There’s a form of hip hop that is dearly beloved in the US but can’t get any love overseas. Exhibit A is the fact that Waka Flocka Flame’s debut, one of the best-selling rap albums of 2010, has been out Stateside for a full six months before seeing light of day elsewhere. Even on first listen, however, it’s obvious why the label might not think it would translate. The production, mostly by WFF’s hotly tipped neighbour Lex Luger, is dominated by farty-parpy ’80s synths – the kind that sound like kiddy trumpets rather than glacial robot harmonies.
Flocka’s subject matter comes off the peg from Inner City Outfitters, dealing largely with illegal substances, gentlewomen, random outbursts of violence and more illegal substances. Flocka explained, in a level-headed response to criticism from Method Man, that his style is based in the old-school tradition of ‘simple raps’, and that hip hop has a big enough playing field to support all styles. A fair point, but it may also have something to do with the fact that the 24-year-old MC only began rhyming three years ago, making him a seriously late developer (doubly so when you consider that his mum discovered, and manages, current global phenomenon Nicki Minaj).
But what takes the shine off the album isn’t that his lyrics are insincere, but that Flocka Flame himself is far more interesting than his raps make him out to be. Flame reads philosophy, and has posed nude for Peta. Even his gold and diamond Fozzie Bear necklace is more interesting than the storytelling of breakout single ‘O Let’s Do It’.