Back in mid-June, when I read Pitchfork writer Ryan Dombal’s review of Drake’s Thank Me Later
, I was impressed with his first sentence. It read, “Drake sings or raps the word "I" 410 times on his debut album.” It was such a powerful sentence, it showcased how drastically self-oriented Drake’s style of lyricism was with just one scrupulous, sweeping statistic. So for Waka Flocka’s debut album Flockaveli
, I thought I would try something similar. I had decided to take up the formidable task of tallying up all the adlibs to showcase how interjectory the tracks are. Well that was quite the failed idea, as I lost track at fifty-six adlibs within the first minute of the album. I guess the fact that I failed is just as serviceable, and shows that they are integral part of Waka’s style. Flockaveli
definitely suffers from the ridiculous surplus of them, but aside from that, it’s quite the solid effort. However, the intangible mentality behind it is far more significant than the actual quality of the work, and thus, Flockaveli
is a must-hear release this year, despite being just adequate.
At first glance, Flockaveli
may appear to be your run-of-the-mill mainstream record, but it runs much deeper than that. It’s a decidedly post-modern revivalism of the 90’s gangsta mentality, as well as a subtle homage to gangsta rap culture and Golden Era gangster-isms. From the album title that references Tupac’s posthumous alias to the delicate double-entendre of the name of the ninth track (“Grove St. Party”) to a die hard O.G mentality and traditional stylistic influences, Flockaveli
is a thorough restoration of gangsta rap in the mainstream. From the adlibs to the Energizer Bunny-liveliness, it would be easy to mistake Waka for a Lil Jon carbon copy, but he is far from that. Rather, he is a fusion of MC Ren (sturdy gangsta mindset, infrequent, but always obtuse punchlines,) DMX in his prime (raw anger,) a younger Busta Rhymes (high octane energy) and Flavor Flav (hypeman adlibs, technically incompetent, unspeakable charisma.)
You may be thinking that I’m reading too far into it, but it’s fairly noticeable, even with just a cursory listen. Flockaveli
is a thoroughly hardcore effort. It’s unambiguously return-to-roots. “*** The Club Up” is rooted much more in the 90's Memphis crunk ideals than those of 2000's Atlanta's, and rather than being about popping champagne bottles and strippers' p*ssies, it's about popping 'lame-a*s n*ggas' in the face and “Live By The Gun” has a bleak, yet devoted take on living the life of a triggerman. It’s classically rebellious and upholds street morals. “*** This Industry” is a defiantly contrarian anthem aimed at the mainstream. “Snake In The Grass” sets its sights on the hordes of softies and fakes not only in the slums of America but also in the rap industry. It’s effortlessly gangsta. “G Check” and “Bang” are about repping your set to the fullest. It quirkily testifies to the virtues of loyalty (“For My Dawgs”, “Homies”.)
Although its mentality is reminiscent of the good, ol’ days, it’s not at all sonically similar. Lex Luger, who is accountable for eleven out of nineteen (including bonus tracks) beats on the LP, leads the charge in regards to production. “Bustin’ At Em” is the quintessential Waka-Lex Luger track; free-flowing chopper talk over siren synths, machine gun drums, and gunshot snippets. Flockaveli
is propelled by monstrous, but simple beats just as much as it is by devout gangsterisms and pure energy. “O Let’s Do It” features a bouncy horn riff and light, speedy snares and “Hard In Da Paint” is an intense, pulsing Lex Luger cut in the vein of Shawty Redd’s signature style: dark, run-around synths and rapid fire drum kits. However, due to the aesthetic repetition, replay value is diminished.
Now, just because what Flocka has created is something important – an honestly gangsta rap album that will definitely move units and even possibly go RIAA-certified Gold – doesn’t mean it’s a great (or even excellent) album. I can’t stress just how much Flockaveli
is beleaguered by the excess of adlibs. Plus, albums that thrive off of energy and high quality production don’t have much replay value. Moreover, minor filler (“Grove St. Party”, “Bricksquad (Young Money)”) bogs down the album a bit. But overall, Flockaveli
is yet another solid addition to hip-hop’s 2010 resurgence, as well as a much more focused effort than any of his mixtapes and an important milestone for mainstream rap in the upcoming decade.