Waka Flocka Flame: Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It

An interview and analysis with Brick Squad 1017's raucous sensation, who may be carrying the N.W.A. torch and making some of the last Gangsta Rap on a major.

Waka Flocka Flame makes Gangsta Rap. Not the current day Rap about selling drugs until I get rich and then rap exclusively about how rich I am incarnation of the genre, and certainly nothing close to the politically charged early-Ice Cube variety. Ideologically he instead leans towards the insular, purely angst driven middle period. The Efil4zaggin-style, "dedicated to the niggas that was down from day one" type of shit.

The New York-born, Georgia-bred rapper might also be the first  post-lyrical artist in his subgenre. Not in sense that he doesn't adhere to the lyrical standards of golden age yore (though he clearly doesn't), but that his listeners themselves rarely even value his content. Waka acknowledged as much in a recent YouTube interview and created a minor scandal in the process. "I said I don't need lyrics. That's where everybody got it misconstrued," he clarifies in a recent phone conversation. He then explains what does draw listeners to his music: "It's the energy, the delivery, and the realness of  the person that's making it."

He neglects to mention his obvious secondary function as a lightning rod amongst hip hop conservatives. Waka, funny name and all (it's a loose phonetic mash up of his government, Juaquin, and the onomatopoeia of a gun firing) is this season's go-to whipping boy for all-too-vocal old heads and their spiritual offspring, the Rap listeners who seem more concerned with who's destroying the values of yesterday than the actual quality of today's Rap music. The day after the interview for this piece was conducted Waka appeared on BET's 106 & Park where he discussed education and the midterm elections in the most awkward way possible. "Umm... voting cool..." he mumbled before trailing off into gibberish and then asking the hosts to "run that back." Of course, 106 & Park is broadcast live, so running the tape back was not an option. Sure enough the clip hit Worldstar and YouTubes and his Internet detractors sharpened their swords and manned their keyboards. A cursory Google search for "+Waka +106 +Idiot" delivers 177,000 results and very few, if any, of them appear to contain the sentence "Waka Flocka Flame is not an idiot." Waka's only response came on Twitter: "Kould(sic) yall tell i was nervous on 106&Park?" In re-watching the clip, that seems like a reasonable explanation. Waka looks more squirmy than flat out stupid and this discomfort is typical of most of his public appearances. He doesn't wear limelight well. When lacking the protective shield of his high energy riot music Waka just seems confused, wide eyed and grinning goofily.


In conversation he is similarly aloof and almost strategically so. He's friendly, but far away. Any question about his very vocal detractors is met with close to complete apathy. His plea that "my fans love me" seems rehearsed in its nonchalance. While most rappers will quickly tell you they don't care about haters... and  then spend several minutes ranting about why they don't care, Waka seems genuinely unfazed by all this negativity. And, yes, ignorance is bliss, but bliss isn't always ignorance. Sometimes it's just indifference. And sometimes indifference is the best course of action.

It helps too that that Waka's fans do seem to love him. Over the past 18 months or so, tracks like "O Let's Do It" , "Hard In The Paint" and "Luv Dem Gun Sounds" have provided the go-to car stereo subwoofer workouts across the country while his signature "Waka!" adlibs ring out in any hood. His debut LP, Flockaveli feels like a gift to that core audience. No ballads, no Pop concessions, just 80 minutes of full scale apocalyptic fight music, the bulk of it laced by in-house beatsmith Lex Luger. Only the Drumma Boy-produced single "No Hands," comes anywhere close to a traditional radio record, and even that comes off as dark and oddly introverted given the context. Hate it or love it, it's hard to look at Flockaveli as anything but the most uncompromising major label Rap album in years.

But maybe that's because it isn't exactly a major label album. Or at least it wasn't initially intended to be one. "[Originally] Flockaveli was a mixtape, it wasn't an album," he explains. Early mockup's of the artwork billed it as yet another DJ Holiday-helmed mixtape. "But the mixtape went hard, so my team decided to turn it into an album." Giving an artist this much creative breathing room on his debut was a high risk on the part of the label but it's hard to tell if their acquiescence came from a genuine faith in Waka or if it was simply an  admission of defeat. Last year The State vs. Radric Davis, the planned break through album from Waka's mentor and Brick Squad partner Gucci Mane (or former? Both have remained tight lipped about their rumored split.) didn't exactly breakthrough, despite - or because of - several ill-advised Pop gestures. Flocka's sound and image is even more defiantly street than Gucci's and it's hard to imagine him over anything but the sort insular Post-Crunk that he raps to here. "The one thing about Asylum/Warner Brothers is that they let you be an artist," Waka says. "They let me do my album how I wanted to."  

He didn't quite seem as happy about his label situation in the heat of a Twitter rant earlier last month: "That's fucked up when yo own label don't got yo back like my fans do Shawty FUCK this industry can't wait till my contact(sic) up... I worked my own shit from day 1 now when I get a lil buzz they wanna eat yo whole check.." In a room full of label folks, Flocka dismisses the rant as empty aggression. "You get mad you, just go in," he says. "It's over though. That was Twitter." This is an unfortunate retreat. Waka's long bubbling mixtape following and high performance fees on the modern day Chitlin Circuit put him in a position where he could actually exist outside of the label infrastructure. Fortunately the album itself isn't so spineless in the face of Rule #4080. On "Fuck This Industry" he offers some very constructive wisdom to budding artists: "Watch out for these labels man... make sure you don't get a 360, that shit ain't 100."

Despite the industry headache and continued headache,  Waka remains resolute in his dedication to making music. "My fans and my friends encourage me to keep rapping," he says. "It makes my mother happy because I'm doing something positive."

Hold up. Positive? It's not the first word that comes to mind in describing an artist whose biggest hit opens with the couplet "I fucked my money up / now I can't re-up" but after some pressing Waka rationalizes it well enough. "I never said my music is positive. My music relieves the stress," he clarifies. "It's for people that's going through or living what I'm talking about. It teaches them how to relieve stress verbally instead of physically. So what I'm doing is positive."

And there you go. After 20 minutes of mumbling indecision and safe-distance generic rapper talk Waka finally and concisely expresses a logical agenda. And this is the frustrating thing. He understands the purpose of his music, he just rarely verbalizes it. In a recent interview with Complex magazine, Ice Cube recounted a bit of advice that Ice-T once gave him:  "Cube, make sure you can always justify what you say on them records. They gon' ask you in them interviews, [make sure it’s] shit that you can talk about." Waka would be wise to heed this same wisdom. Flockaveli is a sonically massive record but it could be so much more than that. It could be a game changer. It's the industry's last uncompromising Gangsta Rap record and, in a lot of ways, a conspicuous indictment of the major label album model. If Waka could just better recognize and articulate his own strengths, just get comfortable in his own skin, then that referred positivity would multiply tenfold. A thoughtful Flocka Flame could be absolutely dangerous. But these are unrealistic expectations. Even if Waka did posses the drive and constitution to present himself as an Ice-T style articulate thug it would almost definitely be a professional misstep. If there's no such thing as bad publicity then, true or not, the continued "Waka's An Idiot, Son! Fozzie Bear!" retweets and half-baked blog posts are more valuable than any display of rational thought. Dumb rappers get better promotion.

Waka will be alright though. His fans love him.

Purchase Music by Waka Flocka Flame


  • foried jackson

    man i got a album out they say its hard but am doing it to bring something new to the gang

  • foried jackson

    ay whats up bra bra i been trying to get in the game 4 along time can u help me my number is 706 664 8724

  • Dub

    A nigga like Waka ain't trying to make a groundbreaking album...Dude rapping straight for the money, so if people like "Luv Dem Gun Sounds" and "Hard In the Paint," dude ain't gonna stray too far from that model. I'm pretty sure this is a good ass deal considering where he was at.

  • DaJermy

    Sign the petition for Waka Flocka to RETIRE from Rap. Save Hip Hop from this boy. Save the world from this boy... The video is re-upped here http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/waka-flocka-retire-from-rap/ http://www.facebook.com/pages/Petition-Waka-Flocka-Retire-From-Rap-Pursue-Geometry-Degree/104379376299964

  • Kyle

    this guy sure knows how to wrap not

  • Adam

    flocka doesnt need to learn to articulate his ideas or whatever jibberish you said. As an artist he just needs to keep doing him, its worked so far. He doesnt want a "rap game changing" album. He wants to put shit out there that he likes and knows his fans like. Hes being himself

  • John-Boy

    Wackaveli won't sell and after that the title will be Gangsta Rap Made me Retire.

  • qbd1

    You try too hard to give this guy cred. He's just playing thug on hard beats. Nothing gangsta there. But you want to buy this story, and even perpetuate it. Dumb rappers get better promotion through dumb writers.

  • jqass

    waka just that new crunk muzik this some shit to ride too...

  • G-Zus

    Is this the 1st of April ?

  • fewwf

    waka the new pac. quit hatin bitch niggaz

  • aztek

    ^^damn dude you damn near written a essay can't get through every sentence i don't have the patience to put up with it lol but i agree waka's album is garbage as expected. @stop being conscious/political or lyrical is somehow safe? Doubt it We Know damn well the simplier the rapper is the more attention he gets thats why he has no lyrics or substance, he believes its something that would actually hold him back from becoming rich and successful, plus he knows if he rapped like immortal then waka's position would of been trivialized. The very fact that you think this nigga is a positive figure on the youth makes me not want to take your comment seriously.

  • lilworm

    i smell lots of hater in these comment rofl.

  • fdhvbjfsd

    Yeah this guy is ruining music, he's ignorant, he doesn't constribute anything... Oh, ODB? RIP!!! One of the greats!!! Wu Tang!!! Yeah!!!

  • Charles ExSavior

    This article has a big red nose, white face paint and a goofy ass smile on it. People (Waka fans as my current example) want us to congratulate weak, uninspired music like this. Shit, might as well congratulate a car shop for not repairing your car correctly, or congratulate officers that don't do their job to the best of their ability and decide to give hard working people an even harder time. Matter of the fact is, I don't congratulate SHIT to an artist that doesn't better himself and those around him/her with their music. Personal enjoyment is one thing, but giving back to the community is a power I don't think he'll understand, even if he wants to wave 30Gs to a school. Bet you that doesn't measure up to the cars and jewelry he bought to support his coonish behavior. Read Immortal Technique's article... THAT is an example of a real artist displaying true skills and giving something back to the people. But that won't get the real expose it deserves just because... SMH.

    • Charles ExSavior

      I'm glad some people understood what I was trying to get across. I was even more pissed how this author put NWA in this. NWA was waaaaay more political with their music, not to mention far more talented. To put that and Waka together is an insult to anyone that knows their Hip Hop for real... totally different eras and feeling.

    • aztek

      (COMMENT MEANT TO BE HERE)^^damn dude you damn near written a essay can't get through every sentence i don't have the patience to put up with it lol but i agree waka's album is garbage as expected. @stopit being conscious/political or lyrical is somehow safe? Doubt it. W=We Know damn well the simplier the rapper is the more attention he gets thats why he has no lyrics or substance, he believes its something that would actually hold him back from becoming rich and successful, plus he knows if he rapped like immortal then waka's position would of been trivialized. The very fact that you think this nigga is a positive figure on the youth makes me not want to take your comment seriously.

    • no u stop it

      ^^^wtf are you talking about dude? first off he has NO LYRICS, NONE! he admitted it himself, what delivery? he has the same rhythm and same candence and flow on each track, lex luger beats sound all alike way too much like their B.M.F. parts 2,3,4,and 5, typical synthesizer computerized beats with 808s or heavy bass. NO originality in either the lyrical content, production or even the title of the album "flockaveli". What is this nigga giving us thats different from all the other so called HOOD NIGGAS that raps about fucking dudes up, drugs, sex, getting crunk in the club and slurring every fucking word to make it hard to understand wtf he saying? NOTHING. He's no different than gucci, oj, plies or even yo gotti, all talk that same shit. Thats how it's uninspiring. Plus he doesn't even rhyme in his songs. Second, being conscious, lyrical is accepted and safe for a reason...yes it's accepted (mostly by hip hop heads not really the mainstream) as long as the artist have lyrics, is talking about something besides the typical i get money lines and has fucking talent! Their is also a reason why guys like waka flocka flame gets airplay and some mainstream attention and guys like immortal technique doesn't, it's called industry politics. Waka raps are simple, catchy hooks, bouncy beats, basic subject matter and hes in hip hop for the money more so than the art, thats marketable for the records execs. Immortal Technique is not pop or commercial, he's political & lyrical which is too intelligent for the mainstream to get and mainstream america is not ready for the uncomprising revolutinary raps about the truth about our own government and corporations around the world so there for no radio play and not marketable, the music biz/corporations want to only give you the dumbed down nursey rhymes music period. So yeah it's not that safe cause if it was waka and others wouldn't stray away so easily from those topics plus we would see more conscious/lyrical mcs in the mainstream to balance out the crappy rap that oversaturates the airwaves every fucking day! it's just too uncomfortable for the media to handle dudes like immortal or vinnie paz but yeah hearing a nigga rapping about pure ignorance they love to exploit the shit out of that. Another thing you said rappers need to rap about violence n drugs, why? havent we had enough of that? and because some hoodrats, street dudes and misguided kids in the hood relate to it therefore it's good? waka doesn't talk about it in a real serious way he doesn't give much detail about whats bad about drugs and violence but instead he glorifies it dummy! Finally, waka's music is NOT good for kids he says nothing positive in his records so until he decides to switch up his flow, put lyrics in his songs and talks about something of merit stfu about his music being good for anyone.

    • Stop it

      Have you listened to the album? It is anything but weak and uninspiring, probably the hardest beats and most energetic delivery I've heard in years. And your comparisons don't make any sense...you know music is subjective but there are only certain ways to repair a car. And you say Waka doesn't better himself or his community but then admit how he gave 30k to a school..bottom line is most of the music considered "conscious, responsible, lyrical, etc" is accepted and safe for a reason. It is either tame and has subject matter that middle class people can relate to (The Roots, Talib, similar types), or doesn't musically resonate with kids. (Immortal Technique, subpar mc with terrible beat selection, Dead Prez, they were relevant 10 years ago). More MC's need to be rapping about violence and drugs because thats what people are going through, can relate to, and (young)people need to be angry not pacified. Especially as the economy crashes and the class divide widens. SO fuck your opinion, Waka makes good music for the kids and the future. BTW You should read everything on this blog: http://democracyandhiphop.blogspot.com/

  • Duke

    WOW!!! What the FUCK!? i am at a lost for words. i feel like i have so much to say about this bullshit but can't. Really?

  • forkster187

    How the fuck dare you DX! You fucking ignorant piece of shits. You compare NWA and Dick Aquad?!?!!?! NWA = Nigga music. Dick Squad = Nigger music. HUGE fucking difference DX. FUCK YOU.

  • Carlo Sorrentino

    reeally fuckin waka and his bullshit group carrying the torch for nwa thats a joke it has to be.

  • kani

    are you f**king serious??? This guy is garbage. And how exactly does Wacka Flacka Flame sound like a gun or Joaquin??? Jeez ya'll are really helping this clown though. This site has gone to the dogs!

    • MXL

      You do know that "Joaquin" is pronounced "wa-keen," right? With that knowledge, the correlation between "Waka" and "Joaquin" should be pretty obvious, fam. The onomatopoeia of a gun cocking and firing is a bit of a stretch, though. I agree with you on that. But it's Waka's stretch, not the author's, since that's the ACTUAL explanation Waka gives for choosing that name.

  • Crap

    Wow, this Noz cat is full of it! I hope he's writing this articla as a joke, cuz "it's hard to look at Flockaveli as anything but the most uncompromising major label Rap album in years." ...WTF?? gedafukoutaherewidat!! Well i guess a crap article is fit for a crap rapper...

  • Anonymous

    He said "I dont need lyrics" SMFH

  • what?

    wtf??? this guy is the worst thing to happen to this country since pearl harbor!

  • Anonymous

    i like the beat of 'for my dogs' and the vision of the instrumental. so technically the producer of the track gets my props. But when it comes to this nigga..i don't give a fuck about him he's straight ass and so is his click. get the fuck outta here. why is he even getting play on this site?..give better beats to better rappers. then again he needs the beats to save him.

  • frank_be

    Noz is a notorious supporter and apologist of some of the most ignant black entertainers in modern rap music. He likes to mask his odd obsession with sounds and images of black negativity and self-destruction in these absurd allusions to golden era rap or artistic merit. While he loves to justify his legitamit enjoyment of shitty music, he loves to claim critics of artist like Gucci, Waka and Lil B are uncritical or over emphasizing weak qualities. In the end, we all enjoy who we enjoy, but when someone continuously avoids engaging the real and justifiable criticism of shitty entertainers and music, their ideas are valueless

    • Anonymous

      @himself correction i meant to say like it or not not night.

    • yugang

      @shut up backpacker, oh and i suppose that waka flocka flame is a real rebel sticking it the man with songs like oh lets do it or hard in the paint rapping about drugs, sex, and getting crunk like every other nigga and talking like an illiterate fool while wearing bling and chains like a slave? fuck outta here!! Niggas like waka are the brainwashed blue-pill eating mofos who stand for nothing but money. People like me and the so-called backpack enlighten rappers talk about what we want whether the mainstream media like it or night. Get it straight.

    • Shut Up Backpacker

      Wait, so you explained noz's standpoint on ignorant black music and why he's justified in his views and in the face of that reason, you turn your back on it and say "Fuck that. I don't hear you. LALALALALALA." How incredibly useless your opinion. Go listen to that Uncle Tom-ing, REAL apologist backpacker rap that caters to old fashioned white people's sensibilities when it comes to rap. The "I don't like music about guns and drugs because that's negative" ignorant mindset. FOH.

  • Anonymous

    LIKE I SAID I DONT FUCK WITH HIS MUSIC BUT U CANT HATE ON HIM HE GRINDING!!! Duce Rivas Brain Pollution Episode 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZiWe3i7Ato

  • bebo69

    Why do rap fans take things so personal? Either you like Waka or you don't. At the very least congratulate that man on his success and keep it moving. Respect a successful black man. As long as what he's doing isn't illegal then I for one am happy for him. Keep doing you Waka.

    • rap123

      Agree, very boring artist and album. Can't believe he is getting the love he has.

    • SutterKane

      Since when do we reward people for doing a shitty job at something?? I dont care if he's getting paid or not, Vanilla Ice made more off Ice Ice Baby then this kid probably will in his life, and it hasnt stopped people from screamin bout how whack he was..... Call a spade a spade, glad he's not in the ghetto anymore but his music still sucks

  • Anonymous

    Fucc This ignorant pussy, fucc Gucci Man, fucc everybody down with him.

  • Anonymous

    Did ya'll just have NWA and THis coon Waka Flaky in the same fuccin sentence. Man please fucc this coon.

  • 718rob

    What's Spice 1 got that Waka don't? Respect the youth.

    • M.U.R.D.O.C.

      2 be honest...skillz. As much murdering as Spice 1 has on his albums, he has a moral to the story (not to mention lyrical ability) If you can't play an instrument, you are not a musician. The same goes with rap/Hip Hop, if you can't rhyme, you are not an MC. Period. Oh yea, an I'm sure Imma hear the "but he gettin money/ U just hatin" comments from the clowns but don't expect a response. It is what it is. I rep Hip Hop and ain't afraid 2 tell you tha truth. ONE.

    • SutterKane

      Creativity 187 Proof >>>>>>> This kids career

  • SutterKane

    "Gangsta Rap" huh?? Not in my book, at least the gangster rappers I grew up on (Scarface, Cube, MC Eiht, Spice 1, etc etc) were all atleast somewhat lyrical This guy makes Jigg-a-boo, Downsyndrome Minstrel Show Music, nothing more/nothing less