Dom Listens To Music: Waka Flocka Flame – Flockavelli

FLOCKA! What am I doing listening to gangster rap? I had a good time this week. We’re going to continue the rap trend and diversify all whilst recognizing success and accomplishments. Waka Flocka Flame’s ridiculousness drew me in. I’m a suburban white kid. I don’t identify with the music. I was audibly laughing at the absurdity of these songs long before I decided to start reviewing albums. I’m sure I’ll get you laughing too, but there has to be more to it, right? Flockavelli, Waka’s initial offering, debuted at #6 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums. This isn’t an unpopular album. The challenge to myself was to find out why, and as mentioned, I had a lot of fun doing it. BOW!

As a slight aside, I’ve been listening to a ridiculous amount of Top 40 over the past two weeks, and I couldn’t have made a better decision. It comes down to a theme I’ve encountered across multiple reviews: if the artist creates the music they intend to make, and it achieves its purpose, is it bad music? Or in a more general statement: if you try to fail but end up succeeding, have you failed, or succeeded?

My philosophy column is still TBA. Until then, we’ll start at the beginning, with a man whose career came out of nowhere. Waka’s first single “O Let’s Do It” made it to #62 on Billboard in 2009, which is a really astounding feat considering the saturation of the new music market. Bricksquad made a splash, and turned heads. There’s not really a better way of putting it. Once in a while, something comes along that’s so fresh, it forces the industry to notice.

Why is that? The production of Flockavelli commands attention. I’m thoroughly impressed with the way this album jumps out of my speakers. It’s not exactly in a category that’d challenge the Grammy for Record Of The Year, but paired with a good sub, Flockavelli bumps hard! As we’d expect from any modern rap album, there’s bass, but surprisingly, there’s balance and clarity. It’s not amateur. The songs leave a large sonic hole for the vocals to slot into, and the vocals are the key element of this album. There’s room carved out for the countless vocal layers, ad-libs, and overdubs that exist on this album, and it’s impressive.

If you don’t care to listen to Flockavelli, here’s the album in less than 2 minutes:

I strongly suggest watching that video. I mean, you might as well get used to it. In the most blunt and direct way possible, Waka uses his voice as an instrument on every song by ad-libbing his stage name almost constantly. It’s too much. I’ve grown to understand some of Flocka’s traits as I’ve acclimated to the sound, but this pushes the boundaries. It’s trite, and I can’t for the life of me guess as to its purpose. For a single song? Sure, go nuts. But it’s really wearing by the end of the album.

This draws to the most love/hate aspect of the album. There’s no substance to most (but not all) of the album, yet at the same time, there isn’t supposed to be substance. Waka didn’t write these songs to inspire and change lives. He wrote these songs to have a good time writing, recording, and performing them. I get it. I truly do. Try and put yourself in Waka’s headspace as you watch that video (no, seriously, it’s mind-opening). This is party music in the same way that Pitbull writes party music. The difference is that most big-name pop artists stick to a regimented tried-and-true sound, while Waka sacrifices the glitter for street cred.

I’ve skirted past the musical integrity for too long. Yes, these are party songs, but these are party songs that will wear out quickly. There’s only so many times you can hear, “Young Money | Bricksquad | Young Money | Bricksquad” before checking to see if someone put your track on loop. Or, for your interpreting pleasure, the truly thought provoking chorus that is Live By The Gun:

Live by the gun, I’ma die by the gun
Live by the gun, I’ma die by the gun
Live by the gun, I’ma die by the gun
A n**** shoot at me, so you know I’m shootin back.

But the last track off of Flockavelli stopped me dead in my tracks, and let me be clear, there’s no sarcasm there. The aptly titled F*** This Industry starts as so:

Real n**** music ain’t real, then move it
Hey man, the industry so muthaf****** dirty man
I watched this s*** break down my muthaf****** organization
Watch these n***** infiltrate this s*** man
Watch out for these labels man
They four-finger f****** y’all n***** man
Real talk, make sure your lawyer know what he doin
Make sure he sign contracts right
Cuz homie might sign you on a f***** deal
Make you think that s*** real
Don’t get a 360, that s*** ain’t 100 my n****

So not only has Waka personally been chewed out by the legalese that crushes so many up-and-coming artists, but he chooses to end the album on a truly inspirational note. The last two verses of the album pay respects to quite a laundry list of people from different members of his family, to his crew and his city without deviating from Waka form in the slightest. You might argue that it’s as mindless as some of the other content on the album, but I’d counter that anything else would sound out of place. It’s an incredibly heartfelt tribute, and shows a depth to Waka that wouldn’t normally be apparent based on the nature of his music.

Wow. I learned a lot from Flockavelli. Maybe I’m growing up? Maturing? Opening my mind a little more? It’s definitely not the first two, so it’d have to be the latter. As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, Waka accomplished exactly what he set out to do: make an album with all of his friends that’s real, and hits hard. It’s not trying to be anything it isn’t. That’s not to say there aren’t unforgivable moments (like the same build sample that’s used in EVERY song, or “I’m Baby Bomb, AY!”), but if you’re listening to this album for substance, you’re listening to this album for the wrong reasons. You probably won’t catch me cruising past you with Flockavelli cranked up, but there are many who will, and I won’t fault them in the slightest. Hell, for those with a rough upbringing from the streets, there’s material that’ll speak to them. But it’s a fun album, and that’s how I’m going to leave it. BRICKSQUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD!

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