Waka Flocka Flame is part of a rising, unaffiliated group of rappers that is the closest thing to punk rock that hip hop has seen since Eminem. His studio debut, Flockaveli, is filled with anti-social fight music that demands to be played at high volume. Flocka clearly values energy and aggression over craft and, in a year when multi-million productions like Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Rick Ross’s Teflon Don are deservedly praised as among the best releases, the results feel startlingly unpretentious and honest. Some critics have called Waka Flocka the first “post-lyrical” MC and meant it as a compliment. Flocakveli is a visceral, addicting album that pulls the focus away from the rapper’s persona and puts it on the music instead.
Flockaveli sounds of one piece from beginning to end, a rarity in rap releases. The belligerent tone starts in the album’s opening seconds in which Flocka chants “pow pow pow” over gun sounds. In a trick used throughout Flockaveli, Flocka’s voice is multi-tracked as he howls, shouts out himself and his crew and chants nonsense and gun sounds in ways that go way beyond ad-libs. Instead of emphasizing the punchlines, these ad-libs, as often as not. are positioned off the beat to create a noisy and chaotic sound. Waka is not trying to sound cool; he’s trying to sound savage and his energy makes each song sound like a moshpit. That might make Flockaveli sound like its best taken in small doses, but because of excellent production the album is compulsively listenable. Producer Lex Luger handles 11 of the 17 tracks here and provides the perfect canvas for Flocka’s wild aggression. The music is bass heavy–it’s absolutely perfect car music–deeply rhythmic (Drumma Boi produced “No Hands” has actually been a breakout hit as a club song) and Luger keeps the listener off-balance and refreshed by interspersing moments of quiet and space amidst the cacophony. Flocka raps about fighting and partying, his loyalty to his friends and his distrust of the music industry. The inclusion of numerous guests (Pastor Troy and Roscoe Dash have particularly memorable verses) could potentially have been distracting but instead the chaos of so many voices coming and going strengthens the album’s tone; it’s as if there were a mob chanting behind Flocka as he spits his verses. Flockaveli feels like a soundtrack to a life lived by Waka Flocka Flame’s street code and Waka sounds overjoyed to be creating it.
When we first met Waka Flocka Flame he was Gucci Mane’s slightly goofy chief weed carrier. A solo career seemed highly unlikely. Flocka stayed true to himself and by tapping into the violent, teenage energy that propelled Three 6 Mafia and No Limit to success to build his own brand, Flocka surpassed his much-hyped mentor in terms of stardom. Flockaveli is Waka Flocka’s moment of ascension. Album of the year?