Pending he squeezes past the buzzkills at border patrol, Waka Flocka Flame's Toronto debut this Friday should be a good one.
The rapper, born Juaquin Malphurs in Queens, NY (since relocated to Atlanta), is many things: manic, confusing, gleefully boorish and divisive.
Aside from being one of the most playful rappers out, Waka - with label mate and collaborative partner Gucci Mane - is bunking Southern hip-hop's orbit to become a real force. Flockaveli, his 2010 debut, peaked at number six on the Billboard 200, and in-house producers Lex Luger and SouthSide are becoming a fierce commodity. I called Waka up to find out what's underneath the shouty, showy raps.
Hi Waka, how's it going?
I just got off the highway and I'm at the car shop right now. I'm okay though, how are you
Pretty good. I'm excited that you announced a Toronto show.
Oh yeah, I can't wait. I'm going in. I'm going to treat it like the first show I ever did in my life. I've never been to Toronto before. Somebody told me it's kind of like Manhattan, just full of life and that it's a beautiful place.
Are you going to hang out with Drake while you're here?
Yeah, I'm gonna give him a holler. You know that's homie, right? I'm definitely going to have to go around Toronto - from the suburbs to the ghetto.
Is there a sensitive side to Waka Flocka Flame?
Everybody's got a sensitive side. It's just, can you find out where it is within your soul? When I see certain things... This one time I was in New York for a business meeting and I was passing by some kids that were skateboarding.
I heard one of them say, ‘Damn, my skateboard broke, I ain't never gonna get another one! I'm gonna steal someone's skateboard!' And I was like, ‘What?!' When I overheard that, I got out the car and went to buy all those kids new skateboards with new wheels and everything.
I've read you were a tough kid yourself.
Yeah. I did my shit. I busted the corner store window after I got caught stealing a bag of chips! They told my grandma and I went to bust the windows up. But you know, I was always good in school, I never skipped a class in my life.
Where does all that energy in your music come from?
It's not like I thought about a specific style of rapping, I was always trying to be myself. I get the hype, energetic stuff from my family. Like all my family talks LOUD. They yell! Like, "COME OVER HERE!" "SIT DOWN!" They just love to yell.
You got naked in an ad for PETA last year. What was that about?
I got educated about where fur comes from... how they skin the animals to get it and that was something that was fucked up to me. It made me want to step up and do something about it, so another person would, and then maybe another person. And I don't eat red meat, it's just nasty and it makes my body feel bad.
Would you consider completely going off meat?
I'm getting to the point where I am but... I just can't put down the chicken! (Laughs)
You're also a big reader so there's some love of words there, but you've talked about not wanting fans to need a dictionary to decipher lyrics. Do you still feel that way?
There's a lot of stuff I've been trying to move toward. Right now, I'm just giving my fans good music and letting them enjoy Waka's personality and have fun. But, like, it ain't all about this ‘dying in the streets' thing. In a minute, I'm going to get deep with them and make them think. You just gotta walk them through it and teach them. I'm going to take my time with it because if you give them too much really different stuff they'll get confused about who you are.
What's the last book you read?
Actually, I just got this new one two or three days ago! It's called, The World Is Flat.
Oh yeah, by Thomas Friedman. That's a good one.
Damn, girl! You be on them books too! (Laughing) I was in a conversation with a guy in the studio and he told me to get it, so I went and Googled it, ordered it and it just came in. I haven't started yet, I can't wait though - they said it's good.
Hey, what did you think about Jay-Z kind of quoting your song, Bustin' At ‘Em, on Watch The Throne-
What? He did? I ain't know that! How did that slip that by me?!
There's no way I am telling you this. It was on Why I Love You.
You are! Damn!
Are you a Jay-Z fan?
Hell yea. If you're not a Jay-Z fan you're not listening to hip-hop. I've heard Watch The Throne but I gotta analyze it again. I was stuck on Kanye's album, that one was crazy.
Did you hear about Kanye using Hard In The Paint in his Paris Fashion Week show last week?
Uh, no! I never got that information. Girl, you're a pro at this! I need to call you to find out what's up. You're Miss Info for real. Hey, Miss Info!
Well, I mean how does all of this make you feel?
I can't say it don't feel good. It just lets me know that the work I'm doing is paying off and a lot of people got their eye on me. Its like, ‘Okay, Kanye's jamming to Flocka, so let me make another song and see if Lady Gaga might like it!' It's always nice to know that people enjoy your music. It makes me want to keep making new music, harder music.
Who is the most unexpected fan you've ever met?
Today I was in Home Depot and this old lady came up to me like, ‘Are you Waka Flocka?'
And I said yes but I was scared at first, like, ‘What did I do to this old lady?' So she was like, ‘Man, I got in trouble at work because of you!' and I was like ‘WORD!?'
She said she works with kids and she was quoting one of my raps and her boss said, ‘You can't be quoting wild stuff like that!' It was so crazy.
But it lets me know I can't lock into one specific group because my fan base is out of the box. I never believed this was going to happen. I only made one song and thought that I'd go back to helping manage artists. (NB: Waka's mother, Debra Antney, used to manage Nicki Minaj).
So you're collaborating with more people outside of Bricksquad now, like Drake and Ludacris. It seems like that's going well for you.
When I make a song with another rapper I can hear their attitude. When I first made Round of Applause I could hear Drake on it. I was thinking, ‘I gotta get him out of his element,' because that's what I like to do: take people out of their element and put them into my vibe. Every time I do that, they enjoy it.
I made Round of Applause six months after Flockaveli came out, and it's only dropping now. My engineer, KY, was like, ‘Yo, I just got off the phone with Drake. He's working on his album and wants to know if there's anything you wanna send him.' And I thought, ‘Man, I should get him on MY album.' So I sent him this song, and he was like ‘Yo, I like this. I want this one!' But it was already mine so he jumped on it for me.
Is there anyone else you want to work with?
Ummmm, I'd like to work with you. (Laughs)
Well, I don't sing or rap or really do anything except write...
Hey, you never know until you apply yourself!
Okay, okay, okay - Tell me about the new album.
It'll be out in December. It took me two or three months to make. I was just running through songs and doing mixtapes, so I picked the best songs and put them aside.
Are those songs different from what we heard on Flockaveli?
I don't think it's too different from Flockaveli. It's got the same tempo, but it's working through different sounds and I'm trying things with delivery. Basically, I applied myself differently on this one.
What were you trying to do?
I was trying to get women like you to love me.
You're very charming. I don't think you have a problem with that.
Yeah. A couple of smiles, a couple of licks on the lips like LL Cool J and I got you!
Oh, is that how you move?
I just look at you and give you that ‘I want you' look. Or sometimes I give you that ‘I want you badder' look, and then I walk over and I'm like, ‘How you doing?' (Laughs)
(At this point, Waka's publicist interrupts. "Okay, Waka, that's enough. Please talk about your album!")
So yeah, basically, I wanted to make music for friends, fans, family and that's how I came up with the title of the record. I have a lot of female fans and after my last album a lot of girls were telling me, ‘You ain't never make songs for us, it's always for your homeboys!'
Do you have a favourite song on there?
Nah, not yet. It really depends on the mood I'm in.
What are you listening to right now?
I've been listening to God's Son by Nas this whole week. I'm stuck on that CD. That was a slept on album!
Bricksquad Monopoly is your crew/label. Do you play Monopoly? What game piece do you use?
I'd be the dog, because I can roam anywhere and make it home.
I've seen videos online of you using a Macbook. Do you have any thoughts on the passing of Steve Jobs last night?
Do I have any words on the passing of Steve Jobs? .....Wait, that's the Mac guy? He died?!!!
Oh shit, sorry. I thought you knew!
Jesus Christ, Miss Info! You're telling me everything. Oh man, we're not gonna have no more Apple computers?
It's not like that!
Damn, that's bad news man. I couldn't even thank him, he made my career. Hell yeah, that Mac computer, if it wasn't for that I wouldn't be here. He helped a lot of people. Oh man, I gotta tweet about that.
WAKA FLOCKA FLAME at the Guvernment, Friday, October 14. See listing.