Rapper Becomes A More Visible Presence on 'Triple F Life'
Waka Flocka Flame 's 2010 debut album, "Flockaveli," was filled with muscular production, fiery rhymes and stupefying yet catchy-as-hell hooks (sample chorus: "Pow, pow, pow, pow/Bitch, I'm bustin' at 'em!"). For the much-anticipated follow-up, did the rapper make a point to hone his lyrical craft?
"If you're looking for lyrics, throw it out the window. Go throw on 'Watch the Throne,'" Waka Flocka Flame (real name: Juaquin Malphurs) says of his sophomore release, "Triple F Life: Friends, Fans and Family," out Tuesday (June 12) on Brick Squad/Warner Bros. Instead, the Atlanta native says he wanted his new album to declare, "I'm still the king of the clubs, still the king of the singles, Mr. 808." Case in point: Early single "Round of Applause," featuring an equally buoyant Drake , is built around the line "Round of applause, baby, make that ass clap!" and has sold 304,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Dismissing complex lyrics in favor of adrenaline shots and ad-libs has worked for Waka Flocka Flame before-after all, cacophonous anthems like "No Hands" (2.8 million downloads) and "Hard in Da Paint" (432,000) helped "Flockaveli" score a surprising No. 6 bow on the Billboard 200 in October 2010. The rapper, meanwhile, quickly transitioned from a protégé of Atlanta MC Gucci Mane  to a star in his own right.
With "Triple F Life," the challenge was fleshing out a rising star whose anthems had made him fairly anonymous by design. "He had these huge records, but there was still a disconnect," Warner Bros. Records senior VP of marketing Ashaunna Ayars says.
Waka Flocka Flame started the transition by stepping out of the shadow of mentor Mane, who gave Waka his start in the So Icey rap crew. After the two released joint album "Ferrari Boyz" last August, Waka founded Brick Squad Monopoly, a Warner imprint that includes Wooh Da Kid and YG Hootie, and which exists separately from Mane's 1017 Brick Squad label. "He's going that way in his career, I'm going this way in my career," Waka says of Mane. "We're still cool, but it's on to being my own man and making my own mark."
The next step was raising Waka's visibility. After the rapper started recording "Triple F Life" last December, an intense round of early promotion began, with a clip for "Round of Applause" released in February, and press days that stacked 10 interviews daily in March. For Waka, who previously wasn't interested in giving interviews, it was a real change. Now he was embracing the jaunts with journalists, several months before his album's release date. "I want to be more into the process -- eat, sleep, shit, breathe music," the rapper says.
Meanwhile, Ayars says Warner's marketing strategy was "not to limit" Waka Flocka Flame, and capitalize on any crossover potential he displayed when "No Hands" (featuring Wale and Roscoe Dash) climbed to No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 2011. "Triple F Life" includes more thrilling but senseless bangers like "Let Dem Guns Blam" and "Rooster in My Rari," along with some pop-leaning collaborations with Nicki Minaj , Flo Rida  and B.o.B . Current single "I Don't Really Care" sports an indelible hook from Trey Songz  and has sold 203,000, according to SoundScan.
More new tracks have been unveiled on Drake's Club Paradise tour, a 27-city trek that shuffled Waka, Meek Mill , J. Cole , 2 Chainz  and French Montana  as openers. The rapper says the tour - which kicked off May 7 and wraps June 17 - was simply the result of good friends wanting to hit the road together. Though Waka established himself as a headlining artist last year, the decision to support Drake had ulterior motives.
"A Drake audience is very diverse," Ayars says. "It's not just urban, it's not general market, it's a little bit of everything-and we felt like that is the same type of audience we want for Waka." Once the tour ends, the rapper's team will eye summer tour opportunities, including festival slots and the international market.
The promotional blitz is far from over: In-stores are scheduled for this week, along with spots on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," "106 & Park" and "ESPN First Take." Despite the swelling profile and hectic schedule, Waka still turns to his mother, Debra Antney, to manage his career and keep him grounded. "To watch him grow -- as a man, as a CEO, as an entrepreneur with his own label," she says, "is a real proud moment."
- The Juice