For most, the biggest surprise of Waka Flocka Flame’s late 2010 debut Flockaveli wasn’t that his brand of lyrically inept, adrenaline-fed rap could sustain an entire album, but more that Waka played such a minor role in it. The LP couldn’t have been any truer to the trunk-tested, strip club-approved mixtapes and street singles he’d been releasing over the course of his meteoric two-year ascent, but the fact that a large chunk of the narration is provided by a number of rappers many Waka fans had never heard of is a testament to the “Loyalty Over Royalty,” creed tattooed across his stomach.
As members of Waka’s Brick Squad Monopoly label, more than half of the album’s 19 featured guests make their debut appearances on Flockaveli, some on multiple songs. This is a point of great pride for Waka, who on the exceptionally introspective “Rap Game Stressful” from his Salute Me or Shoot Me III mixtape wonders to God, exhausted, Can I take some partners out the hood? Finishing the thought, he continues: If I turn my back on them, they might go to jail or end up dead. This is a crushing reality for someone whose most trying stress could just as easily be expanding his sneaker collection.
Waka’s selflessness, though hardly uncommon for young stars from disadvantaged upbringings, is most remarkable for the rate at which he’s reached back to pull up his friends. According to Waka, this is his wisest play yet. “I gave my boys careers,” he says by phone from an Atlanta studio. “It’s better than giving [it to] another rapper, [who] undercover envy you, and he just going hard trynna use your heat. I’d rather give my boys some heat.”
Heat for Brick Squad Monopoly came most tangibly in the form of production from some of rap’s foremost beatsmiths, verse placement next to Flocka’s more established rap friends (including boss hog Gucci Mane) and also full-length solo mixtapes. Flocka explains that the opportunity to come-up during the song writing process couldn’t be more sporting if it were hockey team tryouts. “Whoever got the hardest verses end up on the song,” he says. “Gucci like to orchestrate his music like, This sounds like Waka or this sounds like such-and-such… My guys, it’s just whoever write they verse first and whoever got the hardest verse.”
As a team, Brick Squad Monopoly is unconventional in a way far more profound than simply hosting a mother hen who’d pushed its chicks out of the nest all at once. Rap crews are headed, traditionally, by the most lyrical force within, but as someone who has denounced lyricism as a conceit, Waka and company are working from a new dynamic entirely. Electricity is requested, but individuality is required. Brick Squad Monopoly rappers aren’t out-rapping each other, they’re inflating their personas to create space for themselves. And as the final (and altogether loudest) word, Waka builds his house with all of the tools within his reach.
So far, the most frequently plucked include a gaggle of rappers Waka hadn’t known until he visited LA while taking a break from rapping. It was there that he picked up voices like Joe Moses and YG Hootie, rappers who share a similar affection for the color of rage. To believe that a street alliance alone is what inspires Waka’s investment in his entourage is to ignore the level of seriousness with which he approaches his position. “At the end of the day, this just some real business,” he says. “Like, people’s kid’s college tuitions is in our hands, lives is in my hands. I gotta create something long term.”