Friday, January 13, 2012
Get into: Waka Flocka Flame
"When my little brother died, I said 'Fuck school.'"
It's surprising and welcome how rapidly hip-hop has settled into the metal scene over the past few years. With the must of nu-metal thoroughly blown away and urban aesthetics more fundamentally accepted through deathcore, slam, and similar styles, a metalhead also being a hip-hop fan is rapidly becoming the rule rather than the exception to it. A few years back, proclaiming a love of both styles would have at the very least raised some eyebrows and more commonly inspired snorts of derision; nowadays it barely elicits a second glance. Hip-hop and metal aren't fusing in any obvious way (apart from in the aforementioned deathcore and slam, which is a precarious statement at best,) but it's to the benefit of both. It's definitely a joy for me, as although my first love is and will probably always be metal, hip-hop is certainly my second passion, and quite often makes up just as much if not more of my everyday listening than metal.
With hip-hop's inroads in metal becoming firmer by the day, there becomes established a certain canon of hip-hop artists that are acceptable to the sensibilities of metalheads. Like post-metal artists bring metalheads into the post-rock fold, there's certainly a selection of hip-hop artists whose immediate style can be immediately identified as appealing to metalheads. Much to the fortune of both hip-hop and metal, most of these artists are pretty good; beyond the obvious (and typically lackluster) Necro, Ill Bill, and similar artists, there's other, very quality material out there that receives acclaim in both the metal and hip-hop communities: Odd Future, Tech N9ne, and Death Grips are but a few names worthy of real attention from all over the musical spectrum. Still, I personally believe that if there's a single hip-hop artist active today that best captures extreme metal's ethos, style, and overall atmosphere, it's one that makes no particular effort to appeal to any crowd other than that of hip-hop: Waka Flocka Flame.
I like to think that it's not just my metalhead mindset that makes comparing Waka's overall role in hip-hop to slam death's position in heavy metal as a whole. Both are brute, reductionist interpretations of their respective parents, as equally derided for their simplistic aesthetics as they are revered for their postmodern atavism. What you get from a Waka Flocka Flame track is very similar to what you get from a Devourment track: simplicity to the point of absurdity, incredible catchiness, and an insistent, bone-rattling heaviness which taps into the most primitive, reptilian part of the brain. Metalheads will immediately latch onto Waka's typical production style: bassy, ominous, and melodramatic, like a Wagner piece reinterpreted in the theater of urban criminality. The unapologetic forcefulness of Waka's music, in some ways both a progression and regression from the crunk sound which dominated the latter half of the '00s, is immediately recognizable to a fan of Waking the Cadaver: they have similar artistic goals and ways of achieving them. Waka regularly states in interviews that he's "not a rapper," and the argument could be made that he's correct: his words are not meant to be lyrically advanced or clever. They're confrontational, straightforward threats directed at various enemies.
Turn cops to Christians and choppers to claymores and the content of Waka's music isn't massively different from death or black metal. Listen.