guess on screaming or telling some shit that’s with the times. But I feel like this is a mad conceptual, relaxing, smoking type album. It ain’t no in-your-face, go burn some shit, or fuck capitalism, or fuck the pigs, but we still talking about that shit in here. 

Anakin: Yeah, we just rapping about life. The concept made itself, bruh. It was really like the album created itself. We was just in that bitch. You feel me? It’s really like when n---as be in them cyphers just talking science and politics. That’s literally what this album feel like, like we just in the back smoking, supposed to be working, just talking hella shit. We even got a skit like that in the next video, and I feel like that’s nearly the energy of this whole album. We just smoking in the back talking shit about it.

Did you guys have the beats lying around for this album or did you seek out producers? 

Anakin: Some people sent individual packs for us, but sometimes it was a couple of beats that I had just sitting around. I went and checked on Siifu and he was just stacking up shit throughout the years while he was in L.A. and I was in Richmond. The first time when we started recording, he came down to Richmond and he stacked up a bunch of shit. He had a playlist full of joints, but most of them shits came when we did the big session when we was in the actual studio and shit.

Siifu: When I went to Richmond to record that shit, that was the start for it. We was like, “Alright, yeah. We really making shit.” Then we got to L.A., we really understood what we wanted; we was like, “Nah, let’s tap in with all these producers.” I feel like our biggest quality in our music is the production selection, so we was just like, “Yeah, we want the beats to be huge.” We just tried to get all our producer homies on this shit. It’s like a playground, man. It’s a little bit of everybody on that joint.

Frank, what’s it like having Madlib in your camp, calling you one of the flyest rappers on the planet and having him produce a beat for you? It must be pretty surreal, huh?

It was in the beginning, but now it’s like, it’s life. You know what I mean? Madlib is a real regular person. He’s really like an uncle — you know what I mean? He check in on me. He always ask me to send him new shit, so I got that. That’s really all I can ask for. Be a homie.

When you guys were in the studio together, were y’all getting competitive with the bars, or was it all pretty cordial and easygoing?

Siifu: Bruh, I cannot. I don’t know how I did this. I don’t know how I did a whole album with him: He’s that good. I sung a little bit, but I wanted to sing on hella shit, bro. This n---a literally got bars for weeks. For months. For days and hours and all that shit. I can’t rap like that, bruh. That’s why I do so many different types of music, because that rap muscle is a skill. I don’t know. I don’t flex that as much, and this n---a Frank is really good at rapping, bro. This n---a shitted all over this shit. Man, it was hard. It was hard.

Anakin: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I don’t be trying to do that to nobody, bruh. I’m just rapping. N---as be rapping, bruh.

Siifu, does that push you to be a better rapper, or are you just giving up, not even trying?

Siifu: I’m a good rapper, but I just can’t rap like that, bro. I don’t know. I be wanting to do shit, but I feel like I say the same shit if I’m rapping hard. If I’m like, I need to live and shit; for me to make a good rap album on some solo shit, I need five years. 

Anakin: Yo, you’re being hard on yourself. You being way harder on yourself because it’s so many joints on there, bro. Also flow shit — you be flowing, and that shit be making me really think about my approach sometimes. I think that’s what made this album so great, bro, because that didn’t feel comfortable for me. I felt comfortable in the sense of working with my friend, but it’s like, “Damn. I want to make sure I don’t stink it up.” You know what I mean? And then naturally we end up knocking shit out probably an hour or less on each song.

Do you guys already have plans to get in the studio and make another one, or are you waiting until this one comes out first?

Anakin: We already started.

Siifu: Yeah, we started on some new shit.

Anakin: We got some shit that we are going to lay out after all this shit drop and roll out. We got extra songs that didn’t make that shit, so it’s just ... It’s up, bro. It’s up, it’s up.

What’s your favorite part about collaborating with each other? Siifu, you want to go first?

Siifu: Shit bruh, it’s just knowing you going to get a hard verse. I know it’s just a hitter. I know if I call Frank for a verse, that man is going to deliver. When we’re in the same space, I know it’s going to be fun. It ain’t going to be forced at all, nigga. This real fam. This real kinship.

Anakin: I think the best part about working with this n---a is knowing that he’s probably going to create a pocket I never heard before, or he going to get into a certain zone that make a n---a want to do something different every time, you feel me? The n---a inspired me, bro, so it’s easy to work with a n---a that’s like a family member and he make you want to do something better than you already do it. I’m just glad this shit happened, and I’m ready for it to drop to be honest. I’m ready to hold the vinyl in my hands so I can know that that shit really happened and it’s no fucked-up dream.

What do each of you hope that someone listening to this album takes away from Fly Anakin and Pink Siifu?

Anakin: Oh, I want n---as to see how natural this shit is and how easy it is for n---as to just make great music. Shit, I just know, ultimately, I want my fans to feel like it’s another great album from us because we already dropped great albums. If we come together and do that then we are more powerful. I just want motherfuckers to enjoy that shit. I don’t want nothing extra. If you like that shit, play it again. Tell somebody about it. If you don’t, shut the fuck up. 

Siifu: For real.

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