Saturday, 16 June 2012

Waka Flocka Flame: Triple F Life

In October 2010, Waka Flocka Flame exploded into the Billboard Charts with his debut album Flockaveli. The album was heavily praised for stripping gangsta rap back to it's roots, Lex Luger's hard hitting beats complemented by Flocka's brash, violence soaked simplistic delivery. After an eventful, mixtape filled 2 years, the Riverdale representative returns with his sophomore effort Triple F Life. 

Opener 'Let Dem Guns Blam' sees Waka paired with MMG member Meek Mill. The first few lines of the track give listeners a taste of what to expect:
'I'm too drunk, I'm to high to hear that fuck shit/ Came to the club, yeah I'm on that fuck shit/ Let them things blam/ Let them things blam/ Let them things blam'.
The repetitive, menacing delivery is an example of where the rapper excels, eschewing complex lyricism to batter the listener into submission over loud, compelling instrumentals. This theme is continued with bangers such as ''Cash' and 'Lurkin', featuring Piles. The guest spot proves to be a masterstroke, the raspy Floridian sounding like he's auditioning for a late spot on Flockaveli. 
Also present is a healthy amount of experimentation, Ludacris and Bun B providing a nice change of pace on the Southern soaked 'Candy Paint and Gold Teeth'. Personal travails are revealed on 'Power Of My Pen', a welcome change of subject towards the end of the tracklist.

Unfortunately, the promising tracks are let down by a baffling array of guest stars in the early stages of the LP. Drake just about holds his own over the unusually subdued Lex Luger produced 'Round of Applause', but Waka and Trey Songz are mismatched on 'I Don't Really Care'. 'Get Low' features Nicki Minaj, Tyga and Flo Rida on a syrupy, shameless assault on the singles charts. It is not that the track is particularly unlistenable, but Flocka's legions of fans buy his material precisely to avoid this watered down, radio friendly rap. If this represents a misstep, the B.O.B assisted 'Fist Pump' is simply lamentable, the pop leaning of Bobby Ray proving to be too jarring with the style of Waka's music. It is not until the 3 bonus tracks that Triple F Life fully returns to the formula that made Flockaveli so successful, 'Inky' being the particular highlight.

Important to note is that the Georgian rapper has improved his flow measurably since his debut LP. Often employing double time, a slicker delivery is detectable throughout Triple F Life. Though this is commendable, it is conversely a drawback to the project as a whole. The new rapping style allows him to fit in more comfortably with the more mainstream oriented acts on his guest list, but this in turn reveals a transparent attempt to crossover to a wider audience. Flocka has built a career and garnered acclaim by deliberately ignoring the demands of lyricism in favour of outlandish violence over thumping beats. This heavy metal-like approach is what sets him apart from his peers, and losing this causes the album to struggle at times.      

Track by Track:

1. "Triple F Life Intro" 
2. "Let Dem Guns Blam" feat. Meek Mill (7/10)
3. "Round of Applause" feat. Drake (6/10)
4. "I Don't Really Care" feat. Trey Songz (4/10)
5. "Rooster in My Rari" (5/10)
6. "Get Low" feat. Nicki Minaj, Tyga, & Flo Rida (5/10)
7. "Fist Pump" feat. B.o.B. (4/10)
8. "Candy Paint & Gold Teeth" feat. Bun B & Ludacris (7/10)
9. "Cash" feat. Wooh Da Kid (7/10)
10. "Lurkin'" (8/10)
11. "Clap" (5/10)
12. "U Ain't Bout That Life" feat. Alley Boy & Slim Thug (6/10)
13. "Power of My Pen" (7/10)
14. "Flex" feat. Travis Porter, Slim Dunkin & D-Bo (5/10)
15. "Triple F Outro"
16. "Inky" feat. Slim Dunkin & Wooh Da Kid (7/10)
17. "Chin Up" feat. Slim Dunkin (7/10)
18. "Everything I Love" feat. Future & Trouble (6/10)

The Verdict:

In aiming for mainstream acceptance, Waka Flocka Flame has shot himself in the foot. With an admittedly small, but committed fan base, Waka is risking losing those who put him in his position by dabbling in pop rap. Though some tracks retain his trademark sound, the lukewarm filler may see some listeners lose faith.


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