In a rather bizarre turn of events earlier in the semester, it was leaked that Waka Flocka Flame would be performing at this years spring weekend concert. In the last two years, BCA has booked artists, specifically hip-hop artists, at pivotal points of their careers. In just the short time since his performance here, Kendrick Lamar has surged into the hip-hop scene and is fighting for the title of best rap artist of our generation, if not all time. Chance, too, has started to collab with bigger names and is receiving more widespread acclaim in mainstream media.
So when I found out about Waka’s spot in the lineup, I was a bit surprised. I couldn’t help thinking back to my freshman year of high school, when I thought blasting “Hard in da Paint” made me cooler than I actually was (let’s not forget I was a chubby kid from the suburbs who thought Waka’s lyrics spoke to me). After reliving my glory days, it became clear to me why my memories of Waka Flocka stopped after my first year in high school: Flame’s last mainstream record success, Flockaveli, was released in 2010.
At first, the BCA’s decision confused me. Why would they book an artist whose career was anything but taking off? That was until I realized that Waka has been steadily producing mixtapes since his major debut, has been collaborating with EDM artists like Steve Aoki, and has become one of the most consistent rap artists of the last five years. Though he has not had as much mainstream success since Flockaveli, Flame has continued to produce and create music. What became clear is that though his career may not be about to leap forward, it has definitely not lost its spotlight it once had. Let’s start in the beginning.
Born in New York, Juaquin Malphurs, aka Waka Flocka Flame, soon relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where he grew up and eventually developed his sound. Atlanta is often considered the birthplace of trap, and Flocka fit right in, starting his relationship with established trap artist Gucci Mane by the age of 19. In 2009, Flame had his first breakout single, “O Let’s Do It,” which eventually peaked at no. 62 on Bilboard’s Hot 100. This spark launched Flame’s career into the spotlight, and he never looked back. After his initial success, Flocka released his debut album Flockaveli in 2010. With Flockaveli, Flame crashed into the hip-hop scene with unapologetic lyrics about living in the trap and his life as a member of the brick squad (other notable members include Chief Keef and Gucci Mane). Known for its boisterous sound and party anthems, some of the album’s more notable songs include “Hard in da Paint,” “Grove St. Party,” and “No Hands.” The album debuted at no. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 200, and Flame was named the eighth-hottest MC of 2010 by MTV.