In 1969, Charles Bukowski wrote:
An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.
Earlier this month, with the release of his debut studio album, Flockaveli, Waka Flocka Flame, a young trapper-turned-rapper, proved that he was neither.
Flocka, the son of Debra Antney (of Mizay Entertainment – management to rappers Nicky Minaj and O.J. Da Juiceman) and a member of Gucci Mane’s ‘1017 Bricksquad,’ began his career in early 2009, releasing 7 mixtapes and 2 singles prior to Flockaveli. He quickly gained a large fan base and established himself in interesting ways, frequently saying things like “I’m not a rapper, I’m a trapper” and “I don’t care about lyrics, I’m straight blunt” in interviews. On YouTube, there is a video of him jumping offstage mid-performance and punching a person in the crowd because they threw a cup at him.
Waka Flocka Flame is to street rap as a raw, organic, vegan, homegrown salad is to vegetarianism. Stripped to bare essentials, Flocka’s flows are the extreme of what was once considered “gangster rap.” Lines like “When my brother died, I said ‘Fuck school,’” from the albums first single, ‘Hard In Da Paint,’ and “My partner on a pill / My other partner drunk / Roll up the loud, I’m tryina get fucked up” are perfect examples of Flocka’s lyrical style. When asked why he writes the way he writes, he said something like “No one wants to go to a show and be standing there with a dictionary looking shit up.”
Drugs, guns, jewelry, Brick Squad and women are what fuel Flocka’s life and these are the things one can expect to hear about in the 17-songs of Flockaveli. The opening track, “Bustin’ At Em,” kicks the album off with a bang, indicating strongly what will be heard for the duration of it. The first thing one hears is the sound of a gun cocking then shooting and Flocka saying “Pow!” repeatedly. In the background, Flocka says “This shit hard nigga” then gives shout outs to all of the Brick Squad members by name. The hook begins, the beat drops and the urge to bob one’s head and experience elevated levels of self-esteem becomes nearly impossible to resist. Repeat 16 times.
In 1969, Charles Bukowski wrote something that Waka Flocka Flame has probably never read. Flocka grew up a gangster, selling drugs, hanging out with Gucci Mane and his entourage, living with his mom – and Flockaveli just seems like an extension of that life. He seems to have no concern for being anything except himself. Rap is just another platform for him to “go hard” with his friends and family. I feel like Flocka doesn’t pay attention to what people think rappers or artists “should” be doing, he just does what he wants because he likes to. As he says in the chorus of the final track on Flockaveli (in which he gives shout outs to his friends and family, all by name), “Fuck this industry / Bitch I’m in these streets.”