Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WORTH IT IN 2012: #16 - Waka Flocka Flame

Waka Flocka Flame
Triple Life
(Warner Bros.)

I understand your moral qualms about listening to Waka Flocka's songs of violence, misogyny, and materialism. My defense has three aspects.

1. Yes, his songs view women as objects intended for male pleasure, and they value cars and guns and swag and other shiny objects over stuff like human interaction and feelings. So, you know, he's doing "Blue Suede Shoes" to a gaudy extreme. But these are not necessarily prescriptive songs -- they're depictions of a culture. ("Strip clubs is our culture, we some heavy spenders," he says in "Candy Paint & Gold Teeth".) I don't know Waka's history, but who among us has come into money and immediately realized the most edifying ways to use it? As Jay-Z pointed out in his Terry Gross interview, young rappers often have unhealthy attitudes towards wealth and women, but they learn and they grow. (As a result, maybe their music turns as uninteresting as Jay-Z's recent stuff?) As Jonathan Bradley put it at Singles Jukebox, "Whether you’re broke or rich, you gotta get this: having money’s not everything, not having it is." (Sometimes I feel like the rest of us are writing in Bradley's shadow.)

2. Again: NOT PRESCRIPTIVE. Not even trying to be! Waka's big strip club hit "Round of Applause" sounds morose, a little like Moroder's Neverending Story music for the scenes involving Swamps of Sadness or nihilistic wolves. The lyrics may be celebratory, but the music is anything but -- you feel trapped in Waka's club/Rari, maybe WAKA feels trapped. It's a juxtaposition that cuts way deeper than, for example, Jason Aldean's recent "I feel sad for this stripper" song.

3. Musically this stuff is a fantastic hall of mirrors, with crazy voices around every corner shouting "FLOCKAAAA" or "SQUAAAAAD" or "BRIIIIIIICK" or "POWPOWPOWPOW," crazy shifts in texture from full synth overload to acapella barking and back again.

So listening to Waka may be morally ambiguous, sure, but show me a part of your life that's NOT morally ambiguous. Does it sound this good?

Way better than Rick Ross's God Forgives, I Don't.

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