Why do I have to defend my love of Waka Flocka Flame? When I divulge my best-kept secret, why do I feel obligated to add the self-flagellating caveat, “I know Waka Flocka sucks, but … ?” Even my compatriots who listen to rappers guilty of sullying the name of “hip hop” are quick to roast, zing and scoff at my heretical declaration that “2 Chainz actually isn’t that bad.”
Now, before anyone gets any ideas, I’m not claiming “Hard in Da Paint” is rhythmic ambrosia or comparing 2 Chainz to Inspectah Deck — I’m just saying people should take their music less seriously. As a recovering music elitist, I know better than anyone that it’s easy (and fun) to tell someone that their favorite musician is a human pile of shit with shit for brains and shit for music. “Oh, you don’t listen to Wu-Tang / J Dilla / Kendrick Lamar?” “Your favorite OutKast album is The Love Below?” “You paid how much to see Drake live?” “You must not be a person worthy of my time.”
But I’m a reformed man now. I’ve seen the error of my ways, and I know why the caged thug raps. Simply put, the music serves a purpose. It’s crude and upfront with misogyny, and has no doubts about what it wants to be. It paradoxically combines willful ignorance of everything commanded by God with ostentatious gold crosses and scripture tats. These rappers effortlessly maintain couldn’t-care-less attitudes while retaining hordes of marketing and PR professionals. It’s a life of contradictions, but if you confronted them about it they’d just shrug it off and take a hit from the ever-present blunt in their hand.
Let’s be frank — the type of lyrically challenged party rap I’m referring to will never be considered “good.” If a thousand chimpanzees at a thousand typewriters take a thousand years to write Shakespeare, they’d probably be able to pound out the lyrics to “Grove St. Party” — which features the line “it’s a party” 48 times — between breakfast and their first smoke break. But the song is visceral. It growls and snarls at you through the stereo. The emphatic drum-machine driven beats and completely literal threats of violence put you in a mood you never knew existed.
I’m not alone in my appreciation for the unapologetic vapidity emanating from songs like “Hard In Da Paint.” At bars, parties or any other event where fun and debauchery are one in the same, crowds erupt with energy when Rick Ross’s “so fat you can hear him gasping for air” voice blasts from the speakers. And if you’ve ever bumped “Pillz” by Gucci Mane or “Beam Me Up” by Tay Dizm, you know that what was once a joke can quickly, and unexpectedly, morph into a guilty, guilty pleasure.
While detailing murder and other not-so-law-abiding actions in music is a problem in the eyes of both red and blue state America, it’s nothing new. Johnny Cash “shot a man in Reno, just to watch him diiiiiieeee,” the Sex Pistols called for anarchy in the UK and even mom-friendly rockers Foster the People sing about kids with guns. The astronomically high number of murder and crime rhymes in a Gucci or Waka Flocka song may be less than alluring to some, but the references are inseparable from the style. What’s gangsta rap without them? It’s sad to say, but for many of these rappers, murder and crime were reality in their old neighborhoods. (If you don’t believe me, just listen to every gangsta rap song ever written.)
But it’s impossible to appreciate the music until you actually see this style of rap in action. Whatever your opinion of Waka Flocka as a rapper, there’s no denying he’s an absolute monster of a performer. He knows exactly what his audience wants and gives it to them in Costco-sized servings. Constant chants of “Waka Flocka” and “Brick Squad” get the crowd jumping, and his simple dread-shake dance move gives hope to rhythmically challenged rap fans (a.k.a. me) everywhere.
I know it’s not cool to listen to bad rap. I get that it’s not trendy to appreciate the cheesy uncle wordplay of 2 Chainz. But if I have to choose between subdued hipster rap and rambunctious DMX jams, I’m going with the latter. Just please don’t tell my friends.