[17 November 2010]
As much as I would like to give Flockaveli the usual and dig its guts out, put the pieces back together and explain what makes Waka Flocka Flame so endearing as an artist, I’m not sure I can find the words to do so. After all, the Flocka experience is so visceral and humanistic that to try and distill its purpose feels too scientific, too heartless. This ugliness deserves more appropriate handling. Originally intended as a mixtape, songs like openers “Bustin’ at ‘Em” and “Hard in da Paint” with their extended codas of pure unfiltered adlibs make it somewhat obvious not much effort was made to album-ize this set other than remove the DJ drops and boost everything to CDQ. This kind of thing happens over and over, though the first three songs make the best examples. “TTG” contains a debut “feature” from artist Baby Bomb which consists solely of his pronouncement “I’m Baby Bomb!” at least 10 times and impersonations of OJ da Juiceman and Flocka’s adlibs. It also contains a feature from either Joe Moses or YG Hootie (I’m guessing Hootie) that consists of nothing more than the various sets he reps on the West coast. It’s not just ignorant, it’s aggressively so, in a way that often seems to disrespect nearly all conventional hip-hop production techniques. In the process, he has created Flockaveli, the best complete crunk album in more than six years, since Crime Mob’s debut.
Crunk is a music that causes a lot of problems for “serious” critics, because it ignores the conventions of hip-hop, which often ignore the conventions of Western music in general. It is music whose purpose is the beat and the atmosphere. All vocals on top must succumb to the production or risk sounding too “hip-hop”. See, Flockaveli is “real”, from Waka’s non-rapping raps to his endless amount of weed carriers and useless verses based on nonsensical studio gangster in-jokes. As “Fuck This Industry” makes perfectly clear, he couldn’t care less if his album is a critical or commercial success. His homies have been put on, his point has been made, and whatever happens next happens. Consider him the anti-Rick Ross or Jay-Z. But there is one caveat to all this, maybe even two: Lex Luger is an insanely talented producer. While his lane is perhaps the narrowest of any producer in recent memory, he takes the aggression and bombastic nature of Drumma Boy and marries it to the grim, somewhat classical influenced programming of Zaytoven. In the process he creates these massive edifices of drill’n'bass 808 trills, bass kicks and hand claps that don’t pretend to be anything but trunk bangers. They are so filled with minor details that it’s honestly hard to pay attention to how whack Waka and his cornies are most of the time, which like I said before is the point of crunk. When the raps do stand out, it’s because the hooks are almost universally subversive (save the repetitive “Young Money Brick Squad” chant) and these guys are simply too dedicated to ignorance and simple turns of phrase to avoid entertainment forever.
Essentially, Flockaveli is poised to become to the Trap South what Group Home’s Livin’ Proof means to graduates of NYC’s Golden Age: a producer classic littered with verses so whack they become endearing in their special way. What Premier saw in Malachi and Lil’ Dap, Luger sees in Waka Flocka Flame, and he pulls that special kind of synergy unique to hip-hop out of him again and again. This is a very specific album intended for a specific audience: downtrodden, powerless, forever seeking payment, pussy and freedom from the powers that be but in the process of accepting they may never find that experience. This is strictly hood music, and as a white suburbanite I honestly find it hard to say much more than if you’re not into crunk, or what Waka and friends have evolved the format into with Flockaveli, then you just don’t need to listen to this. Because if you dislike it, well, you just aren’t listening right. This is the very definition of potential maximized. Sure, Flocka’s no Pastor Troy let alone T.I. or Big Boi, but it’s been a very long time since a hip-hop release felt like it truly didn’t give a fuck about anything but its local community while pushing its genre forward as much as possible. It’s comforting to hear something feeling so insular and self-involved, even if it’s only entertaining in cars and as awkward filler at parties.