Birmingham SlossFest profile: Waka Flocka Flame

Birmingham SlossFest profile: Waka Flocka Flame
Waka Flocka Flame will play the Shed Stage at SlossFest on July 16. (contributed)

Performer: Waka Flocka Flame

Type of Music: Rap, Hip-Hop

About: Waka Flocka Flame doesn’t care about what you think. The riotous rapper, who penned hits like “O Let’s Do It” and “No Hands,” has undergone an artistic transformation since his bombastic 2010 debut “Flockaveli.” He’s experimented with his sound but always with the focus on growing as a rapper.

The Queens-bred, Atlanta-based MC is always thinking outside of the box on wax. When you hear Waka’s scratchy voice over electro beats by Neon Dreams or Steve Aoki, it’s his way of showing that trap music isn’t his only trick. “I’m trying to open people’s brains up,” Waka says on his website. “You don’t have to be stuck in a (expletive) bubble. You don’t have to do this kind of music because people say you are this kind of artist. I do electronic music just to get out the bubble.”

Born Juaquin James Malphurs, the 31-year-old rapper rose to prominence as Gucci Mane’s protégé and his flagship artist of 1017 Brick Squad. In 2009, Waka put trap back on the map, dropping the first volume of his street classic, “Salute Me or Shoot Me,” that caught fire with songs “We On The Way,” “Dreads N Gold” and his breakout single. “O Let’s Do it.” The mixtape’s buzz allowed Waka to release his proper debut, “Flockaveli,” in October, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 100. Here, Waka’s authenticity was a major selling point. None of Waka’s stories about his struggle were fabricated. “When I was making ‘Flockaveli,’ I just didn’t give a (care),” he says. “I didn’t give a (care) about the awards. I didn’t give a (care) about how people felt. I just didn’t give a (care) ’cause I didn’t know. I never knew the outcome of these words.”

Together with Southside and Lex Luger’s thunderous production, Waka helped revive street raps and his sound began to blow up. Following his sudden popularity, hip-hop’s mainstream elite like T.I., Drake and B.o.B wanted to collaborate with him while he spread his influence to a host of new rappers like Wooh Da Kid and Frenchie. On Waka and Gucci’s 2011 collaborative effort, “Ferrari Boyz,” and 2012’s “Triple F Life: Fans, Friends & Family,” Waka’s high energy is the sole reason why he’s earned the nickname “Turn Up God.” That style translates into the electronic dance music (EDM) world Waka calls home now, where he fell in the love with the genre during a tour in Europe two years ago. “Music is like anger management,” he says. “It’s fun. You get to express yourself.”

After recently settling a public dispute with his record label, Atlantic Records, Waka Flocka is ready to express a new musical direction in his Atlantic debut, “Flockaveli II.” Set to feature production from Southside, Rico Love, Jim Jonsin and more, Waka wants this album to return to the basics that made him a rap star. For “Flockaveli II,” he’s approaching his third studio album the same way as his previous projects: trap banger after trap banger. His laid-back demeanor makes him a fan favorite, and he’s hoping that his straightforward creative process will please his core fans. “I’m cocky when it comes to my fans and my music ’cause I know my fans talk to me,” he says, noting that 31 tracks are already laid down for the LP. “I want my fans to look at the haters like, ‘Told y’all my boy was gonna go hard. I want my fans to hear ‘Flockaveli II,’ and I want them to put a dread wig on and shake their head and rock with me.”

While Waka Flocka has flooded the streets with mixtapes, he doesn’t want to place high expectations on “Flockaveli II.” As always, Waka makes music for his fans. Everything else is a plus.

With 1.8 million followers on Twitter (@WakaFlocka) and 2.3 million followers on Instagram, he’s become the second most active celebrity on social media platforms. He released his new single, “Big Dawg,” in May. Waka Flocka Flame is also cultivating a steady EDM presence thanks to touring with Steve Aoki and appearing on songs by DJ-producer Borgore and Flosstradamus. While fans have to wait for his EDM album, they can anticipate that “Flockaveli II” will have his carefree attitude on full display.

You can follow Waka Flocka Flame on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Spotify.


Discography: “Flockaveli” (2010), “Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family” (2012), “Flockaveli II” (no release date set)

Playing at SlossFest: Waka Flocka Flame will take the Shed stage from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 16.

Sloss Music and Arts Festival takes place at the historic Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham July 15-16 and features 40 performers on four stages. Tickets can be purchased here.

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