Waka … Flocka … Flame! Waka … Flame! Waka … Flocka … Flame!
The Northside Queens-born, Atlanta-bred rapper first nabbed the street’s attention with his mixtape Salute Me or Shoot Me Vol. 1 in January 2009 featuring his breakout record “O Let’s Do It.” The rowdy club track quickly became a fan favorite, and a year later, after he peppered the streets with more mixtapes and a guest verse on “Bingo,” from Gucci Mane’s 2009 LP, The State vs. Radric Davis, “O Let’s Do It” got an official remix featuring Diddy, Rick Ross and Gucci Mane featuring furs and the A’s Central Station club.
Then the singles “Hard in Da Paint” and “No Hands,” from his debut LP Flockaveli (released October 5) which began as a DJ Holiday-assisted mixtape but was upstreamed and fashioned by Asylum into an official album, garnered him enough buzz to be voted the #8 Hottest MC in the Game, his first time making the list.
“[Waka] put out three consistent records in a row,” MTV senior producer Rahman Dukes said during the Hottest MCs roundtable. “He’s coming out a region that’s known for putting out one great record.”
Still, there are many in hip-hop who question the upstart’s talent. Critics have derided him, claiming he’s more flash and rowdiness (witness his shouted ad lib above) than lyrical substance.
“He’s not the most lyrical dude,” MTV News senior writer Jayson Rodriguez admitted, defending Waka’s place on the list. “But these joints, they’re ubiquitous. You can’t go places without hearing ’O Let’s Do It.’ You hear it everywhere.”
“There’s always been a lane for different artists who just control that ’get drunk, get crunk, just go hard’ … and those artists usually haven’t always been the most lyrical,” said MTV News supervising producer Sean Lee. “Right now, he’s owning that lane.”
MTV News’ Shaheem Reid agreed. “When I listen to Waka, it just takes me back to the audacity when Onyx came out, that spirit,” he said. “You put the song on, you go into the club, and you just gotta be prepared for anything.”
But MTV Jams’ Tuma Basa wasn’t as easily convinced that having a handful of hot records in the club was enough to warrant the attention Waka is currently receiving. “Does Waka have the lasting power?” he questioned. “Does he have the ability to sustain, where a year from now everybody’s going to admit that they liked the song?”
These proved to be questions that opened up a great deal of debate among the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust, and Waka ultimately found himself pitted against eventual #9 selection B.o.B for his slot at #8.
“I feel like that’s a question of commercialism versus what’s hot in the streets,” said RapFix editor Hillary Crosley. Dukes added: “Waka, he has the soul of the streets right now.”
Lee felt that Waka’s music, because it’s so hard and so raw, hits listeners in a way that B.o.B’s shimmery pop tunes can’t. “You hear the B.o.B records, and you’re like, ’I like that. It’s cool,’ ” he said. “But it doesn’t bring out the passion.”
MTV News associate producer Steven Roberts strongly disagreed, claiming that hip-hop music reaches more than just a street audience, and that another audience, perhaps one not being spoken for at the roundtable, felt just as strongly about B.o.B’s music as Waka’s.
“It’s definitely a different crowd,” Roberts said. “You have a song like ’Nothin’ on You,’ which girls can gravitate towards; you have a song like ’Airplanes,’ where it’s inspirational. You have to look at the hip-hop circle as bigger than just the streets. In hip-hop, there is a pop circle. [And] you got a lot of dudes in hip-hop who just don’t mess with Waka Flocka; who are like, ’This is just ignorant.’ ”
“Waka’s charting,” MTV Jams’ Sheila Grullon countered. “Not on top 40 [radio], but he’s charting. And the urban charts are crazy right now. You go to the clubs, and nobody’s gonna play ’Airplanes.’ ”
Grullon is right: “O Let’s Do It” hit #7 on the Billboard Rap Songs chart, while “No Hands” hit #6.
In the end, the Brain Trust kept Waka at #8, because he’s on the rise at the moment, his songs are continuing to get hotter, and the spotlight is definitely on him.
The 2010 Hottest MCs in the Game rollout is now under way! As in 2008 and 2009, the criteria is based on a combination of rhyme skill, flow, buzz, commercial success, business ventures, Web presence and cultural influence. Upload your comments, reactions, arguments and/or your own list to Your.MTV.com or send tweets with the hashtag #hottestmcs — the best responses could be on RapFix!
Stay locked in each day as we count down #10 to #6 on our MCs list. Then tune in to MTV2 for the entire one-hour “Hottest MCs in the Game” special on Sunday, October 24, at 1:30 p.m. ET, where we’ll reveal who will be crowned 2010’s Hottest MC.
Think Waka Flocka Flame should rank #8? Think he should be higher or … even omitted? Tweet us at @MTVRapFix or tell us in a comment below!