Rap’s new anti-hero: unhinged, brutal and intense
The man first spotted leering wild-eyed and bloodshot from the shadows in Gucci Mane’s ‘trap’ (aka crack factory) YouTube videos has somehow emerged as the trail-blazing anti-hero of the Deep South rap culture. How’s that then? Well, there was the smelling-salt effect of lead single ‘O Let’s Do It’. L-Don Beatz’ skeletal, malevolent sonics – which recall the brash, frill-free sound of heyday grime, powered by propeller hi-hats and black-hole snares – felt like they’d been waiting all their life for Waka’s regressive mumble.
It’s in the words and the delivery of a man for whom rapping was initially a pretty tentative concern amid a backdrop of morbid mayhem, or “drug dealin’ music, ay I influence,” as he ‘explains’. His lack of vocabulary and callous disregard for the parameters of traditional songwriting were instantly his greatest asset; he embodies gangsta rap’s distilled extremities.
His much lampooned ad libs, mostly comprising erratic rearrangements of his own name, lend a genuinely unhinged, brawling quality to everything he does. When he uses actual words, they resonate with a puncturing sense of directness and hyper-reality, underpinned by a thread of reckless black humour. “One shot, man down, his brains go ka-pow/Ow, that shit hurt, so don’t fuck around” he hisses with bloodcurdling frankness.
“Ever since they killed my nigga Travis/Start poppin’ pills and actin’ crazy” he repeats, in a deranged but revealing survivalist mantra. Although the giddy haunted-club charm of token stab at commerciality ‘No Hands’ may have shifted most units, it’s far from Waka’s definitive work.
In an era where hip-hop’s undercurrent is resculpting a bleak new landscape of oblivion, the likes of trigger-pulling tribute ‘Bustin At Em’ and ultimate calling card ‘Hard In Da Paint’ recall a ‘…Teen Spirit’-style ignition point for ‘trap-rap’. Assembled by the album’s main beat-peddling prodigy, Lex Luger, they showcase a masterclass in reductionism; juggernauts of hulking, bruising, brick-to-skull intensity.