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waka flocka flame

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not completely insane

REPORTER: Do you prefer Ecstasy or Molly?
WAKA: Mollies.
REPORTER: What’s your favorite snack food?
WAKA: Potato chips—salt and vinegar … Man, my arms smell like dry bacon! That’s not good. Gotta get some deodorant.
REPORTER: What would you be doing if you weren’t rapping?
WAKA: What rhymes with rappin’?
REPORTER: Trappin’?
WAKA: Trappin’.

This exchange was pulled from a 2012 interview with Interview Magazine, titled “Waka Flocka Flame is a Product.” The interview ends with Waka proclaiming: “Waka Flocka is a product, a franchise, a brand, a label … And a good guy!” He takes pride in his status as a figure steeped in consumer culture.

He says if he weren’t rappin’, he’d be trappin’ (selling drugs for an enormous profit), but he might as well be. He’s already worth $7 million, and with an upcoming tour in May, he doesn’t seem to be stopping soon. Sure, he’s talented—at least in the specific type of radio rap in which he’s firmly rooted himself. However, there’s a sense that people don’t go to his concerts to luxuriate in lyrical virtuosity. They go because it’s fun. And at this year’s Spring Weekend, if one can expect anything from Friday’s performance, it will be that: fun.

***

Waka Flocka Flame was born in South Jamaica, Queens as Juaquin James Malphurs. He shares his hometown with a surprising number of rappers, including Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent, and Salt-N-Pepa. At a young age, his family relocated to Riverdale, a largely black Atlanta suburb. He might originally be from Queens, but Waka widely affiliates with the Dirty South genre of hip-hop, which centers on the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Waka describes the environment in which he grew up in his popular song, “O, Let’s Do It”:

One shot man down, his brains go ka-pow
Ow, that shit hurt, so don’t fuck around
But that happen often off in Riverdale, Georgia
You gone pay the life you live off in Riverdale, Georgia …
Ever since they killed my n— Trav, start poppin’ pills and actin’ crazy

Travis was a close friend of Waka’s from Atlanta. Although the rapper has never spoken publicly about his death, the lyrics suggest that he was a victim of violence. As much as “O, Let’s Do It” sheds light on the essential hardship of growing up in a town with twice the national average crime rate, it also provides some insight into Waka’s male friendships—arguably just as key to his public persona. Waka belongs to the 1017 Brick Squad, officially a record label he signed with in 2009, but more popularly considered a clique of rappers who often collaborate on each other’s tracks.

Besides Waka, 1017 Brick Squad includes Gucci Mane, who founded the label in 2007, OJ Da Juiceman, Frenchie, and Woo Da Kid. Gucci and Waka are particularly close—although many media outlets have reported a “beef” between the two since 2013 when Gucci “dropped” Waka from his label, Waka perhaps raps it best in his soon-to-be released album, Against All Odds: “Money can’t buy this loyalty, D I E for this loyalty.”

Waka traces his musical success back to the start of his mentor-mentee relationship with Gucci. While the “waka” in Waka Flocka Flame refers to Fozzie Bear’s catch phrase (“waka-waka”), and was bestowed upon Waka by his cousin, the “flocka flame” part is all Gucci—perhaps a sign of their professional relationship to come.

Waka’s first full-length album, Flockavelli, was released on October 1, 2010. Nine months earlier, Waka was shot and robbed at an Atlanta car wash. In 2010 interview with MTV, he relates the incident:

“I felt [the bullet] in my arm but I looked down and felt it in my chest, my back, everything. It felt like stop, drop, and roll. I’m leaking, my arm squirting. I said, ‘Call an ambulance.’ I felt my body getting woozy. I laid down on a flat surface. That messed me up because that ain’t do nothing but put air inside my lungs and blood. I ain’t panic. I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’mma give up. This shit hurt so bad. I’m gonna give up.’”

 The bullet went through his right arm, punctured his lung, broke several ribs, and stopped in his back. It’s a good thing he didn’t give up, because Flockavelli debuted at number six on Billboard and launched a trap music career that has generated three albums, two collaborations, and 21 mix tapes.

Most of his works reinforce that self-created stereotype of “poppin’ pills and actin’ crazy.” His most popular songs on Spotify right now (“No Hands” and “Hard in Da Paint”) both center on partying. One describes Waka at a strip club, spending enough money to “make it thunderstorm,” and appreciating a stripper’s performance; the other references his tough upbringing and how it contributed to his hard-partying lifestyle.

Some of his songs are pretty outrageous, so it’s easy to wonder how many of Waka’s lyrics are true, especially concerning his love life. Vice editor Wilbert Cooper wrote of the Brick Squad in 2013 that, “despite all their lyrics about sexual conquests—rappers love sausage fests.” Considering Gucci and Waka’s documented bromance, this makes sense. Is Waka truly a lady’s man?

Again, it’s helpful to leave the answer to the man himself. Consider a 2013 interview with The Boombox titled “Waka Flocka Flame is Completely Insane.”

REPORTER: So if you’re on a date, and you’re like, “Come back to my place and watch this movie,” what do you put on?
WAKA: Porn. I’m like, you seen them moves right there? Now Imma try ‘em! [laughs]
REPORTER: So you just cut right to the chase.
WAKA: Fuck it, ain’t no playin’. You supposed to open the door in boxers, man.
REPORTER: What do you serve up? Wine? Vodka?
WAKA: Water. … That shit … that’s the best thing.

***

As much as popular media likes to reveal Waka’s goofiest habits and beliefs, it also apparently loves to make definitive statements about his persona. Waka Flocka Flame could be a “Product”—he essentially makes a living off his wacky personality. And he might be “Completely Insane.” Since those titles are already taken, this reporter has decided to put forth a new definitive statement about her subject into the internet ether: “Waka Flocka Flame is an Enigma.” His wackiness could be traced back to too much lean sipping, or it could be a façade, carefully crafted by a business genius. Few may know the true Waka, and this reporter is sadly not part of that exclusive group.

No matter how one might wrap him up into a neat subject-predicate package, one can accurately make this claim: Waka Flocka Flame makes dope trap music to shake your ass to. That might be all that matters.