Review Summary: Straight Flames
In the video for Machine Gun Kelly’s “Wild Boy,” MGK asks Waka Flocka Flame “do you think you’re a good rapper"” The response: “*** no.” This exchange seems to hold the secret to Flocka’s success. His recognition that he lacks talent has forced him to take a different approach to making music. Because he wasn’t blessed with Nas-level flow or a voice like Jay-Z’s, all of his songs need their own hardheaded edge, lest someone realize that he has little depth beyond his energy and charisma. When, on DuFlocka Rant 2
’s intro, he mentions the themes range from “roaches to Rolexes” and that he’s “ballin like a mu***a,” it’s almost tongue-in-cheek because that’s all he’s ever talked about.
Luckily, Flocka’s brand of street rap is better off when lacking depth. To verge from the themes of hood life and money would be to muddle with the purity of the music, not to mention Flocka is ill-equipped to be a warrior poet in the same style as Ice Cube. He’s merely a warrior through and through, far more adept at yelling his staccato brags over thunderous beats than trying to spin a narrative: and he knows it. Over the course of his mixtape, there are around six throat-tearing war cries that could rile even the most stoic listener and plenty more machine-gun quick yaps that command attention. He may not have great narrative style, but his war stories are impeccably delivered for the way they’re written.
Nearly every song on DuFlocka Rant 2
is immediately engaging and most of the credit goes directly to Flocka. Rather than having a short instrumental lead-in to all of his tracks, he sometimes opts to come out guns blazing, dropping gems like “Quarter million dollars in my guest room” and “I woke up that money too turned up” with no introduction that are alternately jarring and intriguing; his boundless energy enthralling. Others offer little more than the cocking of guns or a DJ sound tag before he goes in. Even though the content is old hat, it’s impossible to get bored while listening.
Occasionally though, the line of excess is crossed and DuFlocka Rant 2
becomes a draining listen. The beats are absolutely massive- huge bass, repetitious, loud synths and powerful hi-hat accents are the norm- and when combined with Flocka’s layered shouts, they can overwhelm at times. The overrunning sensation is a good one; the kind that makes you want to jump around the room, bass booming out of your speakers, but such a phenomenon is only worth sustaining for so long. Thus, brief intermissions from Flocka’s bread and butter- which come in the form of guest stars like Lil Wayne and French Montana, as well as scaled back tracks like “Ain’t Right”- are among the highlights of the tape.
What really separates DuFlocka Rant 2
from the rest of Flocka’s canon is how consistent it is. On Flockaveli
and Triple F Life
, he tried to incorporate themes about brotherhood while also turning down the volume and intensity. Now, even when he’s rapping over spacey synths on “Real Recognize Real,” the force with which he’s talking is palpable. Furthermore, his ad libs seem to be more focused- no track bounces off the wall the way “Bustin at Em” did, but none are directionless or ramble on for too long, a problem his songs had in the past. Flocka may not think he’s a good rapper, but he’s getting better at understanding himself and the kind of focus he needs in order to keep making high quality hip-hop.