Torii MacAdams is always up in a Benzito
You always knew when Waka Flocka on a song because he’d tell you by shouting a distinct, gravely “FLOCKA!” The dread-locked Flocka, along with mushed-mouthed, sometimes-friend Gucci Mane and the indefinitely smoked out producer Lex Luger, set the hyper-violent tone for much of rap in the late 2000’s/early ‘10’s. The Brick Squad bash brothers made music best listened to in close proximity to a gun, probably because they made much of that music in close proximity to a gun. Few rappers have divided opinions like Waka Flocka; the cleavage runs parallel with one’s opinions about lyricism and content. Rap “purists” broke multiple speed records clutching their pearls at the sound of Flockaveli. Others canonized Saint Waka in the Church of 1017 Brick Squad. The truth about Flocka is somewhere in middle. At peak popularity he was a cathartic outpouring of aggression, an almost free-associative stream of bullets unbothered with dashiki-era rap reverence. He wasn’t anything approaching a lyricist by traditional measures, and his penchant for catchy hooks far, far outpaced his ability for rhymed couplets*.
All of this is to say that Flocka making Five Percenter references over the “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” instrumental is shocking. Flocka, who once admitted that he wasn’t into the idea of being “lyrical,” has apparently taken past criticisms to heart. “5:56” has Flockavelli rapping (yes, rapping) over Golden Era standards, which would probably be a hackneyed, cynical move were it not Waka, who makes the interesting claim that “I was geeked up, freestyling in my old rhymes.” It’s to Flocka’s immense credit that, clearly having made a decision to become a more straightforward rapper, he’s now solid. Shit, he’s borderline good. Thanks to his naturally strong voice and newfound lyricism, Flocka sounds like any number of pretty good New York rappers from the 1990’s, Nine (of “Whutcha Want” fame) a decent correlative.
There isn’t another rapper, especially one of Flocka’s stature, who’s successfully made such wholesale changes as an artist. Those disappointed by the prospect that Flocka’s gone boom-bap nostalgic needn’t worry, though– after kickin’ brand new Flocka in our ears, he returns to full on trap flexing for the final minute of “5:56.” Flocka may have left his wallet in El Segundo, but he made sure to bring the gun sounds back with him.
*This could occasion a discussion of what is and isn’t “lyricism,” but this isn’t the piece for that.