Thanksgiving is no fun unless you've got a few friends in from out of town. Though more closely associated with the 4/20 "holiday," local rap luminary Devin the Dude knows how to hold a proper Turkey Day celebration, too. Tonight he'll play host to Texas' best battle-rapper when Austin's Phranchyze opens for him at Warehouse Live.
Oh, you didn't know that the best battle-rapper in the state is from Austin? Well, it's time to start dealing with it, because Phranchyze is nothing if not an Austin boy. Just ask him his thoughts on Mack Brown.
"I think it's time for him to go," Phran says without hesitation. "In terms of the product on the field right now, the recruiting has been not that great from the quarterbacks all the way down. Some of the defensive linemen have been ok, but the linebackers, the secondary? I'm just not feelin' it."
Phranchyze has brought home a lot more hardware than Brown's Longhorns of late. He was tabbed as 2011's Best Hip Hop Act at the Austin Music Awards this past March, and the MC is coming off two consecutive Red Bull EmSee Freestyle Battle regional titles.
To earn the right to represent Texas in the national finals, he had to impress local legends of no less stature than Bun B, E.S.G., Trae and others. Fans who were in attendance may recall having their minds blown when Phran worked "paranoid schizophrenic" into a freestyle rhyme without breaking a sweat. Clearly, something is going on up 290.
"Austin's scene is basically about individuality and individualism," the young rapper explains. "Austin is a very vibrant place, and I think that comes through in the music. There's a lot of that Houston influence, because we all came up listening to Screw tapes, you know, Swishahouse, S.U.C., all that stuff.
"We throw our little thing on it, too, where you get a lot of the heavy bass stuff that you're used to with the Houston stuff, but the style of the MCs is different than anything you'll hear," he adds.
Phranchyze counts Kydd Jones, Dub 6 and the League of Extraordinary G'z as his contemporaries at the top of Austin's rap game. Lately, he's expanded on his reputation as a battle-rapper extraordinaire to become a prolific recording artist, as well. His most recent mixtape, Phranye West has been his best-received yet. It's the third release in what the rapper calls his "Identity Theft Series," a chance to explore new perspectives by jumping into another artist's skin. (Download it at Phranchyze.com.)
"The goal with this one was to really kind of embody the perception of, like, a Kanye West, which is like, 'I'm gonna say what I'm gonna say, I don't really care what anybody thinks about it,'" Phranchyze says. "I'm gonna just basically say whatever the fuck is on my mind and put it out there. On songs like 'Exodus,' I really just went for exactly what I think about that particular subject."
"Exodus" is a frank and memorable track probing Phranchyze's issues with faith with all the uncensored swagger of Kanye West. It's a topic not often explored in mainstream hip-hop, but it's one fans are likely to hear during his set tonight. Phranchyze is in full-on promotion mode as the unsigned rapper works to leverage his battle titles and the response to Phranye West into a major deal.
"I'm actually in L.A. right now," Phranchyze said last week. "I just met with the guys at Warners. I wouldn't say that it's do-or-die for me right now, in terms of being on a label, but I do want to take that next step and have those placements and that notoriety.
"I think for any person that does music, it's a priority to make sure your music is heard by the largest amount of people possible."
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For now, the best chance for Phranchyze to be heard by the masses is getting on the bill at big shows like tonight's. The Dude is a reliable draw in this town and Phranchyze plans to work the crowd hard at Warehouse Live, which is fast becoming a home away from home.
"It's almost like being a stand-up comedian," he says. "You get a feel for what the crowd responds to, what they don't respond to. So I try to talk to them early to try to get a feel for what their mood is: Are they excited? Is everybody super-high? If you just straight-up talk to them like it's a group of your friends, most of the time you're going to be ok."
If fans like what they hear, they'll have Phranchyze's in-the-works III EP to look forward to soon. And if his upward trajectory continues, they'll be able to say they caught him back when he was only the best battle-rapper in Texas.
With Devin the Dude, Sareal and Supreme, 9 p.m. Wednesday at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emmanuel, www.warehouselive.com.