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Interview: Waka Flocka

This week, after hundreds of self-congratulating tweets, Waka Flocka released Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family, the follow-up to 2010's Flockaveli. The former was a belligerent, unrelenting and charmingly squirmy mixtape that somehow got released as a major label album, largely untouched. Triple F Life is very shouty but never truly mean, and surprisingly mood-cleansing. It also vies blatantly for broad appeal. Littered with guest appearances from a wide swath of current rap stars, the record places sparkling candy jams like the Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida-featuring "Get Low" alongside raw, rambling fare like "Clap," which first appeared on Waka's excellent Salute Me Or Shoot Me 3 tape. Thankfully, smoothing out his voice for a couple pop-leaning tracks doesn't seem like the kind of thing that will stop Flocka from making a million more great mixtapes, or serving as a big brother figure to a new generation of unhinged rappers. Though he's still goofy in the limelight (at this year's Summer Jam concert, he ran around and then off the stage like a kid, apparently more comfortable in the crowd than in front of it), Waka's polished his act in the last couple years. He's touring stadiums with Drake, living with a steady girlfriend and her seven-year-old daughter and remodeling his Atlanta estate. When we met at his label's New York office, he told me he's become more comfortable with interviews, though exceedingly friendly and hilarious, it still seemed like he'd rather get in a tickle fight or run laps around the room while taking bong hits than talk about what he does for work. Still—for the fans—he spoke about being an outsider in the industry, the passing of Slim Dunkin, and his new low-stress lifestyle.

What do you mean when you say, "Waka can't rap?" I’m being sarcastic. People say, "You don’t have lyrics," so I’m just like, “Lord knows Waka can't rap.” Throw it in their faces. I really don’t have an answer for them. I’m doing Waka’s music. My music is different. It don't sound like a typical rapper’s music.

Do you feel like an outcast in the rap community? No, I feel like I’m a part of hip-hop. I make good music. As a man and as an artist I’m developing. The old “O Let’s Do It” Waka, he didn’t have any remorse. I still have no remorse but I give a fuck now. Before I could get on stage, rap, and not give a shit, period. I’d pull up to the club in a taxi, jump out by myself, go in and perform at a bar stand. I was throwing bows, pushing. Little kid wild, like a freshman in college.

How have you changed since then? Now it's more professional, because that’s what the fans deserve. This is a sport and I practice. I don’t go in the booth confused now. I don’t go in there like, What can I make now? I just go in. It’s never a problem. You just gotta go with what you feel. Sometimes I’ll go two weeks and won’t record shit, cause I don’t feel it. But another week I might go do 10-12 songs.

What’s the difference between those weeks? It’s a mood. If you’re happy as shit you can just rap about whatever cause you’re happy as shit. The best times for me to rap are when I’m happy and mad. When I’m depressed and shit, I don’t too much like rapping. When I’m happy and mad, I love it. Sometimes I verbally release my stress and it backfires on me, because sometimes I don’t express how I really feel. Since I was young it’s been hard to express how I feel, I really don’t like talking about problems. But now, I don’t have to deal with ultimate lame shit. I made my mark, so I can be around what I want to be around. Now I have a choice. When you’re younger, you gotta work, you have to get out in the field. That life is crazy. You never know what you’re going to get in to when you walk through the door, and you just have to handle it. If I wasn’t doing rap, I’d be in the streets, going hard. I’ve never been on vacation in my life. This is paycation, I’m working. But fuck it, I’ll probably take a vacation in the winter.

Is being famous like how you expected it would be? Are you comfortable in this industry? Fame's been the same way [as I expected]. I knew I was gonna run into a lot of hate, a lot of fake people, a lot of jealousy. But it was more enhanced than what I’d expected, it was to the third power. I was like, Damn, maybe I should have never picked up a mic. Sometimes they keep you guessing. But I learned that they want you to be confused so you’ll get off track on your hustle. I used to never want to do interviews; it didn’t make sense to me. I just wanted to make music, do shows. But it does make sense. You can just never let a reporter’s question touch your emotions. The media, internet, press, they often try to bash you down. “Oh, Waka this. Waka that. Oh, his friend died, he didn’t go to the funeral.” Your fans are always there though. They’re like, Man, don’t worry about that shit. My fans feel like one gigantic giant person, like a ten-foot person. They always have shit to uplift you.

You experienced a big loss this year with the passing of Slim Dunkin, your collaborator and friend. After Dunk man, I thought I couldn’t even do the album. I was in the midst of working on it when that shit happened, then that shit put me down for a good four months. I’m still down still to this day, but I just started getting back into it. Putting some life back into the music. Cause for a while, it was over. We met way back, like a year before “O Let’s Do It” came out. That’s my guy, an irreplaceable guy. A go-to friend. He was the same as me. Everything I know that I wanna do, or things I don’t like, he’d be on the same shit. When I was talking to girls around town, he’d be talking to the same girls. He’s really respectful, could go to any place, any situation and have utmost respect for it. A lot of friends I have don’t even know how to show a person respect, like they weren’t raised right. But Dunk had a good upbringing. I’ll have closure if he opens his eyes again. That’s it. I feel like he died for doing something that I had. God was like, Yo. That’s crazy, like a slap in the face. But I’m alright.

Who makes up your core group of friends now? What do they know about you that I might not? Before I started rapping, I was almost an A&R. I was scoping for talent. Still, when I’m in Atlanta, I’m usually surrounded by my artists and producers from my label. But I got a lot of different friends. I got friends that surf, I got friends that shoot guns, I got friends that party. The best party is when I’m on one bottle of liquor, club packed and they got a lot of lights. I love lights. The fans know me for one thing, being aggressive, wild, party, BOOM. They don’t know my sense of humor. I’m a cool dude. Some people come in a room and talk to everyone and some can only talk to one. I’m probably more personable with people than Gucci [Mane]. He’s just not sociable. He’s got his reasons why he’s not sociable.

Are you happy that your mom Deb moved you down to the South as a kid? At the time we moved, there was a good cost of living in Atlanta. There weren’t a lot of people down here; you could really raise your family. And when your mom leaves, you leave, so I followed. I love Queens, but I like living in Atlanta. I’m a Georgia boy to the death of me. A Georgia boy is fish and grits-eating, soul food-tasting. I’m comfortable every day. Most people down south, they just come outside like, whatever. When you come outside in New York you have to be dressed head to toe.

What’s your relationship with your mom—who's also your manager—like now? Same way it was when I came out the pussy. That’s the woman that put you here. You have to respect her no matter what the case may be. I learned everything from her. How not to trust a person. She taught me to be humble, respectful, treat everybody equally. Don’t cheat anybody, don’t try and get over them. Just work for it, it’ll come to you. She lives like seven, eight houses up. She likes cooking so some days we eat at her house. I’ll cook food sometimes. I have expensive taste but most of the time I just want to pig out. Pizzas, fries, chicken sandwiches.

Do you look forward to having kids of your own? I've got a little family now. It’s a secret. I have god kids. But I don’t have any of my own kids. They’re still in my nuts, swimming around. They aren’t ready to come out. Being in a family kind of changes your lyrics though, because you’ve got the little ones listening to your stuff. And you wanna be more mature because you’ve got a woman. My house is getting remodeled. I’m going with the all-white look for the kitchen and dining room. I’ve got a studio in there. I’m thinking about moving out, so I’m really like building it up to be like, the Brick Squad mansion. I’m 25. Five years from now I’ll be 30. But a lot of people in the game now will be 40, or close to it. So I’m like, shit, I’m cool. I ain’t in no rush. I want to make a good investment in this now though, so I can sit down later. Cause when I’m 30-something, I’m gonna be grumpy.

Interview: Waka Flocka