A decade ago, Mike Jones gave the world his phone number, more recently Mr. MFN eXquire did the same via his blog. But one rapper gets closer to his fans than any other; his name is Waka Flocka Flame.
The twenty-six-year-old’s high-energy anthems have dominated strip clubs and nightclubs since he arrived on the scene in 2010. If you haven’t heard ‘No Hands’, ‘Hard In The Paint’ or ‘Grove St. Party’ then you have a) no love for clubs that play commercial hip-hop, and b) no love for strippers.
Waka has quickly risen to the ranks of his partner in the Ferrari Boyz, Gucci Mane. Debra Antney, the woman who brought him into this world, is manager to Gucci and former manager of Nicki Minaj. But his success isn’t due to his mother’s legacy; in fact it’s come from Waka’s honest display of personality and a constant recording process, which has seen him release eighteen projects in less than three years.
His ubiquitous songs and cult ad libs, screamed over songs, have seen Mr. Flame become America’s rap sweetheart in record time. Even hipsters love him and we all know they don’t like anything but coffee shops and being unemployed.
But can you blame them? Waka is super friendly! Before Clash had even spoken to him, he had hugged us. And the photographer. In fact, everyone in the room had received a great big bear hug from the 6’2” rapper. Referring to his fans as friends, he takes great pride in being close to his audience.
You refer to all of your fans as friends; have you developed any friendships with people?
Yeah, a lot. I ain’t gon’ lie. Being an artist, your friends are your fans. Cos your old friends don’t understand your life. It’s like they will be a year behind in catching up mentally [with] who you really are. So your fans know you more than your friends. Your life is music and I just feel like I had to gravitate towards them rather than run away from them. Most artists, 95-99% of them run away from fans. I gravitate towards them cos they’re the people that got your life goin’ round.
You’re on your eighteenth release in two or three years. Do you ever think about retirement plans?
Honestly, my retirement plan is to be a basketball coach. You know, just something super chill, nothing out of the norm. I just wanna be chilled. But I can see myself doing something for dogs; I love them.
You grew up in Queens then you moved to Atlanta as a child. If you’d stayed in Queens, do you think you would’ve still become a rapper?
If I grew up in Queens, New York, I would be in the NBA without a doubt.
When you were growing up, you lost your younger brother. How did that change your perspective on life?
It gave me a lot of attitude, a lot of aggressiveness. I stopped playing basketball after that. I shoulda taken it on the court; instead I took it off the court. I just felt like everybody should pay for this shit you know what I’m saying? I never had an explanation for it. As a man you grow up and think, ‘Damn’. I faulted everybody for some shit you shouldn’t fault anybody for and in the hands of God that’s just how life is. Now I look at it like maybe that happened for a reason. I look at it like I gained another angel.
Slim Dunkin was a good friend of yours and a collaborator. Was it hard to make music again after he was murdered?
Yeah. It was hard. I probably ain’t been right til’ I dropped my mixtape ‘Salute Me Or Shoot Me Vol. 4’. So I haven’t been writing since September, damn near a whole year. During my second album and all that, I was fucked up. I didn’t even wanna do music, it was just boring. When I was doing music, then we had a plan and shit like, ‘Yo, we gonna make it, we goin’ overseas.” Now you doing everything y’all imagined or dreamed about, but you ain’t got your friend with you; that shit is just crazy. But it’s life though; once you gain another angel you gotta move on.
Someone told me that the people who have had the worst experiences are the happiest people.
I’ve had some of the worst shit. I lost a lot of friends, you know what I’m saying? I’ve had a group of friends either been killed or gone to jail. I just overlook it; I expect it now so when I didn’t expect it, it hurt. Now when you expect shit, it’s just: ‘I knew it was gonna happen, fuck it.’
Forget a basketball coach, when he retires Waka Flocka Flame should be a life coach.
Words: Lily Mercer
Photography: Hayley Louisa Brown
This is an excerpt from the March 2013 issue of Clash magazine. Find out more about the issue.