When Aubrey Drake Graham took the microphone to address the crowd after beginning his two-plus hour, 30-plus song set with the choir-backed "Lord Knows" and Southern-fried "Underground Kingz," he set the tone for the evening and hinted at what I was getting myself into.
Drake, age 25:"New York City, I don't know if you plan on going anywhere else after here, but it doesn't really matter, because I brought every single n---- that you want to hear. LET'S GO."
Crowd, estimated average age 17: "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"
There are many qualities possessed by Waka Flocka Flame, the idiosyncratic Atlanta rapper behind this week’s Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family, that one can readily appreciate: his mumbly pizazz, say, or his unbridled enthusiasm, or perhaps his deep devotion to the prevention of cruelty toward animals. But if there’s one thing in particular about Waka that I find myself returning to, again and again, it’s his unshakable commitment to shouting out his own name. The profligacy and manner with which the man born Juaquin Malphurs repeats his chosen name — opening a verse, underneath choruses, with the beat dropped out and the words shoved out there, blunt and powerful, all by themselves — is something simply unparalleled anywhere else in contemporary music. For my fellow appreciators, I’ve gone ahead and sketched out a rough guide to the best of Waka’s usage of his own name on Triple F Life, so as to streamline your listening process. Feel free to pick your own favorites in the comments!
1.Triple F Life is Waka Flocka Flame's second album, or something like his 352nd if you count mixtapes. In this case, we probably should — 2010's Flockaveli was supposed to be a mixtape, too, until somebody on Team Waka convinced him it was retail-worthy. This was smart. Flockaveli was a great album because it felt like a mixtape — ragged, performatively surly, unconcerned with things like variety or themes or words or marketing-minded cameo-player recruitment. Only the pixelated oral-sex jam "No Hands," with Trey Songz Roscoe Dash droning the hook like a man exhorting a Svedka robot to override its gag-reflex circuit, betrayed an awareness of pop radio's existence.
Rappers are an interesting, inconsistent bunch. Outside of the hard, über-confident exterior that most rappers present to the public, it's a complete toss-up as to what they're like in real life. There are the huge divas, those who try to mirror their lyrics a little too perfectly, the solid percentage who have almost nothing, personality-wise, to offer when they aren't rapping, and many others. The rapper spectrum goes from a guy like Bun B, who is almost thought of across the board as the nicest human ever created, to the MCs who are almost universally loathed.
I bring up all of this because over the course of only a few hours yesterday evening, I had three very different opportunities to become acquainted with rapper Waka Flocka Flame. While one would assume, just on the notion that he's a rapper, that experiencing him in three different mediums would present me with three different Wakas, somehow the opposite scenario took place. Trust me, I don't expect you to believe this yet. Keep reading.
A double dose of Diplo this week. First, check out “Express Yourself,” a solo track from the man of a million tastes that stars New Orleans bounce don Nicky Da B. Weirdly, unlike Lady Gaga's “Born This Way,” “Express Yourself” does not rip off Madonna's “Express Yourself.” Rather, it rips off Madonna's “La Isla Bonita.” Actually, it rips off A Tribe Called Quest's “Bonita Applebum.” Actually, it rips off the original design for Nelly's Apple Bottom Jeans. Actually, just listen to it.
The keyword for the Billboard chart in 2011 was "ANTHEMS." Anti-bullying anthems (Selena Gomez, "Who Says"; Katy Perry, "Firework"; Lady Gaga, "Born This Way"), party rock anthems, anthems for regular weekday night non-rock pre-work partying. Tons of pop-rap pap where diet-inspirational verses were soldered awkwardly to soaring adult-contemporary choruses. Videos with cinematic spoken intros (The Script, "For The First Time"; Katy Perry, "The One That Got Away"; Rihanna, "We Found Love") and further attempts, some very successful, to make VEVO the baby big screen it wants to be. These are my personal picks for a top ten from the Billboard 2011 Top 100 chart.