Tonight, Queens-born / Georgia-raised MC Waka Flocka takes the stage at B.B. Kings as part of the Waka Flocka and Friends concert. Unfortunately, a vocal sect of hip-hop purists here in the culture’s birthplace have been anywhere from hesitant to downright dismissive of Flocka’s brand of raucous rap music since he first burst onto the scene four years ago. While he represents his Riverdale, Georgia, hometown proudly, there’s something to be said for how his brash style actually fits comfortably within the New York hip-hop family tree.
Yes, Flocka’s main appeal is his incredibly visceral approach to his songwriting and vocals that allow his tracks to burst through speakers like the Kool-Aid Man at the Smithsonian. His flow is less sleek limousine and more bulldozer with a jet engine, forcing you to recognize the tumultuous melee reverberating in your eardrums. Yes, it’s unmistakably aggressive, but is it that different from the likes of fellow Queens-natives Onyx or Brooklyn’s M.O.P. whose decades of destruction slammed, upped-the-ante and crushed skulls with every boom-bap?
The same parallel could be drawn for those who allegedly claim Flocka “isn’t saying anything” in his raps. Aside from the dubious notion that art has to have some sort of unspoken morality, which is far-too-frequently thrown at rap music in particular, writing-off Flocka as just a belligerent persona who yells shows a failure to gauge exactly what it is Flocka’s going for. The brashness of Flocka’s approach, often likened to punk rock, seems to come from a actively energetic place of venting. As Flocka explains on his 2011 response to critics “Stereotype,” he’s been through a lot. From dead and dying family members to having witnessed horrors growing up, he’s been shaped by his hardships but finds happiness in his fans going wild. Not everybody copes by penning a reflective poem next to a scented candle at a coffee shop.
There’s also something to be said for how much Flocka’s sound has impacted this decade of hip-hop thus far. The team of Flocka and frequent collaborator/producer Lex Luger is perhaps second only to Lil B and Clams Casino in terms of duos who’ve dictated the predominant sounds within the hip-hop landscape. If it weren’t for Flocka ushering in the absolute beast that is “Hard in the Paint” prompting an insatiable hunger for Lex Luger’s dense, industrial bangers, it’s doubtful we would have had Rick Ross’ “B.M.F.” and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “H.A.M.” hitting a level of popular ubiquity, each adding some of the most referenced new slang that the hip-hop lexicon has heard in years. It’s worth noting this isn’t a byproduct that Flocka himself is particularly thrilled about.
Also, there’s the contingent who find Flocka and his music to be a somehow destructive, detrimental presence to society. Maybe? But Flocka is, in addition to regularly donating toys at Christmas and literally hundreds of turkey dinners to local families in need at Thanksgiving, one of the rappers at the forefront of now ubiquitous Holding Puppies Movement, which this video proves:
Of course, Flocka’s music isn’t for everybody. But, considering the comparably unorthodox fully-realized visions in his Salute Me or Shoot Me mixtapes and especially his debut Flockaveli have resonated with as much of an audience as he’s found, Flocka should be commended for returning the unpredictable wilder mash-out style of hip-hop into a far too pristine hip-hop landscape. As his sound continues to evolve, even taking on incorporating acoustic elements and international influences, his presence in the rap game is a needed one. Bravo, Flocka!