Flock to the Flame

Tyler Ball hears a refreshing change from the norm with Waka Flocka Flame’s debut LP

Waka Flocka Flame manages to defy stereotypes, hitting a high note with the track “Hard In Da Paint.”
Waka Flocka Flame manages to defy stereotypes, hitting a high note with the track “Hard In Da Paint.”
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Waka Flocka Flame
Flockaveli

From the first track on Flockaveli, the debut from Georgia rapper Waka Flocka Flame, it’s clear that this is a very eccentric flavour of hip hop. The opening beat of “Bustin’ At Em” consists entirely of firearm and ammunition sound effects, the bass drops in and Waka Flocka Flame beginnings yelling “POW POW POW!” Just in case you weren’t sure how much he likes gun imagery.

By the end of the opener’s “BRIIIIICKSQUAAAAD,” I’m exhausted by the sheer energy of the track and this is only the first of the album. You can hear Flame belting out his namesake over the song until he’s hoarse and out of breath. It’s a refreshing change from the norm.

Being a Queen’s student means withstanding the incessant whine of Drake and his girl problems. He’s like the Morrissey of rap music. I sympathize that he can’t get that girl with ass implants, but when I want to hear some hip hop I want some energy. Waka Flocka Flame is all the energy that’s missing from mainstream rap, distilled, concentrated and blasted across 72 minutes of jumping and crotch-grabbing.

It’s fitting that an album as hard as Flockaveli comes from someone so new and just plain different. Flame takes his name from the Muppet Fozzie Bear’s catchphrase, “waka, waka, waka,” with the latter half dubbed by his mentor, Gucci Mane. Perhaps it speaks to Flame’s inner sense of humour, or his willingness to let it loose.

Nowhere is this looseness more evident than in Lex Luger’s beats (not the wrestler), who produced the majority of the album. While some get criticized as being “ringtone rappers,” Luger’s production runs the gamut of the stereotypical southern sonic. How can you criticize any of these beats for being simple or cheesy when they’re already the lowest common denominator?

“Hard In Da Paint,” one of the singles from the album, is a perfect example of this. It begins with a synth riff straight from a keyboard preset, but as soon as the chorus of chanting and Luger’s glitched-out drums unleash themselves one realises that worrying about fidelity is not a priority.

Subsequent tracks follow a similar pattern, but not at their fault. Waka Flocka Flame found a formula that works. “No Hands” features vocals from Roscoe Dash, a mohawked answer to Akon’s Auto-Tune crooning who sounds like a young and stoned Larry Blackmon.

Flockaveli isn’t necessarily about anything new. This is the same southern hip hop we’ve been hearing for a decade, but the difference is everything is turned up to 10 and everyone is yelling until they can’t any more.

“Bricksquad” takes those traditional elements—classic snare pattern and some synth rhythms straight from old Three Six Mafia—and adds enough barking and non-sequiturs to turn the song into a transcendental experience.

The album only slows once; “For My Dawgs” is the albums’ “Nothing Compares 2 U” with a slow, plodding bass line and lyrics all about love for your homies. Luckily “G Check” comes next with enough gun shots and climbing synths to remind you what Flocka’s really all about.

I suspect that if Waka Flocka Flame could fit a few more hours of his bouncy hooks on a CD, he would. Perhaps next time we can hope for a double album.

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