Waka Flocka may have been notorious for going [like his song says] “Hard in da Paint” amid his meteoric rise out of Atlanta’s trap scene to stardom. Yet these days, the rap star has dialed down his penchant for aggression. Sure, his popularity and bank account afforded him the means to reach the peak of his volatility, earning him the reputation of an unpredictable firebrand and wildcard, but those highs came in the midst of devastating lows plaguing the rapper’s personal life. One particular tragedy endured by Waka was the death of his younger brother, KayO Redd, who passed away after committing suicide in 2013 Occurring at the height of his career, Redd’s’ death was one factor that led Waka to seek a change of pace.
He settled down with his wife, Tammy Rivera, and fell back from the music scene to pursue other endeavors, including reality television. Appearing alongside Rivera on multiple seasons of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, Waka and his wife struck up a partnership with We TV, starring in Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition, their own spin-off series, Waka & Tammy Tie The Knot, and Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta, giving casual fans a side of Waka that differed from the rambunctious ruffian he’d displayed himself as through his art.
In addition to making the transition from the vocal booth to the TV screen, another change Waka has made is his desire for beef. Butting heads with others was a constant during the outset of his career, even going to war with the likes of former collaborator Gucci Mane, whom he’s since buried the hatchet with. However, the beef we’re really referring to is of the edible variety, which the rapper has sworn off in his new lifestyle. A major adjustment to his diet was the decision to stop consuming meat. Experimenting with vegan and plant-based diets, seems to have helped him assume the zen-like countenance he’s become synonymous with in recent years. Veganism has only proved to be the gateway to Waka’s deep dive into a more sustainable and health conscious lifestyle, where the rapper has become an actual farmer, growing his own plants, vegetables, and other resources on his own plot of land. Sharing his new pastime with fans via social media, Waka may have put down the burgers to pick up a plow, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the grid completely, musically or otherwise.
This past September, Waka and business partner Nilson Martinez revealed their new partnership with Canadian streetwear brand SKRiT, which Waka celebrated by hosting its first-ever U.S. event, a private dinner at TAO to help kick off 2021’s New York Fashion Week. Founded by Pratheep “Stally” Kanesh, SKRIT’s alliance with Waka marks the brand’s expansion stateside, which is already paying dividends in the form of retail partnerships including an exclusively designed capsule for the flagship Atlanta Hawks shop and other retailers in Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. Made from “sustainable and ethically sourced materials,” SKRiT’s unisex collection includes custom-designed t-shirts, oversized hoodies, silk short sets, vegan leather varsity jackets, cardigans, lux bottoms and a variety of accessories.
Priding themselves on drawing inspiration from culture and community, SKRiT has plans for a brand collaboration with Coogi on the horizon for 2022 and will be available in a number of high-end boutiques and other retailers across the country. While Waka won’t be adding designer to his resume anytime soon, his involvement with SKRiT is hands-on and speaks to his gradual evolution and growth as both a businessman and creative. With plans to release a new EP and more music in the coming months, 2022 has the makings of a watershed year for Waka. His quest for self-fulfillment and inner-peace have led to an evolution unlike many we’ve seen in recent memory.
VIBE spoke with Waka Flocka about his role with SKRiT, the evolution of his fashion sense, finding purpose in farming, and his plans to recapture the magic that defined his music during the genesis of his career.
VIBE: You recently performed at the OUAB Welcome Back concert. What was it like being able to get back in front of a crowd after all this time?
Waka Flocka: Well, being in front of this crowd, definitely after everyone was quarantined [was great]. That probably was like my 70th show since quarantine. That definitely was my third biggest one, it was like 5,500 people. The energy was crazy. I think the energy is even wilder, in a good way, because people are just so excited about the things that they took for granted, them happy moments. You know how people are so used to these concerts that they look at it like “Eh,” and they got a lot of judgment? Now people are at these concerts enjoying their experience instead of the artists, if that even makes any sense. ‘Cause I be observing the crowd. I be watching the crowd when I perform. Usually, you’ll see people so focused on the artists, now they’re focused on the artists and they’re enjoying their moments with their friends or their significant other. I pay attention to that shit heavy now.
Speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a big divide in terms of those willing to take the vaccine or not. What are your thoughts on the mandates that have been passed down, both locally and nationally?
I don’t have no thoughts, all I can say is I’m walking with God. I think my thoughts are so uneducated that I shouldn’t even say a word, to be honest. Just to be on some real shit, the most I could do is guard my immune system and I’ve been doing a great job at it ‘cause I ain’t have one symptom yet and I done jumped in over 50 crowds. So I just know my immune system is ready for war. And I feel like, shit, with this blood inside me and all this shit my ancestors been through, I don’t think COIVD could fuck with us. Now, that’s just me, so I don’t wanna speak for you, I wanna speak singularly, so that’s just how I feel. I done been through so much in my life, COVID, I’m not afraid of it, but I’m not telling anybody else [not to be]. I’m just with God, my niggas. So whatever happens happens.
You recently partnered with SKRiT, a premium Canadian streetwear brand. How did you first discover SKRiT?
I first got into SKRiT through a business partner. I’m into NFTs, so at our Satoshi office in Montreal, SKRIT has an office space inside of our office. So every day, I just started seeing SKRiT when I was there. I’m like, “Yo, this shit is fire,” the vibe of it. I didn’t even see the clothes, I fell in love with the vibe of the people that worked there and just their ideas and how influenced they [were] with fashion. And it just reminded me so much about ‘90s fashion. I don’t know, it’s the vibe for me, I ain’t gonna lie to you. The designs is lit. I want premium streetwear. I’m a big boy. I start looking like Homer Simpson in these designer shirts.
Describe the extent of your involvement with SKRiT? Will you be hands-on with any of the designs?
I’m the kind of person that if I had a designer, I wouldn’t play with a design. I’m just gonna coach you. Right now, for designs, I’ll drop some jewels, but my designers and team is so dope, I can’t do nothing. I just wanna see their vision before I try to put mines. I’m one of those kind of family members I’d rather work with you in getting to your full potential instead of pushing you to your full potential. And I’m from the states, I’m from the ends so I know how to put that shit on. So I be like, “Oh, we doing this right now, right here’” [Our designer] she’ll be like, “Word, Let’s take it up a notch, let’s do this.” Them young designers, man, they just be lit. I’m hands on though. I’m there sending group text messages, “Good morning, team, how y’all doing? Good afternoon team, how y’all doing.” It’s a family, it’s really a family. You know how people use these words for foolery, but for us it’s real. We take trips together when I’m there and when I’m not there, so I’m just being real. We go get cottages together and go build. It’s a real life family and a team.
Being that you’ve been in the game and have worked with bigger brands over the years, what’s it like working on something that’s from the ground up, being that SKRiT is breaking into the U.S. from Canada.
I’m not gonna lie, my boy, you gotta give them respect for their designs, man. They work hard, man. Just to see how much work is put into doing it, I’m happy. I respected them from day one. I knew it was more to just making clothes and doing it. To just see anybody that has a brand that’s winning right now, the Off Whites to all these guys. The Yeezys… it’s hard, bro. I’m letting you know, day in and day out. The kind of material you gotta use, the time, the effort. It’s definitely a lot, I’m gonna tell you that, but the fact that when you learn it, when you break through that motherfucker, it’s life. It makes you feel like, “Hell yeah, I knew this shit was gonna pay off.” The fact that I sat at that dinner. I don’t give a fuck about selling no clothes, the fact that people just sat there and just was there for SKRIT, that shit was dope. To be honest, my nigga, that’s an ill feeling, I never had that feeling in my life. I like that. I want more of that. So that’s that, to be honest.
Being that you’re helping introduce SKRiT to the American market, can we expect you to facilitate partnerships or collaborations with other rap artists?
I’m down for whatever we agree on as a team. One thing about Waka Flocka, man, I ain’t gonna strut my power around, man, we only move as a team. If we agree on this person and we feel they’re gonna represent the brand correctly, then that’s what it is. Where we’re from, bro, making a decision by yourself on a full team is kind of one-sided. From Maino to Travis Scott, if these dudes wanna jump in it then that’s what we’re doing, if it makes sense. No matter if you got 100 million subscribers, ’cause we don’t plan on driving like a Lamborghini. We don’t mind riding like a little tractor trailor, riding like a fucking pickup truck because slow grind better than no grind. What we want is progress.
You and SKRiT were in town for New York Fashion Week, which is one of the biggest events in the fashion world. Being that you’re a new partner in a fashion brand yourself, what are some things you took away from the experience?
Honestly, man, with SKRIT, we hired four photographers. And we had our photographers go around and just start taking pictures of everything. And I don’t even think we deserve to be here yet ‘cause we’re still in college, that’s the big leagues. So what we did was just send out our snipers, we sent four photographers there to take all the pictures. [These] pictures is looking crazy. I’m not gonna lie, people really were there going hard and shit. I don’t know if quarantine did it, but motherfuckers was jumping out the gym with their shit.
Being in the entertainment industry, you’ve been exposed to various styles of fashion. How would you say your fashion sense has grown over the years?
It’s crazy, bro, I used to talk shit, like, “Yo, I ain’t ever wearing a suit until I jump in a casket.” You’re right, I’ll jump in a casket, the old Waka didn’t. Yo, I could see myself in suits, like asap, but I wanna get us suits immediately. I never even dressed with fashion heavy in my career ‘cause I was so gungho on what I wanted to do with it, but the older I get, now I’m gonna put that shit on. But I definitely got influenced, I definitely watched how fashion came back, like literally, You know how people be like, “Everything repeats itself,” that shit is real. But when it repeats itself, it comes back in another form, but the same way, if that makes any kind of sense? But I know now, I’m going up. And I ain’t just wearing brands, to me that ain’t fashion. I don’t wanna wear the shit they got, I just wanna wear the underground clothes. I love underground fashion. I’m from Queens, I love having niggas from fucking Southside. He created this new style of jeans and now he got the whole hood wearing ‘em. I love that, vise versa going and getting a Gucci jeans or Versace shirt. Nah, I’d rather go get the nigga on the block’s shirts and his jeans ‘cause them shits is fire. Then their materials are more expensive and fit better, it feels better so I love that.
In your opinion, what sets SKRiT apart from other fashion brands you’ve worked with or who’s clothes you’ve rocked over the years?
The only thing that sets SKRIT apart from any fashion brand [is] I’m on the inside of the company and I see the process from A to Z. So that right there is a whole different feeling within itself.
Another endeavor you’ve been involved in recently is your foray into the NFT market, which has become a phenomenon within the hip-hop world. How did you first learn about NFTs and Cryptocurrency and how did that lead to your partnership with Satoshi Art?
So Satoshi is basically what we call money. So every time somebody grabs crypto, it’s one Satoshi, two Satoshis. That’s where we got the name from. Shit, I was on NFTs, I mean cryptocurrency, since [a while ago]. I’m a gangsta nerd, all my nerd friends was fucking with it so that shit was just normal where I was. I like it, but I think people ain’t grasp the real meaning of what NFTs is. They’re just looking at it for music and money. It’s ownership, it’s an understanding, it’s stability. No one can take your baby from you unless you allow ‘em to get it. That’s a whole different conversation, that’s actually a conversation I’d like to sit down and talk shit with a lot of people. But NFTs is popping. NFTs stand for Non-Fungible Token, meaning like a dollar for a dollar is fungible. NFTs is deep, my nigga. Your house could be an NFT, your car could be an NFT. It’s ill.
You recently shared a TikTok of you teaching yourself how to farm. How did that interest originate and what has that experience been like?
I hear a lot of people talk about all organic this, organic that and it got to the point where one day, I was inside Kroger. And it was, like, organic seedless watermelons and I was like, “what the fuck?” I never heard of a fruit that’s organic that don’t got seeds, so that right there, it raised a flag for me. I was just like “Nah, Waka, you gotta get on your shit.” But then I started eating certain vegetables, like broccoli for instance, that’s man-made. That’s a hybrid, most of us don’t know that. It’s similar to weed, like indica, sativa, hybrids. So when you start learning this dialect and the language, you start to get deeper into what it is.
I do farming, which is the closest way to farm to Earth, to the planet, as possible. Everything I take out the world, I put back. I don’t slaughter on our land, we don’t smoke on our land, we don’t drink on our land. It’s peaceful, so it’s a different vibe. Nobody on our farm eats meat, not because we’re judgemental, just because that ain’t for us. This is a different vibe and I had to learn this shit.. I wanted this. I wanted peace. What got me farming, to give you a solid answer, I just wanted peace. I ain’t farming for money. I just want peace and it led me right here. I had to tell myself that I’m not a meat-eater. If I had to go outside everyday and kill animals to eat, a nigga can’t do that I ain’t gonna front. I ain’t got the heart for that, king.
I don’t think a lot of people will go grab a chicken by the throat, cut ‘em and kill ‘em. I don’t know too many people that’s gonna kill a cow, skin ‘em hang ‘em upside down and dry ‘em out to make a burger. I don’t wanna do all that to feed myself. I ain’t trying to harm nothing to feed me. I don’t want that energy, so that’s what got me right here. And the day I started eating like this, my skin got clearer, my mind got clearer, my patience got way bigger. Life became ill.
You’ve been relatively quiet on the musical front in comparison to previous years, when can fans expect some new music from you?
I’m putting new music out in October. A couple of singles. I might just drop a little EP. It might be an EP. The songs are already done, that ain’t the problem. I’ll probably do like five records. Eight records, tops.
Can you speak on any features?
Nah, I ain’t got no features. I’m not big on features. They ain’t call me for their feature, I ain’t gonna call ‘em for mine.
How about producers?
It’s 808 Mafia on this tape. Hell, I don’t know what they’re used to, man. It’s like jumping in a time chamber. I’m putting out music like it’s 2009 and ‘10. Like it’s ‘09 through ‘12, that’s exactly what that shit sounds like. Well, I got one song I made like if I was to come out in this generation, it’s called “Fiyaya.” And I actually played it for people in it. I actually watched other people try to remake this record, it’s funny. It’s called “Yaya,” it’s fire as fuck. You know all my shit straight for the clubs. I don’t care about no partying or high intensity. I don’t give a fuck about snapping, none of that.
Play my shit when you’re happy, I love that. I only make music to be happy, nothing else.
What would you say is next for Waka Flocka moving forward?
The only thing next for me, man, is no talking man. Fuck my interviews, fuck ask me questions.
Fuck me talking woke and all this cap shit going on. I’m not trying to act like this, this is who I am, but just watch me work, man. Trust me. That’s all I can tell a nigga, man, trust me. I done watched y’all trust everybody in the world goddamit and make them who they is and these niggas forgot where they came from. They got depressed, suicidal and drug addicted. Or fell in love with something they weren’t supposed to love. Trust the king, man. That’s all I can tell y’all ‘cause I’m about some action. I ain’t gonna lie. I’m all about action right now. I ain’t even got nothing ill to say unless that shit’s fly and it’s genuine. Nigga, I’m ready to work. I’m hungry as a motherfucker. Boy, I ain’t been hungry like this since eating Dollar Menu at McDonalds and they got seven cents on every dollar in tax. I remember that shit like the back of my hand ‘cause I ate it everyday. Everyday.