Waka Flocka Flame has said he writes his lyrics as a way to express the emotions he's feeling at a given time and that they're usually tapped out on the fly on his BlackBerry, rather than in a meticulously curated notebook, as is the case with many rappers. Well, express emotions he sure does. Waka — a 25-year-old Atlantan named Juaquin Malphurs — uses his voice less as a means of delivering poetry and more as an instrument of incitement. (To party, to violence, to just let loose, etc.) His 2009 mixtapes Salute Me or Shoot Me and LeBron Flocka James set the stage for a rapid ascent in hip-hop and a debut studio album, Flockaveli, later that year. Waka's greatest achievement, however, may be in returning hyped-up crowds to mainstream hip-hop concerts. In a genre too often speedbumped by dudes demanding their DJs skip to the next track and killing momentum, Waka's shows come with all the head-banging, moshing intensity of a music video's vision of a rock concert. Maybe that's because the dude's halfway between six and seven feet tall, sports serious dreads, and has an infectious smile. Want to know what "Waka Flocka Flame" really means? Charisma, most likely. Waka's Southern brand of tear-the-club-up rap owes a big debt to the minimalist crunk of the late '90s, but it's more fleshed-out, layered, and aggro. Producer South Side is the secret ingredient to the success of Waka's latest album: Triple F Life: Friends, Fans and Family, which boasts guests Nicki Minaj; Chris Brown; Rick Ross; Diddy; Tyler, the Creator; Drake; and Waka mentor Gucci Mane. And while Waka's flow is more natural and nuanced than it was just a few years ago, he's never going to win Best Rapper or Best Lyricist. But then, he wouldn't be the first performer to get by primarily on personal magnetism and solid backing music. Suck it up, naysayers, he's not gonna be the last, either. Do they give out awards for Best Party Starter? Andrew W.K., watch your back.
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