Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 4 a.m.
with Wooh Da Kid, Southside, LL Duncan, and more
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
What makes Waka Flocka Flame one of the most exciting acts in rap right now has very little to do with adhering to conventional rap standards. What perhaps sums up his style best is the interlude for the "Wild Boy" video
, where Waka responds to the question if he thinks he's a good rapper with an emphatic "Fuck no!" That's entirely beside the point. It's a fine line to walk though, as opener after opener proved that being unconcerned with being any good can misfire also.
There's definitely nepotism present in the Brick Squad Monopoly camp, as it seemed like everyone on the bill was related to Waka Flocka. Beginning opener LL Dunkin came out sporting dreads similar to Waka's, rapping in a heavily cribbed style, mostly over backing tracks. There was some movement and energy, but the crowd was saving strength for songs they knew and these were frankly nothing amazing. Rapper after rapper took stage after him, some in groups and some simply grunting over club hits, and enthusiasm stayed relatively neutral for much of the first portion of the concert.
It makes sense to throw these sorts of acts onto the beginning of your show, if you don't care too much about how the whole event plays. Your friends and family all get money and exposure, and no one has to be told to not outshine the headlining act. It just felt so overlong that it was easy to stop paying close enough attention to whose names were whose. The bright side was the live drummer who played backing for many of the crews, and eventually behind Waka's own set. His playing added an edge and accented the drum machine spasms of the pre-recorded beats, and his performance energy was probably the best to touch the stage that night.
It seemed Reema Major wasn't actually going to show up once Wooh Da Kid came up, with an aggressive and forgettable set that remained in the style of the rest of the night. I was getting impatient for Waka. What separates his sound from anyone else operating in this lane of trap music is his tense energy and earnest and unrelenting flow, and his stage presence is largely what I came to see. Sadly, when Waka finally arrived, he fell into the habit of somewhat downturned energy himself at times. He began the set by sort of stalking around the stage, accenting certain words atop the beat as opposed to rapping. Slowly he gained footing and got into the show, thanks to the electrified crowd and the drummer's acrobatic pounding. As if he was trying to steal attention away from the headliner, the drummer engaged in a number of tricks (throwing the sticks in the air, spinning 360 degrees while standing and doing a full-circle tom roll) and solos when the beat dropped.
People weren't dancing quite as hard as when the beat proper played, but the best moments were when the song stripped to just Waka and the drums, which saw him at his most raw and intense. His often-criticized rhythmic ability shone through at these intervals, playing along with the huge and shifting sounds coming from the drummer. Most of the time, the melodies of the beats were completely buried beneath drums and the sound effects of guns and explosions. It was the mix between a party and a war zone. Waka screamed his lungs out at points, rapped his ass off at points, and let the audience do the legwork for some songs, like his breakthrough hit "No Hands." Songs that played best included the dark howl of "Bustin At Em," where Flocka got the audience to imitate his gun sounds, but even the songs where flailing made up most of the effort worked to the extent that everything sounded great obscenely loud. When he caught the vibe, he was in rare form, but it was a bit inconsistent. Still, the audience loved it throughout the whole of his long set.
For someone whose art relies so heavily on capturing unbridled chaos, the set could have used more energy. All in all, it was fun to see these unrelenting tracks blown up to full size, and Waka proved himself as someone who's risen above the status of the opening acts. He's loose and vibrant and connects well with people in the crowd. Though he's most impressive when screaming at the top of his lungs, Waka still brought a thunderous performance when the moment called for it.
Personal Bias: I've been underwhelmed by performances at a lot of mainstream shows lately, and came in expecting similar.
The Crowd: An interesting intersection of the club crowd and sweaty mosh pit kids.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I'll flash the fuck out of Waka!"
Random Notebook Dump: Stagehands put out banners that said "Wooh Da Kid" during someone else's set, realized the mistake, and took them back down. Sort of hoped it was a less than subtle way of ending his time.
Death Of Me
Bustin' At Em
Let Dem Guns Blam
Bringing Gangsta Back
Let Out (MoneyMouse)
O Let's Do It
Rooster In My Rari
I Don't Really Care
Round Of Applause
Fuck This Industry
For My Dawgs
Grove St. Party
Hard In Da Paint