The first thing you’ll notice about Waka Flocka Flame’s DuFlocka Rant 2 (besides the stunning, syrup-rave lurch production), is how often other rappers steal the tape out from under him. Lil Wayne, who has been flopping around for years now, gets witty again on “Stay Hood,” threatening to “beat yo’ ass with [his] skateboard.” That’s him straight-up owning his mall-prick douchebaggery, and turning a supposed negative — just like say, being a martian or a weedhead — into a positive. Young Scooter continues working every nook and cranny of his “I sell a lot of coke and it is awesome but sometimes it is a bummer” fantasy ride on “Murda She Wrote.” And the inclusion of Young Thug, a generically named, Hot Topic-sporting, melodically mature croon-rapper who should be bigger on “Fell,” is a vital sprucing up of Brick Squad’s aggro-trap fun.
Guests usurping the featured artist, who is now famous, fat, and comfortable, is the normal progression of events in hip-hop. You blow up and then become more like a conduit for other MCs to do their thing. Rap-game rich guy hosting a party and hovering around in the background just happy everyone else is having such a good time. The big-deal rapper as curatorial force. Wisely, Waka doesn’t coast. He doesn’t try to complete with other rappers’ versatility (a decision that marred moments of Triple F), he uses his voice as a vehicle for urgency and rage. Check out “Fast-Forward,” an almost double-time, mealy-mouthed rant that finds Waka hoarse and pained, like he’s been up all night, upset. It’s the most effective and moving use of vocal grit and “Really, this is the take they used?”-intensity on a rap song since Heems’ “NYC Cops.”
At other times, Waka’s rapping his ass off, or at the very least, doing all the right things with his voice to make it sound like he’s rapping his ass off, which is pretty much the same thing. It’s his “Foreign Shit” voice, for a whole tape. He sounds alive and hungry. “Blowing money like a drug dealer/ You doing shit I did last year / I running circles around you fuck niggas” from “Fast Forward” is a Lou Reed “My week beats your year” moment. Somewhere, a college student better be writing a paper about Waka shouting “Smart black man, no Willie Lynches” on “Real Recognize Real.” That line seems as important as, “Ever since they killed my nigga Trav, I been poppin’ pills and acting crazy,” in terms of putting a more “significant” frame around Waka’s thrilling, rudimentary rage-out raps.
Still Waka’s strength is declarative, surprisingly emotive explosions of feeling, more like a hardcore singer than a rapper: “Keep it real until I die” (“Can’t Do Golds”); “Where I’m from, we don’t brag if we catch a body, nigga, that’s just life.” (“Bad Decision”). And on “Anything But Broke,” this devastating bit of pulp-rap poetry: “Them fuck boys know, ain’t no ends over here / We’re gonna fight and fuck and shoot until our souls disappear.” Consider just how bleak that is. I fear this type of praise threatens to resurrect the big dumb Chief Keef debate, but the idea that it’s problematic for a rapper to contexualize and wail about the violence that surrounds them is nuts. Let’s at least save that argument for Flockaveli 2.