Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trap Tuesday: Waka Flocka

The name itself speaks volumes of nothing, like a lot of his music.  But just like the music, the name is strangely enjoyable.  There's something of a visceral connection to the music that Waka Flocka creates.  There is nothing deeply interesting about it, but it is able to incite an energy something along the lines of heavy metal, and I think the two are quite similar.  Although more attention is still paid to lyrics than in most heavy metal songs.  A member of Gucci Mane's 1017 Brick Squad, Flocka takes cues from Radric Davis in content but has established a very different style.

As his name has become more prominent, owing recently to the video for "O Let's do it," many have begun to question the merits of the music he makes.  I think it is a valid conversation to have.  I value the musical output of a number of Atlanta-based artists far more and would much prefer to see artists like Pill break into the mainstream market first.  However, I do appreciate some of his music and certainly feel that it has a place in this genre.  I'd also like to point out that Waka Flocka is one of the few to bring a unique sound to rap in recent years.  The fact that his music sounds quite different is part of what seems to be gaining him both so many supporters and detractors.  Mark me as a fan of some of his songs, but I can't align myself with either camp yet.  However, I would argue that his music has value.

Watch the video for "O Let's do it," and it is easy to see that the music is created in the context of getting an audience hyped.  It's hard not to feel the energy in the song, and even harder to sit still when listening to it.  The song, like a lot of Flocka's material, combines elements of crunk, snap, and trap music, synthesizing some of the popular elements of Atlanta's music culture.  The fact that it is so rooted in this culture makes it a far more organic and authentic expression of populism than the carefully manufactured fun of LMFAO's shit-tastic "Shots." It's meant for a party atmosphere, but I would argue that its unique sound makes it transcend that designation.  However, the simple fact that it is party music will make some question its worth.  Critics making this argument seem to have forgotten the importance that similarly themed songs had on the development of rock and roll.  "The Twist" for example, is completely asinine but Rolling Stone named it one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.  While it is repetitive and simple, it had an undeniable energy and played an important role in the development of rock.  One can also look to some of The Beatles' early material, with songs like "Twist and Shout" serving a similar purpose.  The point is not to say these songs are the same; Chubby Checker and The Beatles had a lasting impact, while I find it unlikely that Waka Flocka will.  It is important, though, to point out the similarities when arguing about a song's "worth."  Those early 1960's dance tunes were an expression of a changing youth culture that defined America in the following decades.  "O Let's do it" is a similar expression of a shifting southern hip hop culture.

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