Waka Flocka Flame: No small potatoes when you have the Turn Up God

By Graeme Wiggins

Photo: Reid Rolls

VANCOUVER — At the best of times, interviews with artists promoting shows or records can be fraught with peril. Oftentimes they are on tour and busy running from one place to another. Most likely they’ve done a million interviews with journalists who belong to magazines they don’t know that same day and aren’t particularly willing to engage meaningfully with the questions, many of which they’ve answered time and time again. There’s also time constraints. A 10-minute phone conversation can only draw out so much insight. So when I learned at the last second that I would have a total of five minutes to talk to rapper Waka Flocka Flame, right before he was about to step onstage in Miami, I was a little worried about how it would go. In the end, I shouldn’t have been worried. In a five-minute phone call, fighting through bad reception and one signal drop, Waka was an engaging delight, despite being a little guarded about giving up much in the way of new information.

Waka is one busy man at the moment. He’s got near-constant shows in support of both his latest EDM-influenced mixtape The Turn Up Godz Tour as well as the follow up to his breakout album Flockavelli, in the form of a much-anticipated second release Flockavelli 2. He is a fixture on the Internet, appearing in a large number of viral YouTube videos (possibly the most amusing of which has him reading 50 Shades of Grey). This isn’t even including his VH1 reality show Meet The Flockas, nor the publicity surrounding his cancellation of shows at Oklahoma University in response to the SAE racist chanting video.

The tour with Whoo Kid is partly in support of his new mixtape The Turn Up Godz Tour. This tape is a shift away from his previous sound, which was primarily produced by Lex Luger and had more aggressive beats than those on his most recent mix which is more influenced by the sounds of EDM. One would imagine this shift, with production by Flosstradamus and Neon Dreams, was influenced by touring with EDM acts like Steve Aoki in Europe, but Waka sees it more in line with his past material. “Turn Up Godz is a way to give my fans a chance to catch up to the idea of what I’ve been doing lately. This is what I’m up to now,” says Waka. “This isn’t something new, I’ve been doing this for the last five years.” The album definitely has a party vibe, painting Waka as the Turn Up God. When asked what qualities he has that make him a so-called “Turn Up God” he goes silent for a moment, and in a quiet tone of deadly seriousness he answers “If I told you what makes me the Turn Up God, then I wouldn’t be the Turn Up God.”

The other big event this tour is to promote his upcoming album Flockavelli 2, a follow-up to the legendary album that brought him critical acclaim. The Internet has been abuzz with rumours and misinformation about possible collaborators. Everyone from Jay-Z to 50 Cent to as far as Wyclef Jean have been rumoured to appear on the album. But when asked what he could tell us to set the record straight about his collaborators and producers he was emphatic, “I ain’t gonna drop no names, just dropping music, you know what I’m saying? Going hard in the motherfucking paint!”

Waka moves from this laid-back jovial personality to another more-energetic, shouty version of himself impressively quick. His persona in online videos is always positive and funny. His PETA ads are cute and affecting. These aspects of him often stand in glaring contrast with the persona put forth on records. It’s loud, and aggressive (See “Mosh Pit” from the mixtape for an example). Live this is amped up even more. How does he maintain those contradictions? “I’m a Gemini,” he explains. “We have lots of personalities, you feel me? I’m not shy about showing off all those personalities. That’s what makes me the true definition of an artist.”

In the last year, Waka’s put more obvious emphasis on family, with a VH1 reality show called Meet the Flockas showcasing his relationship with his wife, Tammy Rivera. Does being married affect his ability to be as turned up as he wants to be? “Ain’t nothing changed, I’ve been married for one and a half years on paper and way longer than that in truth. She comes out on tour with me. I’m about to go on stage here, with wet-shirts and it’ll be crazy turned up and my wife’s with me. It ain’t anything.”

As for his expectations of the upcoming show he’s playing in Vancouver, he has strong opinions: “I expect it turned up! It will be sweaty and turned up!” shouts Waka. If it’s anything like his last show here, when he tore the roof off Fortune Sound Club, this does not seem like something he’s overestimating.

Waka Flocka Flame’s latest mix tape The Turn Up Godz Tour is available now online, and Flockavelli 2 will be out in June. Catch him live April 9th, at the Venue Nightclub.

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