Here's the rap on Waka: He's exaggeratedly unaware, could care less about lyrics, and thinks he was destined to be a pro wrestler if not for hip-hop. For him, this rap journey is purely business. And consumers have bought in. It's that simple
WORDS: Kris Ex l PHOTOGRAPHY: Alex Martinez
You don’t have to inspect every house in this gated McDonough, Ga., community to spot Deb Antney’s home. It’s very likely the only one with a tour bus advertising her son’s album parked in the driveway. The ground floor inside is decorated with carved elephants, giraffes and African women. A handful of grade-school children run about the house in their pajamas, eating, yelling, refusing to eat, being told to quiet down. A large HD TV is playing The Fifth Element on Blu-ray. The TV is on mute, and no one’s watching.
Screaming at her squawking pet bird (“Stop, Paradise!”), the matriarch leads you into her basement, complete with a stocked bar, pool table, and three game consoles set side-by-side like an arcade. Two days ago, Antney’s 24-year-old son, Juaquin Malphurs—better known as Waka Flocka Flame—released his debut album, Flockaveli. After the recent defections of Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj from the Mizay Entertainment roster, Waka is her company’s biggest star at the moment. Two of the songs on his CD—“O Let’s Do It” and “Hard in da Paint,” produced by 19-year-old Lex Luger (whom she also manages)—have become club staples, street remix favorites that cracked the Top 20 on Billboard’s rap charts. His latest single, “No Hands,” is his biggest hit to date; the album itself entered the Billboard 200 at No. 6.
Just last night, Antney (who put herself through school while on welfare, becoming a certified acupuncturist) sat Waka down for a conversation—about his life, his career and his responsibilities. Her biggest point was that she wants him to stop hiding his intelligence. Despite the profound simplicity of his music, she says he was an honors student in grade school and remains an avid reader. “If you go to his house, you go to his room, he has books galore,” she says. “When we doing his tour and we in the stores… he’s buying books—investments and political stuff.”
Still, when BET’s 106 & Park threw him some softball questions about education and voting in September, he seemed dumbfounded: “Education big, though, brah,” he said, before rambling through a string of desultory half-sentences about his love of geometry and obtaining a GED. As for voting in the midterm elections: “Voting, cool. Voting good.” He then threw up his hands while asking, via a consonant-free mumble, for the tape to be run back for a do-over. (As 106 & Park is recorded “live,” that wasn’t possible.)
Word of Waka’s slack-jawed nervousness gained more traction than his donating $30,000 worth of school supplies and computers to school children living in projects in the Jamaica section of Queens, N.Y., just days before. From the streets to the Internet, the conclusion was open and shut: Waka Flocka Flame—the guy whose rap name is partially derived from Muppet Fozzie Bear’s signature catchphrase and partially from an onomatopoeia of a cocking gun—is an idiot.
“People are having a field day on you because you wanna be stupid,” Antney told her son during their talk. “If you up there making yourself look so illiterate and so stupid, of course you leave no choice but for people to say whatever they say.”
But those people don’t know the half of it.