Review Summary: Waka Flocka Flame makes a boring album with a little help from his Friends
Considering that hip-hop culture is one of excess and decadence, the three “F’s” of Waka Flocka Flame’s life are surprisingly down to earth. The F’s do not stand for ‘flaunt,’ nor ‘fame’ or even ‘fancy’; it is the trifecta of Friends, Fans and Family that power Waka Flocka Flame’s life and, aside from fans, these “F’s” are not that different from what most of humanity holds close to the chest. The title of the album suggests a more toned-down approach to rap than Waka’s former high-flown, exuberant style. Indeed, even the intro to the album is a slow jam complete with a piano twinkling harmlessly in the and only 4 of his trademark “POWs” in the background. For a second, you might think that Waka has shed his thug reputation and gone soft, shying away from club bangers in favor of a subtler approach to rapping and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.
Triple F Life hosts a strange mixture of trademark Waka lyrics about streetwise living with beats that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Drake album. “No Hands” style anthem “Round of Applause” in fact does feature a guest an appearance from Drizzy himself, who sounds infinitely more confident than Waka does rapping over a watered-down Lex Luger beat. The stylistic change seems to come from Waka’s new ground of Friends. While “Flockaveli” was littered with appearances from lesser-known Bricksquad members and the occasional star (Pastor Troy, Wale). Times, however, have changed. Waka Flocka’s rolodex has expanded as his star has risen and “Triple F Life” features, among others, Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, B.o.B., and Trey Songz. Although there are still guest spots for his Squad members, Waka has mostly cleared the way for more high-profile guests. These “friends” have forced Waka to change- his name and gunshot noises no longer dominate the background for the most part- and his content is far less dangerous than ever before.
Clearly, Waka is making these changes for his fans. On “Flockaveli,” there were tracks that were too aggressive to listen to and he was criticized for his verses on “Ferrari Boyz” for being too intense compared to Gucci Mane. Now, as Waka has become the de facto leader of the Bricksquad, he appears to be rehabbing his image. Even though his lyrics remain as thug-inspired as ever, he has taken some of the edge off- with the exception of “Rooster in My Rari,” which is a classic Waka track and the only one that he wrote with no assistance. He no longer glorifies “throwing gang signs” and makes no mention of his main bitch or his mistress and “Triple F Life” is worse for it. The problem lies in the fact that Waka hasn’t actually changed as a rapper even though his surroundings have. He’s still the goofy guy who loves to holler “BRICKSQUAD” at the top of his lungs masquerading as somebody who has the sense to try to appeal to the mainstream. Waka stumbled on success with “No Hands” back in 2010 and has made an album full of songs that try to mimic “No Hands” sonically, and usually lyrically, but don’t have the same power.
This should come as no surprise to Waka Flocka Flame’s fans because any fan can tell that the louder Waka is, the better. After all, this is the man who “shoot[s] first, asks questions last” and recorded one of his best songs, freestyle-rap Snake in da Grass, after getting robbed. This is the man who had the audacity to compare himself to Tupac Shakur with the title of his first album despite having a sliver of the talent that Tupac did. Listening to “Flockaveli” was fun, listening to “Triple F Life” is not. “Flockaveli” was full of club anthems that were so catchy that you could forgive Waka’s scatter-brained verses; “Triple F Life” offers no such distraction, merely resentment that you have to tolerate hooks drenched in autotune and Waka sounding bored. Waka may be living the life right now by getting back to basics, and it seems that he needs to follow that same example when he approaches his rapping as well.