A far cry from the notorious gangster Mad Frankie Fraser, UK battle rap’s Frankie Phraser is using his talents to make a difference. He’s battled on Canada’s King Of The Dot and countless home stages, but is soon to headline Code Red‘s event in aid of Black Lives Matter UK.
“I don’t have any other skills to help, my skill is to rap.”
Frankie is one of our scene’s greatest writers, with a penchant for multi-layered punchlines. We spoke about his upcoming clashes with the legend Tony D and hot prospect Major Concerns, as well as the troubles of racism in battle rap. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into, including ghostwriting stories and Frankie’s growing résumé of impressive achievements.
The London event is invite only but all donations and PPV sales will go directly to Black Lives Matter UK. Donate now via PayPal: CRBLMdonate@gmail.com
Is there a certain battle or battler that made you decide to step in the ring?
“Obviously I always talk highly of Bender, Bender is like my favourite battler of all time, but I think when I first wanted to actually start out battling, it was more just because I rapped anyway, and my brother put me on to old The Saurus, Illmac, Loaded Lux and the freestyle stuff. A year or two went by, I was living at my cousins and trying to write bars that I would consider battle bars. I had a whole file on my phone that was different ideas. Looking back it was probably awful now, but I was just proper into the idea of it and it was different to writing lyrics to a song. So when I did that, I went to a show with my cousin and his girlfriend at the time, it was my first event in 2012. They left before it even ended and I was like, ‘Right, I’ve met enough people here now to say hello to someone, I’m just gunna stick around.’ That was pretty much it, I followed Don’t Flop around for a year before I did anything, so technically I always just wanted to do it to show that I could do it because I could rap. A lot of people got into battle rap because they were rappers first and I was one of those. It kinda changed from 2013 onwards, it became different, it became people doing it for a laugh or just to try, it wasn’t like how I was writing a song so I wanted to promote it. Sorry, long story short, The Saurus and Illmac originally were the ones that caught my attention, then in the UK, people like Oshea and Tony D.”
As you’ve already battled Bender (RIP), is there anything more you want to achieve?
“Yeah I was talking to Villun about this recently on the phone, it could have been a podcast itself. I never had any specific goal other than wanting to see if I could do it. Then I did it, and my original battle never came out. So I was like ‘I need to actually do this properly’, then once I did, I had the bug. Cos I was a newcomer, especially when I came around, it was like ‘We have five newcomers now we should battle them again next month,’ so I battled Gemin1. I never had any set goal after that, I never thought ‘I wanna be on a Don’t Flop birthday event’, I did after a year or two, but it was never my goal when I first started. I did things more just because I liked writing and it made me more creative when I had a battle because I didn’t let this sort of release out when I was writing songs. Songs let out something more cathartic whereas this was easier to write creative punchlines that I’d never say on a song. With Bender, it was moreso I wanted to show him I could rap and how much he influenced me. In battling, the highest compliment is to say to someone ‘Yo, I wanna battle you.’ Sometimes it’s not, they just wanna have your spot or to say they think you’re terrible, but for that one specifically, I remember saying to Danny [Jaqq] ‘I would just do it so I get to say I battled Bender and to meet him properly,’ so it kinda stemmed from that. Then once I did it, everyone was just telling me I’ve completed the game, so then I didn’t know what to do.”
“I just wanna stand there and rap with him.”
“I was quite on it around then, I battled Shox, Dialect and then I got on the King Of The Dot channel and battled an international – Vega from Australia came all the over here. I was like ‘Oh damn, I never really considered I’d be on KOTD, so that was another goal I’d accomplished without knowing I was gunna do it. Then I got flown out to KOTD and got to battle in Canada. I remember tweeting ‘I’d do another battle if someone put me on a plane’, it was 11 o’clock at night and I was just messing around, but then I got hit up to go! Didn’t expect that to happen. It’s the same thing now with the Tony battle. Me and Tony D had no interest in battling each other, the only way we’d wanna battle is if we could just show each other punchlines. I’m a big fan of him and I’ve made him a fan of me over the years. But yeah, it’s not like I was battering down the doors to battle Tony, but then the charity event came up and Danny was like, ‘Would you wanna be on it?’ and I said I’d do anything for the cause, I don’t mind what we do. And then he was like ‘I’m gunna ask Tony to battle you,’ but I was like ‘Alright mate…’, I never really thought about it but he came back the next day saying ‘We’re gunna do that.’ Tony D would have been a goal, especially on some ‘I get to say I battled who most people consider the best we’ve ever had in the UK,’ you can Oshea, Shotty and Soul, I’m not disputing them, but most people would say Tony D is the best guy we’ve had. He’s in all the lists for best battles, best bars, most headlines, all these things, and I get to say I did that. It’s moreso for a cause that matters too so I don’t want it to be about me, I just wanna stand there and rap with him.
“To see us both at the top was pretty crazy to me.”
“I know I’ve dragged it out, but I never had any set goals, Bender was never a goal, these things just happened and then once they’ve happened I’ve realised what they mean. After Tony I’m gunna battle Major Concerns. That’s another one, I didn’t know I was main event of day two, then the flyer came out and I watched it on the livestream, and when I saw my name at the top of the flyer I was like ‘No way! This is unreal,’ especially with Shuffle T and Soul on the other day. Shuffle being a really close friend of mine, to see us both at the top was pretty crazy to me. So there’s another one I never really expected to be a goal but happened. I don’t think I’m super above Major, but I feel like I’m giving back as well. Same way someone like Tony would have given me a shot, I’m giving this guy a shot cos he really thinks I’m good and wants to compete with me, so why not? I’ve done enough things now that people consider ‘completing stuff’ but I’ve not really given back to an up-and-comer. If I had any goals left, definitely to battle in America, just to say I did. If I battled at iBattle I’d have battled in New York where hip hop originated. Other than that, there’s not something I’m trying to do, I’m just gunna let it happen because it seems to work out that way.”
Your next battle is against UK goat Tony D, how confident are you in beating the ex-champ?
“Oh OK so we’re talking about straight up winning? That’s crazy, cos ‘Three rounds and I don’t lose,’ that’s what he says. I dunno if it was announced yet and I don’t really care, I’ll tell ya: it was apparently just meant to be one round. Then we spoke and we said we’d do a three round battle, so we’re doing a proper battle now. There’s a bit more at stake as well because when it was a one rounder it’s more of a showcase – I get to say some rhymes, he gets to say some rhymes and that’s it. Whereas a back-and-forth three rounds he gets to rebuttal stuff or have an angle where he can put across a little arc to it. I dunno, beating him is crazy because there’s not a lot of people you can say have. The few people that have beat him have been when he’s messed up, right? Real Deal, Pat Stay and Soul. I’m not saying he would have won those battles but he messed up in them too, so he can do the whole ‘I beat myself’ thing. So yeah, I’m very confident in my material, I showed a few people my first draft of finished three rounds and they were saying it’s my best stuff I’ve ever done. I think it’s my best stuff I’ve ever done. I have so much stuff I have not put in because I’m curating this, I can’t put a bar in that I think is not worthy, every line has to be like a 10 to beat Tony. So I’m confident enough in the material that he’s gunna react as much as anyone that’ll be watching because he’s gunna enjoy this, I know he will. But winning, I dunno.” [Laughs]
The event is in aid of Black Lives Matter charities. What are you thoughts on racism in battle rap?
“I mean, like anywhere, it shouldn’t be a thing. But sadly it’s built into pretty much everything, whether it be a big mainstream thing, pop culture or a subculture, it’s everywhere. I don’t think it should be here at all, and I feel like battle rap is misconstrued as people trying to be offensive for the sake of being offensive, and I’m not trying to downplay anyone for saying anything negative, but I think a lot of battlers say things that would be considered racial just because they think it’s offensive and that’s what battle rap is meant to be. Recently, they’ve had to nip a lot of things in the bud. I saw iBattle stopped a battler from being in their league because he said something racist, I see someone at Premier Battles said something racist and he was completely taken out of the tournament. I think that’s how it should be, but I’m not out here tryna police everyone’s thoughts, especially as someone who doesn’t have a place, I’m a guest in this from the beginning. That’s why when I do something like this for the charity, that’s me trying to show that I’m here to not just be for me. I’m tryna give back.”
“I’m a guest in this from the beginning.”
“I think these few signs and gestures of people being like ‘This isn’t what we want in battle rap,’ I think that’s quite a good thing, because it might nip it in the bud going into a new wave of our scene. With corona and everything sort of stopped, when it starts up again with fans and crowds in the near future, I’m hoping that’ll be a fresh start for everyone. It will just be about the creativity and matching wits with someone and being able to out-rap them! That’s what it should be about and anything offensive just for the sake of offence is kinda silly and quite pointless. It doesn’t last very long, it doesn’t age well. It’s not like someone has a bar that you remember from 2009 that was a racial bar and you’re like ‘Oh that still stands up today,’ it doesn’t, it died the second they said it. Whereas someone would say something creative back then and you will still talk about it now.”
As a white guy yourself, how do you feel about headlining a card for black representation?
“When Danny first asked me to do something it was just him wanting to raise the money, it wasn’t specifically like everyone he puts on the card has to be from somewhere or a person of colour, but I did obviously have to think about that. I did think maybe I shouldn’t do something like this, but also I want to contribute. When he first said the idea I think he had a lot more in place and there was meant to be a lot more battles and it came down to not being able to keep as many people on. Also, he just wanted to do something himself and a lot of people couldn’t do it right now, so when he came up with the idea of me and Tony, and Tony said yeah, it was sorta like ‘Well, we have to keep that now cos everything else has gone.’ I guess if there was the time to have done it differently, maybe we would have worked it out and done it as a side part of the whole event, but when it became that there was just one or two battles left, it’s just what it became. But yeah, it’s a weird one. I’m happy to help and I wanted to be a part of it and raise awareness and help donate whatever we can towards it, I’ll be giving money myself, I’d be doing that regardless of whether I had a battle on the card. I don’t have any other skills to help if that makes sense, my skill is to rap and they wanted me to do that, so I was willing to. I do understand that if anyone felt like it was a bit awkward, that it was never done out of that, it was done out of making rap battles that would donate to black charities.”
Who else can we expect on that card?
“Jester Black from Ireland is coming over, he just had a great showing on Premier Battles and got a lot of hype behind him right now as a newcomer, he’s going against Marvel. If anyone doesn’t know, he’s literally been at the front of every event ever, even some KOTD events in Canada too, not just here. He’s a genuinely lovely geezer and that guy’s got bars bro. Whenever he tells me something, I’m like ‘Yo, where have you been? Why have you been in the crowd bro?’ When I used to work for Chalked Out I was helping to find new battlers and I really got on his case to have a try-out. I dunno whether he had his try-out with us or DubScandal but I remember when he battled for me, and when he started he didn’t speak for 30 seconds and everyone was like ‘Oh no maybe it’s not for him,’ and then he just let go and rapped so it became ‘Yo this guy is really good!’ [Laughs] That should be really good.”
“He just let go and rapped.”
“The other battle on the card is A who hasn’t battled in a while, he had a lot of buzz behind him when he first started a few years back. Also returning, the only other battler on the card is Jaybe – someone I’ve battled before. I believe it was meant to be A versus J Short but that fell apart, and I’m not sure how Danny and Craig at Code Red have run this but I know that’s the card I’ve seen on the flyer. So, two returning battlers and two new names, one specifically in Jester Black who’s on the come-up and has a lot of momentum behind him already through the Academy tournament, so that’ll be good to see him showcase, especially in a different setting cos he’s been in Ireland battling where he’s from, he gets to battle in Manchester on a tournament and with this one he’s got free rein to express himself rather than worry about getting through the next round or whatnot. I think Danny had a few set up and they fizzled out. It’s not so much people don’t want to do it, it’s just about being able to make it happen.” [Since speaking, the card has also lost Jester Black vs Marvel]
You’re headlining against Major Concerns at Premier Battle’s Apex 2. There are lots of similarities between you two but what do you think are his strengths?
“I wouldn’t battle him if I didn’t respect what he does. I spoke to him a lot when he first started and I found out he was a big fan, that was quite cool and also strange (not in a bad way) but I’m not used to having someone tell me I’m a reason they did this. I was in the building for his battle with I-Kid and I don’t think I’d seen him before other than a few clips, but he smashed that. They were tryna get him to battle me quite early on and I remember saying, ‘I’m not saying no, but let him build up a bit cos it’ll be better for him and the whole thing as well.’ But yeah, I think his strengths mainly are he’s got good punchlines for sure and he’s very good at flips these days. I didn’t think he was a freestyler but he’s good at flipping something back on someone quickly before he starts his round, which is quite a lost art of flipping someone’s higher point to negate it, so that’s always a worry. I’d say another one of his strengths is it’s gunna be in Manchester with all his pals and his whole home league where he’s never battled outside of, where he’s the up-and-coming top man that everyone loves [laughs]. Let’s have it right, he’s not had a blemish yet so he hasn’t even experienced the fans thinking he’s a mug yet, which is quite mad. He’s gunna have to at some point, whether it’s me or down the line, you’re always going to have that moment where the fans turn on you, even if it’s for a couple weeks.”
“You’re always going to have that moment where the fans turn on you.”
“But he smashed it against Chilla [Jones], I don’t think he won that, a lot of people say he won, but he didn’t lose any face and he won a lot of people over. If there were any worries that he couldn’t stand up to a certain level outside of a tournament process, he proved a lot of people wrong (or right). He’s got a lot of strengths. I had it with Bender where I put everything into trying to match him and do as good as he could, and that’s the same sort of thing how I’m processing the Tony battle, trying to match wits with him. If Major considers me to be as high up as he does then he’ll really be gunning for me. It’ll probably be the best he’s ever been, so if he was good in his other battles, I’d assume he’d be tenfold. Just because of how much he wants to show me that he thinks I’m good. That’s how I see it anyway, he’s got a lot of strengths trust me.”
Rumour has it you’re a bit of a ghost writer, what can you tell us about rounds you’ve written for others?
[Laughs] “You know what, that was so long ago now. That started out of very minimal things that we all kinda blew up on purpose, not to blow my name up, but once it started it snowballed. I even remember when I was meant to try-out people were telling me ‘Just do a whole round saying you wrote for everyone,’ even if I hadn’t. It was a character thing that no one else had about them. So it definitely blew up out of something that it wasn’t. When I started I’d been around a few people at events and I remember telling someone a bar once, they said they’d use it and I didn’t care. The bar blew up and he said to people himself straight after that I did it, and he was like ‘I just wanted to say the bar to see if the crowd reacted.’ That was where it stemmed from, it wasn’t so much I had some inbox and I’d set people up with bars [laughs] it was none of that, a very simple thing that blew up into something bigger. It was quite funny back then and I’m surprised I still get it. I forget sometimes that that was actually my moniker for a while, it’s quite mad. But yeah, I’m not a ghost writer, especially not anymore.”
Finally, give me two battlers you want to take on, one returning vet and one newcomer.
“If I could battle anyone returning to battle rap, if it was in England I’d say someone like Possessed innit, someone crazy. It’s not so much I wanna battle him, it would just be cool to say I did that. Someone like Stig [of the Dump], someone who’s a big deal that would be returning and I would fuck with as a fan. Those sort of names that were who I watched when I started. I would have said someone like Respek BA but he’s battled in this era right? Similar if it was in the USA, it would be someone like Hommy Hom, just because he’s not battled since back in the day, I don’t know if he’d be any good now but I was such a fan when I first started. Someone new… who’s on the come-up? It depends man, I guess I’m already doing it with Major, but in the UK there’s not really many in my head. There’s a couple abroad, like there’s people on iBattle I fuck with heavy, maybe they’re not super new but someone that might not be heard of. There’s people who have been around for a long time that I’d battle that aren’t on everyone’s radar. There’s a lot of battlers I like that might not have a lot of views but they’re dope. That’s why sites like Ruin Your Day are cool cos they do that, they get people like Pigsty and Random to battle, those are the sort of people I’d want to have everyone else watch because they’re cold, great writers and really good at battling. If I could battle one person though, I’m gunna say I wanna battle B Magic. I’ve been wanting that for a long time just because I’m such a fan, I’m never gunna do it though.”
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Written by: James Wijesinghe