Whether you love him, or hate him, Waka Flocka Flame’s name has been on the lips of most hip-hop fans for some time now. Often offbeat, strangely compelling and an always energetic flow, Waka already has legions of fans banging his songs—most notably his breakout single “O Let’s Do It,” that song’s remix, which featured Diddy and Rick Ross, and his newest banger “Hard in the Paint.”
For many, Waka’s unique, adrenaline-filled anthems get the party started, others look down at the void that he leaves lyrically, but no one can deny the superb, hit-quality of the records. What the young gun does provide is incredible beat selection (“Hard in the Paint” was a breakout hit for producer Lex Luger), unabashed honesty, and compelling rhyme patterns. All of these qualities combined have made this 23 year-old Georgia representative (by way of Queens, NY) a household hip-hop name. So as he prepares to release his official solo debut, Flockavelli later this year, Waka aims to dispel the critics’ notions that he’s no more than a one-hit wonder. He’s actually three hits in already, but who’s counting, right?
XXLMag.com: Not many people know that you’re a native New Yorker?
Waka Flacka Flame: I was born in New York, raised in Riverdale Plain County, [Georgia]… Jamaica, Queens, Farmers [Blvd.]. I [lived in Atlanta] but I always was coming back. Always!
Did growing up both in NY and ATL influence your style and music?
I think that played a major factor.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career as an entertainer?
About five years ago, when I seen that a lot of people really was drawn into what I say, and really fuck with me as person and what I talk about on tracks, I was really like, Okay, I can’t stop now. [When I made my first song] I was just playin’, and they loved it. Aye, bro, I just made some shit playin’ [around], and Gucci was like, “This shit sounds hard!” So, one day, he was like, “Aye, where’s that CD at? Bring that shit on the road this week.” Man, he made me play that shit at a show. I was being quiet like, Oh, what the fuck goin’ on? Then he got locked up. Then I made a song called “Dreads and Golds,” and then “O Let’s Do It,” and then I just went with a whole mixtape. So, by the time [Gucci] got out, it was circulatin’.
For the record, what really happened between you and Gucci? What’s the beef?
Nothin’ happened! The media took a brotherly argument [and turned it in] to a separation. We was getting so far apart from each other, we was like, “Hold up, boy.” But, nah, there wasn’t no argument. Just brotherly shit, like you argue with your brother, or friend like, “Man, what the fuck? Yeah, aight, shit.” That’s normal human being shit. But they took it like, “Oh, they rappers, aye, they broke up.” There’s nothing wrong. We working on the Brick Squad [album] and all that. We turnin’ it up.
Where did you get the name for your album, Flockaveli?
Flockaveli came from Tupac introducing me to the story of [Niccolò] Machiavelli. Like, I always wanted to know, like, Who’s Machiavelli? Damn, how Tupac come up with that crazy name? I was a kid [at the time] so when I learned Machiavelli, I was into it, but I wasn’t. When I got older like 18, 17, I start reading it. That’s back when I was into 48 Laws of Power, and he used to have examples of Machiavelli. And I think that’s where they got 48 Laws of Power, from Machiavelli. I think Machiavelli, the strategies of war; I say the art of war. ’Cause Machiavelli was a manipulator that played his enemies against each other.
How did that theme relate to the music on the album?
It wasn’t my music, it’s what I was doin’ at the time. I was going through it. Injuries, thefts, like mentally. Physically, I ain’t even gotta touch y’all. Mentally, I make you just wanna jump out your skin like [whispers], “God damn, Waka doin’ that?” Or a lot of people might be like, “Damn, Waka don’t deserve what he got.” But you don’t know what I’m doin’.
Have you seen some of the parodies of you online, like the “#ShawtBusShawty” video on YouTube? Do things like that make you mad?
I like that shit, that shit funny! Upset? For what? I’m a grown ass man. That shit do not make me mad.
People criticize you for your lack of lyricism, do you think about the criticism when you’re writing now?
Oh, yeah, I do. I’m not gon’ lie, that’s what made me make “Hard in the Paint.”
Why do you think that you don’t you get the credit you deserve?
I think I’m gettin’ the credit I deserve. I don’t think I paid enough dues to be the shit. ‘Cause I don’t ever wanna be the shit, I just wanna be in the position to help people, period, point blank, cut! But I’m payin’ my dues. Enough work I put in, I think I’m getting enough respect for.
Speaking of respect, what’s it like working with major artists like Diddy and Rick Ross?
Like a kid watching TV that just jumped inside the TV he was watching. Just excitement!
You’re fame and popularity is growing daily, do you ever feel any pressure to keep up?
I felt pressure when I got shot. I felt pressure like, Damn, man, what if people think I just gave up like I was a sucka, man? I really… I went out with some heart. Like real talk. That’s why I never made stupid interviews about it, ‘cause I’m like, Bro, for what? I said what I had to say, it’s out, shit gone! It was a stress relief. It was a relief.
Word is you want to release 20 mixtapes by next year?
Yup! I would just be giving over 100 people opportunities. It’s basically something I wanna do, like a goal for yourself. I don’t wanna be the best lyrical person, none of that. Wait, I take that back. I don’t wanna be the best “rapper,” best verse, best none of that, I just wanna make some money and give people opportunities.
You definitely rap from your heart, though. What do you think has been your most meaningful lyric to date?
From “Fuck Dis Industry” I said: “Lord take my back, the devil entered me/Fuck this industry, bitch I’m in these streets/They say, ‘Tears is pain’, I call that bullshit/’Cause when I’m finished crying, I’m back to this bullshit.” That was just… That’s my favorite. — Jonathan Bonanno