The Waka Flocka Flame concert last Thursday marked the culmination of the attempts of All Campus Entertainment (ACE) to satisfy the need for a Spring Fling headlining concert. Following the news that the originally planned performer had “Chance-eled” at the last minute, the prospect of having a notable musician for Spring Fling seemed impossible. Logistics alone dictated that bringing a well-known performer to Williamstown on such short notice was unlikely, and yet here I stand in breathless admiration of ACE, because this week I was given free admission to a Waka Flocka concert – and it was everything I had hoped for.
The announcement of Waka Flocka as the replacement artist was met with backlash from the student body regarding the content of Waka Flocka’s lyrics: some claimed that his songs contained homophobic slurs or advocated for the degradation of women. Despite the aforementioned concerns about the content of Waka’s songs, attendance was adequate. An enthusiastic, if small audience occupied the rather under-capacity Lasell for the event. If anything, the limitless energy of the frenzied crowd more than made up for the lower attendance The wide range in crowd density allowed those who wanted to bask in the complete “Waka” experience to swarm closer to the stage, while more tentative concert-goers had room to breathe near the perimeter. The presence of a stage was impressive, appropriate for a sponsored event more high-profile than the usual First Fridays.
Kyle, a California-based rapper, opened the show, though his inflatable palm-tree and sky-blue set would have been far better suited to antecede Chance the Rapper’s laid-back and drawling style over Waka’s thumping and bellowing one. Despite this jarring disparity between moods, Kyle managed to provide the concert with a captivating opening act.
Waka’s performance can be described less as an organized concert and more of an exuberant performer-to-audience exchange. Despite a sleepy uniform of a white tank top and pajama bottoms, Waka was nevertheless an energetic performer; granted, he was only actually performing for about a third of the show. Surely, the act started off with thumping renditions of quite a few of his best-known songs, including “No Hands,” “Round of Applause” and “Hard in Da Paint.” As the concert progressed, however, Waka chose to spend more time interacting with the crowd than rapping his own lyrics.
Perhaps used to a more animated crowd, he repeatedly urged the audience to “turn up,” and the congregation responded positively, encouraged by the bone-rattling thump of the bass. Furthermore, the concert reached a climax when Waka left the stage to mingle with the gallery, proclaiming zealously that he was “coming down there,” because there was “no security on the floor,” giving a large population of the audience a chance to make physical contact with the Billboard 100 artist. The line between
artist and audience blurred even further when Waka invited students onto the stage to dance alongside him, and inspired the audience to reach into their depths of inner-Waka by holding the mic out in front of him, prompting people to chant lyrics they weren’t even consciously aware they knew. After this point, Waka’s DJ dominated much of the actual music in the hour-long show, playing his own beats while Waka came and went offstage as he pleased.
One takeaway we can draw from his show was the tremendous role that production plays in creating a good hip-hop album, as his staff carried much of the weight Thursday night. This is not to say that the artist’s actual music played no role in the performance: Waka did give his all on a few verses, including a particularly impressive freestyle that was met with a delighted response from the crowd. The delivery of such a spirited performance is to be applauded; the spurts of effort from the rapper were entertaining and well delivered. Certainly Waka’s style of rap is jarring and boisterous, and his show very much reflected this general attitude. On some level, his general unintelligibility dampened concerns about his lyrical content: one would have been hard-pressed to find any concert-goer who could claim to discern any specific lyric.
By and large, Waka expressed only gratitude for our support, despite some apparent confusion about whether he was in Albany or Boston before he finally managed to successfully address the crowd as “Williams College.” All in all, Waka Flocka’s performance provided the campus with an intriguing and earnest, if not particularly reputable change of pace on what otherwise would have just been another Thursday night.