Born Juaquin Malphurs (a pretty cool rap name itself), Mr. Malphurs' stage name is an amalgam of a few things. He was given the nickname "Waka" by a cousin, undoubtedly derived from the first syllable of his first name, and also a reference to "waka waka," the catchphrase of Muppets character Fozzie Bear (Flocka is often seen sporting a Fozzie Bear chain). Gucci Mane is responsible for adding "Flocka Flame" to his name. Why, exactly, seems unclear, but probably because Gucci is a word-obsessed nutball. There's also something about "flocka" suggesting the sound of a gunshot... or something? Sorry, that's all we got on this one. Don't think so hard about it!
How did Waka start rapping?
In an interview with Atlanta's Creative Loafing, Flocka is characteristically blunt about his entry into hip-hop: I just did a song, and it worked. So I thought I could do 10 more. Though it's not quite that simple, it's close. Flocka's mother, Debra Antney, runs Mizay Entertainment, Gucci Mane's management. It was actually Gucci, and not Flocka's mother, who saw some hip-hop talent in the tall, dreadlocked maniac and he soon became part of Gucci's 1017 Brick Squad crew, appearing on Gucci's mixtapes and soon enough his own series of mixtapes, most notably Lebron Flocka James from 2009.
It's fun to add "Flocka Flame" to the end of any name, isn't it?
Totally. Try it yourself! Madonna Flocka Flame. Snooki Flocka Flame. Mitt Flocka Flame. Etc.
How did Waka get on the radio?
Lebron Flocka James contained "O Let's Do It," which became a single in December 2009. Though it peaked at No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100, it remained a pervasive street hit for some time and received a remix featuring Diddy and Rick Ross. "Hard In Da Paint" followed six month later, and at the end of summer 2010, "No Hands" arrived. Flocka's debut, Flockaveli, was released on October 5, 2010.
Wasn't Flockaveli originally a mixtape?
Yes it was. It became Flocka's debut after the surprising buzz behind "O Let's Do It" and "Hard In Da Paint." The mixtape of the same name was teased all during the summer of 2010 but then appeared in stores instead. The mixtape-as-album plan seemed to work, as Flockaveli sold around 37,000 units its first week.
Most of the album doesn't sound like "No Hands," then?
No Hands, featuring Wale and Soulja Boy buddy Roscoe Dash, doesn't stick out like a sore thumb or anything, but most of the album is far less catchy and much, much angrier. Pitchfork notes that, "for 17 straight tracks, Flockaveli is a furious torrent of gangsta rap id. There are zero attempts at crossover." No Hands is as a crossover as Flockaveli gets.
Does Flocka actually rap?
Not so much. Flocka's approach to hip-hop is very much from the Lil Jon crunk school, meaning chants that kinda rhyme, and lots and lots of yelling. In a radio interview with DJ Whoo Kid, Flocka boasted, "I don't got no lyrics.
So why should I listen to this shouty non-rapper?
Well, Flockaveli is brutal and angry in a way that most rap just isn't anymore--especially stuff on the radio. NPR rather cleverly suggested Flocka's style is focused on "emotional catharsis and therein lies its appeal. Flocka gives listeners the rap equivalent of heavy metal or punk rock. There are also the booming, catchy beats, mostly from 19-year-old Lex Luger. The Washington City Paper called Luger (who also produced Rick Ross' "B.M.F (Blowin' Money Fast)") "the teen who made rap hard again."
Are Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame still friends?
Though Gucci Mane did not appear on Flockaveli, he is shouted out on the album and continues to support his artist. Presumably, Gucci and Flocka's relationship broke down to some degree or other when Gucci left Mizay Entertainment, his former management run by Flocka's mother. In November 2010 however, Gucci announced his return to Mizay Entertainment.