By Drew Millard
Better Than: Watching Waka Flocka shop for shoes.
Gucci Mane came onstage at Irving Plaza last night.
GUCCI MANE CAME ONSTAGE. AT IRVING PLAZA. LAST NIGHT.
I don’t know another way to stress the importance of seeing Gucci Mane come out onstage at this point other than making the font bigger, and I don’t want to do that. Instead, I’ll say this: Waka Flocka concerts are already experiences of near-religious implications, the type where people speak in tongues and throw snakes at each other and shit. Flocka is the best at a very specific brand at rap, one where energy and charisma are foregrounded, and the only brush strokes worth even making are the broad ones. In other words, yeah, the dude screams a lot. But when the legendarily elusive man who spawned Waka Flocka Flame appears onstage? That’s when things get taken to a whole different plane of hyperbole.
– Live: Waka Flocka Flame Gets Up Close And Personal At The Bowery Hotel
– Waka Flocka Flame Is Yelling at You for a Reason
– Gucci Mane Goes Abroad
PHOTOS: Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane at Irving Plaza
Flocka’s set started exuberantly enough, the massive Atlanta rapper coming onstage to a cut from his new mixtape Salute Me Or Shoot Me 4. From there, he ramped up the energy steadily until he was rapping a capella on top of a speaker, claiming to have invented the concept of “Punk Rap.” While that is a categorically untrue statement from a fact-checking sense, it is a testament to Flocka’s unique style of scream-rap, which did indeed help change the course of pop-rap when he hit the mainstream in 2010. Flockaveli, Waka Flocka’s debut album, remains a singular document, an album full of anti-hooks and abrasive corners that you can still get lost in after countless listens. His sophomore album, the clumsily-named Triple F Life, meanwhile, is a fairly bald attempt at merging the aesthetic of Flockaveli with the mercenary hitmaking tactics that can turn a mainstream rap album either transcendent or disastrous. When Triple F Life succeeds, such as in “Rooster In My Rari,” there’s nothing better, as proven by the song’s rapturous reception and extra-vigorous moshing.
Oh, yeah. Back to Gucci Time. Ten or so songs in, a familiar good-natured mumble could be heard over the Irving Plaza sound system. The increasingly-rare Gucci emerged to an absolutely ecstatic crowd. Watching him live is nothing short of astounding, as Gucci just sort of stands there, rapping a million miles per hour in his can’t-be-bothered cadence that basically only he can pull off. It’s funny, the journey that Radric Davis has been on. During his heyday, the near-Dadaist rapper was pegged as the next Lil Wayne, a Southerner whose acumen with a hook and ability to craft near-classic mixtapes made him a sure shot for the mainstream. That didn’t work out for Gucci, as his inherent goofiness–dude was famous for wearing Bart Simpson chains and screaming the word “Burr!”–and inability to stay out of jail proved to be his undoing, relegating his space in hip-hop to that of a Cam’ron-esque cult figure, too weird to live, too rare to die.
It is Gucci’s frequent incarcerations, of course, that led to Flocka’s ascent in the first place. He’s basically the inverse of Gucci Mane, eschewing wit and nuance for brute-force effectiveness. Consider his performance of the remix of ASAP Rocky’s “Pretty Flocko,” where he did his verse, and then brought out Rocky and the rest of the ASAP Mob to perform the song again. Such is the logic of Flocka–if something is good, just do it twice.
The show ended with Flocka rapping in the crowd, fans weirdly trying to touch his hair as mosh pits raged around him like little human hurricanes, the eye of the storm forcibly established by several large bodyguards. He might be completely bullshitting us on the whole “Punk Rap” thing, but at least he’s got the madcap proletarian energy element of punk down.
Critical Bias: Waka’s music accompaniment consisted of a DJ as well as a drummer. Arbitrarily-included live drummers tend to make rap shows 10-12% worse, but this one managed to be terrible, but in a totally anonymous, non-distracting way.
Overheard: “Turn on your Instagrams!” – Waka Flocka, Technology Wizard, at the beginning of the set.
Random Notebook Dump: “It is impossible both document and participate in an experience. I am trying to do both.” I typed this on my phone in the mosh pit, right before I got knocked into a bunch of people by a drunk dude.