I’ve got beef with a certain Austin publication. A little more than a month ago, this widely read, supposedly culture-focused website stated outright that Austin doesn’t care about hip-hop. It told its rather huge readership that the “scene” here “barely notices” its hip-hop artists. It implied that not one spitter, not one beat-maker and not one DJ in the 512 can pull in big crowds consistently, and it pined for someone to come about who will blow up in a big way. This article even went so far as to imagine this mythical artist’s path to glory, wishing for someone to bust out of the UT dorms into fame, or spend years “sweating” through freestyle battles for years before they get noticed. As a hip-hop writer and avid fan of the local scene, I’m calling this publication the fuck out.
Austin loves hip-hop. A lot. And the ironic thing is, when it comes to rappers, the artist the offending article was looking for is not only already here, he actually came up in the exact way the author dreamed up. I’m talking about a guy called Phranchyze, a master of flow who not only pulls in crowds at every show he plays, who not only puts out polished albums of blistering rhymes, who not only opens for big names like Snoop Dogg and GZA, but who’s also such a damn good battle rapper that he’s won over a dozen major competitions, including placing third overall at the international World Rap Championships in NYC. If Austin doesn’t care about hip-hop, someone forgot to tell Phranchyze. And if you don’t know about him, you probably will soon.
I first became aware of Phranchyze when he burst onto the stage seemingly out of nowhere at a packed Talib Kweli show, one which he hadn’t known he was going to play until just a few minutes before, and one which he thoroughly, unflinchingly rocked. Showing absolutely no signs of stress in the obviously strange position he was in, Phranchyze busted rhyme after rhyme of Austin-repping, freakout-inducing verse, and I don’t think even the legendary Kweli got a better crowd response that night. From his performance of album tracks to crowd interaction to freestyles that showed he’s quick on his feet like a kicks-wearing six-foot-five verbal ballerina, Phranchyze put the ATX crowd into a frenzy with skills in every aspect that makes a good rapper. It was a hell of a show, so much so that when I saw the above mentioned waste of an article, it was one of the first things that came to my mind with righteous indignation.
Since that show, I’ve been keeping up with ol’ Phran, and right now, he’s in the best position of any spitter in Austin to make it big on a national level and beyond. Phranchyze, real name Jason Herman Alan-Jamal Shaw-Ogunro (or JJ, if you’re into the whole brevity thing), has just dropped his latest in a series of excellent albums and mixtapes, a 15-track joint called Phranye West (with silver tongue firmly in cheek) that’s one of the best pieces of music to come out of Austin this year in any genre.
As the man told Red River Noise about the mixtape, “This is Phran!” Phranye West showcases everything Phranchyze has become known for in the ATX and abroad, including an inimitable sense of humor, rhymes you’ll be quoting to your friends and hooks catchy like the most enjoyable virus that ever existed. “I wanted people to feel me,” says Phranchyze, “The fun stuff, the introspective stuff, the goofy stuff, the intellectual stuff. All of it.” And unlike a lot of young rappers, Phranchyze isn’t one to shy from the limelight or tone himself down in order to reach fame. In his words, “I really tried to be honest about my story and my opinions. Even if those opinions are unpopular or controversial. Hence the Phranye West title.”
One of the most notable things about Phranye West is how heavily the dude reps this city—his home and where he grew up. Where some rappers might back off from shout outs to any city that’s not NYC, LA or ATL, Phranchyze makes it clear that ATX is where he’s from, and he’s damn proud of it. The man’s love for the culture of Austin and its people was apparent in every word when we talked, with him saying, “Whether it be people, food, music, etc, (Austin’s) a place that allows people to come together and experience different things. To get out of their shells and really live.”
And though he’s aware of being one of the most visible and potentially famous hip-hop artists in the city, Phranchyze is a humble, down-to-earth dude and couldn’t say enough good about the ATX hip-hop scene in general, including the others who make it special. According to Phran, “The Austin hip-hop scene is filled with a bunch of talented guys that are hungry for national recognition. Guys like Dubb Sicks, SKP, Kydd Jones &Corey Kendrix, Muggzy Flowz, NIP and obviously myself. There’s a lot of guys that are really changing the way Texas, and the nation at large look at the Austin hip-hop scene.” In the opinion of this hop-head and writer, no one is changing that perception more than Phran, and this new mixtape is only going to further that most worthy of processes.
Not at all surprisingly, Phranchyze himself summed up the situation perfectly for us: “When I first started, the scene was very self-contained. Now I think it’s something that’s grown so much that people are taking note of it. Before it was kinda like, ‘How are gonna do this or that?’ But now it’s like, ‘Let’s do this! Here’s how.’ It’s something that is parallel to the growth of the city as a whole. As more people start to move here from larger cities, more eyes are cast down on to this place. It’s a great thing. It really is.” We at Red River Noise think so too.
If Phranye West ain’t enough to satisfy your need for the boom bap, folk in the south central Texas area can catch the man touring to promote the mixtape this October and November. And Phranchyze ain’t slowin’ down one damn bit while on his tour, as he’s currently working on an album set to come out in early 2013 called The 111 EP that promises to bring more of the same goodness.
So, back to my beef. If you’re one of those that think Austin doesn’t have hip-hop DJs, I’d point you to DJ Mel, or Kid Slyce. If you think we ain’t got notable beat-makers, I’d put you onto Boombaptist. And if you think there are no world-class rappers in this most musical of cities, I’d just say one word: Phranchyze. Yes, indie’s way bigger than hip-hop here, and yeah, our scene hasn’t been noticed on the international level like country. But Austin loves hip-hop. We really, really do.