Waka Flocka Flame's sophomore set sounds nothing like its explosive predecessor, Flockaveli. An album that christened the hulking MC as ATL’s newest larger-than-life rap star, Flockaveli welcomed back the decimating aggression that went AWOL following the peak of gangsta rap enthusiasts Ruff Ryders (DMX! The Lox!) G-Unit, Dipset—and produced Waka’s biggest crossover hit to date, “No Hands." The question now is, where does that leave Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family, Waka's second studio album?

Dedicated to the three important F's in his life: friends, fans and family—and those who doesn't fit any of the three get a big 'F---You' according to a recent tweet from his @WakaFlockaBSM account—Waka's second effort displays exactly what a sophomore album is supposed to: growth.

As presented on his single choices, like the booming eff-your-nightclub's-couch anthem "I Don't Really Care" and mesmerizing (though now dated) strip club favorite "Round Of Applause," Waka takes a step beyond the grim, goon rap of Flockaveli ("Hard In Da Paint," "TTG")—which still bangs—to create a project that sounds more polished than its former. Though new-sounding tunes like the breezy-and-poppy "Get Low" and "Fist Pump" may not sit well with longtime fans, but they do, however, showcase the rapper’s attempt at filling in as a more well-rounded artist. Besides, these tracks offer the potential for him to scoop up a new audience.

Aside from lackluster joints like the lazy "Clap" and arid "Flex," Triple F Life stands as Waka's most personal project to date. While his chaotic energy remains unmarred on tracks like the brooding Meek Mill-assisted "Let Them Guns Blam," and rowdy “Cash,” the album's true highlights are when the dreaded rapper gets vividly three-dimensional and lays it all on wax. "I'm mentally home alone, so I'm kicking down doors," he decrees on the album's opener. Now, this doesn't mean one bit that the 6'5" rapper gets mushy over soul samples, because there's still those block-rocking beat-people-up-music ("U Aint About That Life,” “Lurkin’”), but when he asks his adversaries, “Where y'all was when we was eating dollar menus/So close to a homeless man picking trash,” it's clear that he’s in a different zone now than he has been in the past.

The contemplative credence displayed on "Power of My Pen" and “Triple F Life Outro” are hands down Triple F’s beaming highlights, as Waka flicks the switch off his livewire ways and lets Joaquin Malphurs enter to wear his heart on his sleeves. “December 16th, a part of me died/Part of me stayed strong but a part of me cried,” he avows on over a sinking guitar line that anchors the album’s somber closer—a tribute to his fallen BSM soldier Mario “Slim Dunkin” Hamilton. “Pardon me on the song while I’m spilling my pain/A part of me getting weak when they mention your name/It go R.I.P. Slim D.”

Some will say Triple F Life finds Waka trying to do much, reaching too far out of his zone. But the rapper coolly exceeds expectations in his artistic self-awareness and this go-round shines like his diamond-studded Fozzy Bear chain. “I earned my spot,” he boasts on “Power of My Pen.” Indeed, he has. —Ralph Bristout (@XXLRalph)

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