SHIT BEEN WEIRD: WHY FLY ANAKIN IS STAYING TRUE TO HIS ROOTS ON NEW PROJECT SKINEMAXXX (SIDE A)
Fly Anakin is not your average rapper. Emerging from challenging circumstances in Richmond, Virginia, the 27-year-old emcee exudes a unique combination of confidence and contentment. Confidence in the refined ability he has developed in his chosen art form. And contentment that his dedication to that craft has steered his life path in a direction he never thought possible.
Brought up in a neighborhood surrounded by poverty and addiction, Frank Walton found an escape and a calling in music. Introduced to a diet of Notorious B.I.G and Wu-Tang, Walton first picked up a pen before his tenth birthday, kick-starting an appetite for hip-hop that would grow to be prolific. Now regarded amongst in-the-know circles as one of the country’s most essential, technically brilliant rappers, Fly Anakin has released no less than 25 projects since 2015; the most acclaimed of which 2022’s intimately titled ‘Frank‘, transformed his standing from prodigious talent to arrived star.
A committed collaborator, Anakin’s work rate has not slowed in the slightest, linking with Mutant Academy producer Foisey for his latest project Skinemaxxx (Side A) – a closely crafted body unleashing long-held grievances, observances, and truth in a relentless, blistering manner. I connected with Fly Anakin online just prior to the release of the album to discuss lessons from his upbringing, the creative process that underpins his non-stop workflow, and why keeping your circle small is essential for survival in the music industry.
Matthew Craig: How’s life today bro? What are you grateful for today?
Fly Anakin: I’m grateful for being alive. I’m grateful for having a good family around. I’m grateful for life ultimately. Just grateful for life.
Blessings. Talk to me a little about Richmond Virginia bro. For those in Australia, we’re a world away. Paint a picture of what it was like for Fly Anakin growing up in Richmond.
Shit, for me, my moms didn’t really have a whip for the majority of my life, like my childhood and shit. So like, it was a lot of walking, like a whole lot. It was a lot of extra shit happening that we didn’t need to go through because of my mom’s life choices. But we had a good life like it was fun. But you know looking back on that shit a lot of it just wasn’t for children. It shows in my ways and my actions today. It was good. You know, casual traumas in my areas that shit don’t really sound too out of the normal, just my typical rap story for real.
For real. When did that intersection with rap come? Was it was there a moment you recall when you fell in love with art form? Or you engaged with it?
Yeah, I got an uncle that just put me on to Biggie early as hell. I was probably like, seven, eight years old. I was listening to the Bow Wow shit. I was more interested in watching music videos and cartoons at that point. I don’t know, like music just felt natural, like hip hop at least. Because like I said, the shit I was going through is like typical rapper story for people by now. But at the time, there were bigger issues, it was very accurate to what I was saying. So that shit opened my mind real early.
Was there a moment when you transformed from listening passively to actively being like, I’m gonna pick up the pen? Can you remember that moment?
I was nine years old when I wrote my first rap for my brother trying to impress him because he was going to the studio. What year was that? Like? 2003. Since by 2003, 2004 I wanted to make music. It was probably because of 50 Cent. I’m pretty sure 50 Cent was the reason why I was like; I could do this shit myself. I don’t know what the power was in 50 Cent’s music, I was a fucking child. Shit made me want to rebel. Made me want to shoot shit. It turned me into a machine in a way because I seen how far he took that. So yeah, I want to do something similar.
What about the other influences outside of hip-hop? Because the analogy I came up with, when listening to your music is, it’s like watching an arthouse film rather than watching a big Michael Bay blockbuster. There’s nothing cheap about it. It’s refined. It’s intelligent. It’s innovative. What other I guess, cultural or artistic influences, help put together the Fly Anakin formula?
Oh, so we were talking about this earlier. I fuck with Jimi Hendrix. Like not just the musicianship because it’s like his character in general. He was an interesting guy, outside of the abuse and shit because I don’t applaud that kind of shit, but like the character as far as like how he carried himself musically. Like I respect Jimi Hendrix if I had to keep it outside of hip hop. My people inspire me a lot. I think outside of music, probably family, the people that was around everyday
What sort of lessons have you learned? How have they influenced how you move through life and maintain your integrity?
I keep it as true to what it was when I first came around. I remember how people treated me. And I also remember what it was like to be that guy that nobody gave a fuck about it. So I know whenever I’m straying too far away from what I know is me, that I’m fucking up. That’s how I gauge it . Stay me as much as I can.
What’s your creative process? Because your work rate is just insane bro., Is it something that it’s like religious gym-wise, you in the booth every day? Does inspiration come at random moments, what’s your creative process like?
It comes in spurts. Like, I don’t do it every day at all. Like I used to. But now like, I’m more so just living my life, trying to figure out what the next project will be. I never really took too much of a step away from that shit until the pandemic happened. And I can’t afford to take a step away from the everyday shit. But at one point in my life, it was nonstop constantly, constantly, constantly. And I feel like that alone set me up to be the artist that I am. It’s easy as hell to make a song, I don’t have to force that shit. I just chill until I feel it. It don’t really sound as good when you forcing that shit or when you always making that shit sometimes you can burn out. I’m trying to just maintain a constant level of like understanding of who I am or what I want to make.
What’s the editing process like for you when you’re creating bro?
I’ll keep it a buck with you. I go off the first thing I write. Like the first instinct. So I don’t really edit too much. Like I really just go off what I feel. I don’t really deem it as a thing that I have to carefully comb over… what I make is pretty solid on its own. I mean I don’t really do too much editing like I’ll do a song. Let that shit be what it is. And if I fuck with it enough and I take your series I’ll put it on something. If not, it will just die on my computer. So it’s no real editing this just strike and if I feel it and it actually worked, it worked. But if it don’t, it dies.
You think that comes from just being saturated in it for so long
Yeah, I mean I just sat and made music for a lot of years. But doing that shit, I wouldn’t say it dilutes the feeling of like ‘I got a new song’ – when you first start out you can make a song, it’s very serious. You care a whole lot about that shit. Like, once you gotta like.. fuck I can’t say how many songs I have. I’ve literally lost count. But I can say somewhere past 1000 songs… a lot of that shit is just ideas. And people take that shit more serious than you do. Like, it’s literally just something that you know how to all your life.
I like that. I like that. In the state of, I guess entertainment culture, hip-hop at the moment, it’s very much about virality, clips… everyone thinks about short-term moments. While everything you seem to do is about longevity. It’s about art. It’s about culture. Can you dive a little bit further into that? I ain’t see you doing no Tiktok dance, you know, I’m saying?
Hahahaha. Yeh. Like, I don’t go too far away from what I know is me. And I wasn’t all that good before I was popular, so I’m not gonna do that now. So I’mma keep it me as much as I can. If you see me doing the Tiktok shit non stop going crazy; I’m fucking up. And honestly I wouldn’t. That means like, I figured something out. Or I’m literally giving in to the machine.
What are some of them lessons you learned as you got older and been around this shit?
Don’t fuck with just anybody. Like just cos people be cool, or they make good music. They don’t need to be within your first circle. You don’t have to be friends with everybody. You don’t have to deal with everybody just cos they making music. I don’t give a fuck to affiliate with nobody at this point. It’s family oriented as possible. That’s what I learned. Stick with who you came in with. Stay solid with them. If you venture off and do other things; make sure it’s 100 and you can pay for it. But other than that, maintain the crib.
What can we expect from Skinemaxxx the new project? Lyrically the recent stuff there’s a lot of touching on… almost music is therapy. Working on trauma or issues, getting that out through music. What can we expect thematically?
Just a ride. It was like me kind of flexing my muscles after the ‘Frank’ shit. I had time in between releases. knew what I had. And I also knew that what I was making was better than what I had. On some artistic shit. I was in a different place. I just I wanted to show my versatility like in my own way. And also just have fun because I was going through a lot of shit. That was right in the midst of me moving from Richmond to Tennessee to Atlanta. It was just a real transitional phase more than anything.
How has life changed off the back of ‘Frank’? Obviously toured Europe, all of a sudden, you’re in all these best end-of-year lists. It doesn’t seem to switch to your character at all but is it switching things around you?
Shit been weird. Like truthfully it been weird before that album came out. So I think if anything, it probably just got a little more weird. I’m just going to more places and more people knowing music, and because of whatever reason they fuck with me. So I think it’s always been weird. And it’s always been hard to gauge whether people are around for the right reasons and shit like that. Like I just said it’s been weird bro, as long as I’m doing it involved in the music business because that’s the place where weird things happen. So it’s what I’m signed up for so I’mma just between light in the dark if I can. Hang out as much as I can handle.
Do you have moments where you might be on the road in a foreign country touring Europe where you pinch yourself? Like I’m just some kid from Virginia…
Hell yeah, I ain’t expect to do none of this shit coming from where I came from. For a long time like I said, my moms ain’t have a car. So for a good majority of my life, I just spent time on the same block. Like the same bricks, the same apartment. So anytime I leave the crib and go do something. I’m very grateful for that shit. Because I did not expect to do none of this shit. I was just supposed to be there. You know what I mean? I was supposed to die where I was born. So I definitely defied a lot of eyes. I’m doing what I wanted to do, what I was supposed to do. So I’m just following that shit right now. Whenever I don’t do this, I feel like I’m doing myself a disservice.
That’s powerful bro. And what’s the legacy? When you look back and you say it’s 10/20 years down the track. What’s the Fly Anakin legacy you’re trying to leave?
I just want to make it easier for my kids, and their kids, their kids, and so on and so forth. Shit was hard for me. It’s still hard for me. And I want to make it easier for the next ones. And if I can usher in a fucking billion-dollar family? Let’s run it! I’mma do as much as I can. Because I don’t know too many people in my family that’s famous or took it and did anything with their shit. To this magnitude. This is a job, but it’s not a job. It’s a lifestyle. Like it’s literally a calling, something that you can’t really sign up for. This shit just grabs you. I never seen nobody in my family do the shit that I’m doing. So I strive for that. Just trying to be as fucking great as possible because somebody need to fucking feel like they could be something. Like if it was your cousin versus the motherfucker that was from New York. And you all the way in Richmond, that shit ain’t as significant to you. You don’t feel that power. You don’t feel like you can make it because that n***a ain’t as close to you. But if it’s your cousin, or your little brother, or your nephew, it makes you feel like ‘shit, I can do something too.’
I fuck with that. And we out here in Australia, on the other side of the world bro. Do you know much about Australia? You got plans to get out of here? Would you like to come play here one day?
I always tell people when Australia is brought up, I want to go to Melbourne. Because I worked with a producer. It was a time on SoundCloud when Australia was constantly popping up. Like Melbourne and Sydney and shit but a lot of Melbourne. So I’ve had this weird connection to Melbourne since like 2014. So I want to go to Melbourne.
That’s where I’m at bro.
Oh? Respect. I also want to go to Sydney and wherever the fuck they want to cop them Fly Anakin tickets. I want to go because I ain’t got shit to do but pull up.
We’re gonna make that happen, bro. When you come out to Melbourne I’ll show you the spots, we’ll get in the studio. And you gonn feel right at home I’m sure.
Yeah, I’m widdit, bro. I’ve been in so many places that I didn’t think I would go and I was very cosy in those places. So that’s that’s the inspiration for me to continue that, and tour for the rest of my life.
One last question, bro. If you could talk to young Frank who just heard Biggie for the first time what would you say to him?
This shit is not impossible. You can literally live past the expectations that you had. My life expectancy was not as high as I’m at right now. I’ve currently lived past my expectation. So yeah we lit. I didn’t imagine making it to 2016 or 2017. So this shit crazy. Respect though. Thank you.