Phranchyze: Austin’s Most Prolific Rapper

Phranchyze, in addition to being one of the highest-profile rappers in Austin, is also easily the most prolific. S.T.A.R.S. is the third mixtape he’s released in the last year, and it is filled with the kind of playful, fun-loving, Austin-praising hip-hop we’ve come to expect from him. In fact, as an Austinite, my favorite part about listening to Phranchyze is hearing my city repped so hard in a rap record. “#ATX,” for example, turns “Austin, Texas” into a heavily chanted chorus and prominently features a great Stevie Ray reference (as long as you know that he covered Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”). In “Keep Rollin Racks” – probably the best beat on the album, based very loosely on the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On” – he raps, “I’m ATX to the motherfucking death, so I’mma keep spitting that weird stuff.” Phranchyze loves this place and I do too, so I’ll always have a place in my heart for this guy.

Yet, that might be where my similarities to Phranchyze end. If the real Phranchyze is anything like the one on record, then he smokes a lot of weed and plays a lot of video games. Despite being a guy in my mid-twenties, I don’t do much of either of those things. So when Phran drops names of different strains of weed (which he does quite frequently here), it doesn’t do much for me. He also starts the whole record with a sample from the game Infinite Space, framing the whole record in the context of gaming. Fortunately for Phranchyze, this is likely an attribute that will make him appealing to hip-hop fans and non-hip-hop fans alike.

Phranchyze - '(A Song That's Not About My Current) Girlfriend'

However, my other major observation about his latest mixtape is not as specific to my own experience. Phranchyze came up in the freestyle battle scene. He is remarkably accomplished in this area, and it shows on his tracks, with him delivering entertaining, twisting couplets with ease. This strength, though, is also a weakness when it comes to songcraft. Often his raps are just strings of clever boasts with little narrative cohesion. The one shining exception to this rule is “(A song that’s not about my current) Girlfriend.” Here, Phranchyze focuses his skill for pointed barbs into a tale about an unhealthy relationship. He very clearly and engagingly paints the picture of an emotional roller-coaster with a manipulative partner over an ominous beat. For the last 1:15 of the track (essentially the third verse), he hands the reins over to a raw voicemail message from the ostensible subject of the song. It’s a powerful song that shows Phranchyze at his best.

I see Phranchyze as being very similar to rappers like Chiddy Bang or Childish Gambino. They are all playful, nerdy and fun, with a penchant for wordplay and style over emotional punch (like Kendrick Lamar, for example). If you like those rappers (and I promise I do), definitely check out Phranchyze’s work. If you’re from Austin, you absolutely need to be familiar with Phran. But I think he’ll realize his immense potential when he puts more emphasis on substance, since he’s already got the style part down.

You can get this mixtape at his bandcamp site for a mere dollar (absolutely worth it), and you can catch him live on March 2nd in NYC at the Delancey, or March 9th in Atlanta at the Tabernacle.

– Carter