Waka Flocka Flame’s first hit single, “O Let’s Do It” was neo-crunk blast that slowly rose over month onto rap radio, peaking with an inspired Diddy and Rick Ross remix. But, its Waka second verse on the original song that foreshadows so much of his later work: “One shot man down, his brain go Ka-Pow, Ow, that shit hurts, so don’t fuck around, but here that happens often off in Riverdale, Georgia, you pay the life you live off in Riverdale, Georgia”. Despite the connection of violence and fighting attached to Waka Flocka’s early work, this first single was just the story of a low level drug dealer that knows their life is in constant danger not only by profession, but even more so where they just happen to lay their head at night.
Chief Keef is already going through the Waka Flocka hype cycle all over again starting with some very local hits and now slowly getting his feet inside the music industry (apparently a Keef/Kanye collaboration is the works)*. And addition to this hype cycle, Keef is getting the same criticism of Waka Flocka (and most rappers ever for that matter) of glorifying violence, and being a negative influence on rap music and kids—always the kids. This criticism has manifested itself in weird pieces that take this 16-year-old to task for perpetuating the violence of a million plus population city and seemingly not offering a solution to this problem. But, that is some backwards logic, as the videos which have made Chief Keef relatively famous are about as lo-fi as rap music gets, having been produced by mostly him and friends and until recently were entirely local to just Chicago. Speaking to people who actually talked to the Keef: the image that prevails is of a young kid living life—raising his daughter, smoking weed, and hanging out with his friends—in a tough environment rather than a gun-wielding maniac some people try to make him out to be.
Waka Flocka dealt with the same stereotypes, because a black man wearing braids saying lyrics filled with violent content is obviously someone to be feared and couldn’t possibly have anything intelligent to say. And, while I’ve grown up in circumstances far more fortunate than Waka or Keef, it’s easy to connect to these young African-Americans, who’ve receive a fair amount of criticism based solely upon their looks. That’s why the opening lines of Waka Flocka’s “Stereotype” can be so effecting: “Brother dead, daddy dead, auntie got HIV/Lord, can you please get this rage out of me?/Started popping pills cause of shit that I’ve seen/And the shit that I went through as a child”. Waka Flocka explains through his music the unfortunate circumstances, which have lead to his current life, and instead of people trying to better understand him and listen to the words he has to say, people continue to ignore them and stereotype.
*I just want to say this sentence/entire paragraph came from conversations with Chief Keef Scholar David Drake the last month. To give credit where it is due.