Tag Archives: Waka Flocka

NEVER LET THEM GET THE BEST OF ME

Flocka transformed into something I couldn’t possibly enjoy so quickly and completely that I never expected to hear anything from him I could remotely relate to ever again.  Even if you told me it was possible, I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be on some weird lo-fi Kanye remix doing some #realhiphop type shit but here you go:

Waka Flocka – Real Friends (Flockmix)

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THAT MEAN I’M MELLOW RIGHT NOW

Emphatic relaxation.

YG – Bicken Back Being Bool

Waka Flocka – Bickin’ Back Bein’ Bool (feat. Slim Dunkin & Wooh Da Kid)

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WHO DA ONLY ONE YOU TRUST?

The emotional depth of a rap song is very often different than the emotional depth of most other lyrical music.  Most other musics are much more obvious and up-front about the pain and emotional turmoil the songwriter is experiencing, drawing on direct imagery and description to communicate that pain.  But we should keep in mind that these musics come from cultures that don’t require its members to be as emotionally guarded as many of the communities that rappers grow up in, and so we have to be a bit more insightful to catch the deeper issues at work in many rap songs.

I once read an essay by a Buddhist monk who didn’t believe in lies; not that he avoided trusting the word of people who weren’t telling the truth, but that lies themselves do not really exist.  He believed that clear communication is really a question of how one interprets the language of someone’s message.  Words are always symbolic, and people don’t always say the same things with the same words.  His example involved asking two different people their age, one of them thirty years old, the other much older.  The first person responds that they’re thirty, which in their case means specifically that they’ve taken thirty trips around the sun on this planet so far.  The second person might give the same superficial response, that they too are thirty, but what is actually being communicated is that they fear death, or perhaps that they fear the perception of being seen as “old”.  Both of these people speak the same words in response to the question, but communicate very different information if the listener is informed and insightful enough to interpret the messages correctly.

Gucci Mane – Me

Ever since I first watched this Gucci Mane video two days ago, it has strangely haunted me.  Almost everything about it is completely what you’d expect from a street rapper in 2013, but a closer listen to the lyrics and some background on Gucci’s recent life changes transform this into a much darker and more complex picture.  I think it is one of the best illustrations of this concept I’m trying to explain that I’ve ever seen.  I believe Gucci is like the second person in the example laid out by the Buddhist monk: what he’s saying superficially and what’s really being communicated are not as simply related as one might think.  People who don’t take rap and rappers very seriously will probably hear this song and hear nothing but aimless arrogance and braggadocio.  The blatant self-centeredness of the lyrics is unavoidable, even the title, “Me”, could not speak more directly to this interpretation.  But if instead of writing this off as pointless boasting we try to treat Gucci as the human being he is, with just as many emotions, worries, fears, and desires as the rest of us, a very different picture begins to develop.

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard the opening lines of this song was his recent falling out with long-time friend and collaborator Waka Flocka.  The two spoke with utmost respect and love for each other (listen here starting at 6:14), collaborated on numerous songs and albums together, boosted each others’ careers, and influenced each others’ styles for years.  The two were almost inseparable.  Now we see headlines like “Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Will Never Do Music Again” on every hip hop news outlet and we have to wonder how this is affecting the emotional lives of the people involved.  I don’t care where you come from or how hard you are, feeling betrayed by someone you once held in the highest esteem hurts, and that pain doesn’t go away easily.  This song feels to me like a tragic attempt to seem unfazed by a situation that in reality is probably extremely difficult to come to terms with.  Gucci wants to think that he doesn’t need Flocka, or anybody else for that matter, but this song ends up coming off more like overcompensating than nonchalance.  If all he needed was himself, would he really need to go on and on for a full five minutes about it, or could he maybe just mention it, make a joke about it, and then talk about something else?  Even his voice sounds strange on this recording, and the overwhelming number of models (who really look like they’re only there to get paid) in the video really only make his situation look even lonelier.

I believe that messages like this are being put out every single day in seemingly shallow, tasteless rap songs and are more often than not falling on deaf ears.  Not all rappers can be like Z-Ro, some can only cry for help in subtler ways.

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FLOCKA 2016

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THAT’S WHAT REAL IS

People love to pretend like there are these huge divisions between different artists and subgenres of various art forms, but closer examination almost always reveals that it is the fans of these artists and subgenres that are creating these divisions, not the artists themselves.  The artists do sometimes make certain moves to perpetuate these divisions, but at the end of the day there is usually an acquiescence to an “alright, we’re all artists here, we’re not that different” mentality.

Common might be the #1 dude on the list of dudes perpetuating division between big camps in hip-hop.  One of his most famous and beloved songs (by his fans) is “I Used To Love H.E.R.“, where “H.E.R.” stands for “Hearing Every Rhyme“.  It’s an allegory of his feelings about the history of the hip-hop scene told as a love story with a fictional woman.  In the beginning she “had so much soul”, she wasn’t “about the money”, she had nothing to do with all the stuff that people who listen to “conscious rap” think shouldn’t be talked about.  Then later when she started hangin’ with the “boys in the hood”, Common tolerates it for a while, admitting that she is getting “more well-rounded” and still has faith in her future.  Eventually, when she starts only talking about selling drugs and being violent, Common seems to give up on her as a lost cause.  This was back in 1994, and while a lot has changed about rap music, a lot has stayed painfully the same.  Common is still one of the main rappers cited by those who’d like to see all MCs rapping about uplifting the downtrodden and fighting the power, and this derision and disappointment with rappers who have violent lyrics or shallow content is as pervasive today as ever in many circles.

Common – I Used To Love H.E.R.

I think the fact that Common chose this metaphor for telling the history of hip-hop is very telling about his and many of his fans’ mentality about what rap is.  To them, hip-hop is this abstract notion, a Platonic ideal, a single concept that must be preserved and and controlled.  The main issue I take with this perception, besides the fact that it completely ignores the fact that hip-hop was not originally conceived of in this way at all, is that rap actually is just a vehicle for a huge spectrum of people to express themselves and tell their stories about the situations they’ve experienced.  Hip-hop as an object does not exist, there are only the people who make hip-hop, and each person that makes it gets to redefine what it is with every song.  If your experience compels you to rap about social and political issues, then you can still do that.  If your experience compels you to rap about murder and crime, then you can do that too.  If your experience tells you to rap about sex and money, then that’s also an option.  If your experience tells you to rap about everyday life and the struggles of day to day humanity, knock yourself out.  The fact that someone else is rapping about different things than you does not prevent you from rapping about what you want to rap about.  When “gangsta rap” came on the scene, “socially conscious” rap did not cease to exist (I use quotation marks because both of these terms are absurdly simplistic and unfair to all genres of rap).  There are still new artists in that subgenre, and there always will be as long as rap exists.

It seems, however, that Common has perhaps loosened his uptight viewpoints on what legitimate rap can be.  In a recent interview, Common said this about meeting Waka Flocka, who is arguably the best possible example of everything a die-hard evangelistic Common fan hates about rap.

I love that he came out and said what he felt ’cause, I mean, who are we to judge what that meant? We ain’t the gatekeepers of hip-hop. We love the music. We love the culture. But, I mean, that’s his experience and that’s what he felt. And it’s somethin’ about him that … he got a soul to him that’s like, that I feel I see why people respond to his music.

He also makes a point very much like the point I tried to make back in this post, interestingly.

That’s what real is, when you talk about real. You want the truth, people to come out and just speak they mind. The things that, you know, some people are embarrassed to say, they say. I respect those guys and artists and women the most, the people that just speak they mind.

I’d really love for every fan of what they would arrogantly call “real hip-hop” to read those quotes and really take in what Common is implying here.  Gone is the perception of hip-hop as a pristine, immaculate, abstract concept that can be sullied by anything not conforming to its rigid guidelines.  In its place is a much more human and humane understanding that we’re all just people in this world going through different shit.  We’re all different, we all have different places we come from, and we’ve all got something to say.  Hip-hop is just one way to say things.  And as I’ve argued before, one of the most important roles of any artist is to say those things that most people are too afraid to say out loud, so that when people think those forbidden thoughts, they can at least know there’s somebody else that feels that way too.  It would be nice if that idea was just common sense.

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TWO FRENCH VANILLA BLUNTS AND TWO FRENCH FREAKS

I kinda hid this Waka Flocka song in this post under the link “new rap”, which may not have enticed many of you to actually click through to see what was behind it.  Maybe after you hear it though, you’ll be more inclined to check out all the little miscellaneous unexplained links I throw into posts.  Or maybe not.

Anyway, after throwing that link into a pretty unrelated post, I decided that song might be worthy of a post itself, so I went and found out what the main sample in this song is because I think it’s kind of an awesome song and it’s maybe the first time I’ve heard Flocka over a sample-based beat like this.

Waka Flocka – Foreign Shit

I’d expect to hear that beat with like Jay Electronica or Mobb Deep rapping over it, but I think it’s a real nice change of pace to hear Flocka switch his style up a little bit for this one.  He’s still totally himself, but there is a little bit of adaptation to the more stripped-down sound of this production, and I appreciate that.  But that wasn’t the biggest surprise this song had in store for me.

Vanilla Fudge – Eleanor Rigby

Now that’s a surprising source if I ever saw one.  If you’d told me after Flockaveli that I’d hear Waka Flocka rapping over a weird 60s psychedelic cover of a Beatles song, I’d have been fuckin’ skeptical.  Shows what I know.  For more rap songs sampling obscure versions of “Eleanor Rigby” (yes, that’s a category of songs now apparently), check this post.

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CONSTANTLY READING EVERYTHING ABOUT MORPHOLOGY, C.R.E.A.M.!

Raise your hand if any of these mean anything to you: N.W.A., U.G.K., KRS-One,  D.I.T.C.,  TLC, Y.M.C.M.B., MondreM.A.N., E.P.M.D., O.F.W.G.K.T.A., Big K.R.I.T., M.J.G., RZA, GZA, M.O.P.?  If not, you better pay more attention when you read this blog.

When it comes to abbreviations for shit, rap’s got everybody beat.  I’ve always taken this phenomenon in hip-hop for granted, it never crossed my mind to examine it closely until I somehow stumbled across this explanation of where the word “O.K.” comes from.  If you think you know, you might be surprised, because apparently there are a lot of incorrect stories out there involving everything from ex-presidents to French seaport prostitutes, but the real explanation, though less colorful, actually makes a lot more sense.

The etymology of OK was masterfully explained by the distinguished Columbia University professor Allen Walker Read in a series of articles in the journal American Speech in 1963 and 1964. The letters, not to keep you guessing, stand for “oll korrect.” They’re the result of a fad for comical abbreviations that flourished in the late 1830s and 1840s. Read buttressed his arguments with hundreds of citations from newspapers and other documents of the period. As far as I know his work has never been successfully challenged.

The abbreviation fad began in Boston in the summer of 1838 and spread to New York and New Orleans in 1839. The Boston newspapers began referring satirically to the local swells as OFM, “our first men,” and used expressions like NG, “no go,” GT, “gone to Texas,” and SP, “small potatoes.”

Many of the abbreviated expressions were exaggerated misspellings, a stock in trade of the humorists of the day. One predecessor of OK was OW, “oll wright,” and there was also KY, “know yuse,” KG, “know go,” and NS, “nuff said.”

This explanation brings up another interesting point too: intentional misspellings.  Just like in rap, sometimes words are misspelled in a way that reflects how they’re actually pronounced in that given time period and region; “nuff” instead of “enough”, “yuse” instead of “use”, “oll” instead of “all”.  Other times, a certain misspelling is chosen that actually confuses the meaning of the expression instead of clarifying its pronunciation such as “know” instead of “no”, “wright” instead of “right”, or “korrect” instead of “correct”.  This is also a very common device used in rap music.  Have you ever listened to Z-Ro before?  How about Suga Free or OutKast or Salt-n-Pepa?  Or Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire?  The list could go on indefinitely.  It’s interesting that in the 1830s version, they combined the two devices into one, first misspelling the words and then abbreviating them, while in rap it tends to be more one or the other, but both devices are still at work in both arenas, and rap has another interesting practice of taking existing words and acronym-izing them after the fact.  2Pac famously put the word “nigga” in a positive light in “Never Ignorant, Gettin’ Goals Accomplished“, while K.R.I.T. took on the negative form of that word to draw attention to the traps that he feels too many of his race fall into: becoming “another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism“.  Cee-Lo told us in ’94 about how “the GoodDie Mostly Over Bullshit“.  Killah Priest puts forth a pretty surprising evaluation of the Good Book given his chosen moniker in “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth“.  Once again, the list goes on.

But why would anybody want to do this?  Superficially speaking, it seems to create a barrier between writer and reader.  It takes words that everyone is familiar with and obscures them with confusing mangling and mutilation.  But where language purists see verbal disfigurement, rappers and writers see verbal hot-rodding.  Why does a car need to go 160 miles per hour, or have doors that open in every possible way except the normal way, or have 26” rims and a wood grain steering wheel?  Because it’s cool.  And I don’t mean “cool” in a diminutive way at all, in this case “cool” plays a very important social and cultural role that should not be scoffed at or underestimated.

In the case of the custom car world, any or all the modifications mentioned above could easily get in the way of the normal functioning of a car in the same way that all the transformations words go through in the hands of rappers might get in the way of someone immediately understanding what is being said.  The same thing can be said for rappers’ extensive use of slang.  But for people who use these linguistic devices, part of the message being conveyed goes way beyond the literal meanings of the words being used.  Part of their reason for rapping is to convey a certain access to a set of knowledge only available to a select group of people.  If you can’t decipher the message that’s being put out there, then it probably wasn’t for you in the first place.  To understand what is being said, you have to either be born (or at least raised) in the culture that gives rise to these word modifications, or study really hard and learn it as a second language of sorts.  Some might argue that this is an unfair and exclusionary practice that makes people feel left out, and under certain circumstances I might be inclined to object to these practices, but in this case I don’t, because I feel it’s aimed in the right direction.  This is not a case of powerful people of the world imposing an obscure coded language onto a lower class to marginalize those who can’t gain access to the cipher, it’s a tool used by people in positions of societal weakness to have something of their own that they can relate to each other about and gain some shred of power back from those who have more of a say over how their lives go than they’d like.  They might get lower wages, get put in jail more often, have more difficulty voting, and not get proper justice for crimes committed against them, but they can at least make you feel really “uncool” when you hear “bickin’ back, bein’ bool” or “MOB Piru Damu” for the first time and have no idea what they’re talking about.

Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.

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REALLY LOOKIN’ COOL IN HIS… WHITE LEVI’S

One thing a lot of rap detractors like to pretend and insinuate is that the problematic ideas expressed in many rap songs (violence, misogyny, materialism, etc.) are only newly problematic.  No one can deny that these ideas are present in rap music or that they are problematic, but I feel like I see more and more evidence all the time of the antiquity of these ideas in our culture as well as our music.  Why can Johnny Cash shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die, but when Weezy empties his clip, then rolls his window up, people start raising their eyebrows?  Why can Robert Plant claim that “the soul of a woman was created below“, but when Dre, Snoop, and Daz assert that “bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks“, they’re being offensive and destructive to society?

The materialism present in some rap music is probably not as hot-button an issue as these previous two, it’s usually at the end of a long list of complaints by people that want to disparage this music and is framed as more of an annoyance than a full-fledged indictment.  But today I found a really great example of even this more minor evil of rap having its predecessors in more “wholesome” music.

The Majorettes – White Levi’s

Name-brand dropping in rap songs definitely a lot more widespread than it was in 60s pop, but it’s good to be reminded that it wasn’t absent.  It reminds us that our culture really hasn’t changed that much, certain parts might have grown and expanded recently, but the issue itself is not at all new.  The Majorettes’ attitude toward name brands is the same as Rick Ross’s.  But how many people do you know that would scoff and turn their nose up at a rapper named Gucci Mane, but would find this song completely harmless, aesthetically and morally?  The point isn’t whether you want to be an advocate for materialism or not (or violence or misogyny for that matter), it’s whether or not you truly believe that the music we’re making is creating or bolstering these societal problems.  There isn’t a single one of us that doesn’t have a violent side, a bigoted side, a greedy, materialistic side.  But are we really going to believe that hearing a song where an artist channels that particular part of him or herself for a few minutes is going to make people that hear it drop everything and completely indulge that part of themselves?  When I hear a song like Waka Flocka’s “Bustin At ‘Em“, I’m no more likely to murder anyone after listening to it than before because I’ve been raised in an environment that teaches me that things like murder aren’t good things to do, and I live in an environment that doesn’t push me to abandon my morals to survive.  It’s when we create situations where there is little or no choice but to do things you know are wrong or when people start getting relaxed about teaching the youth these moral lessons that they can begin to be affected by something like a song in this way.

But I don’t believe it’s the artist’s role in society to always take the moral high ground and set a glowing example for the youth.  That’s not their job.  That’s why we have parents, grandparents, teachers, elders, priests, rabbis, shaman, monks, imams, chiefs, presidents, and countless other societal roles that are charged with the occupation of being examples to follow in ethical matters.  These are the people that need to be stepping up to do that job, it’s their job to stand on a hilltop or behind a podium and make sure you know that it’s not OK to steal from people, or to persecute people, or to murder people.  It’s the artist’s job to whisper in your ear that if you happen to have a passing thought or urge that defies these moral absolutes, you’re not alone, or crazy, or sick.  As long as our moral leaders are doing their jobs and our society isn’t pushing big groups of people into desperate circumstances, then it’s safe not to fear our artist’s whispers, because all they are doing is comforting us in our times of weakness and imperfection, allowing us to be comfortable with being human.  Flocka himself explained how his music plays that role in our society.

It’s for people that’s going through or living what I’m talking about. It teaches them how to relieve stress verbally instead of physically.

You don’t have to love the vices, you just have to admit that you’re susceptible to them like everybody else is.  I think we could all get along a little better if we all admitted that to ourselves, and each other.

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