Waka Flocka ignites crowd at Welcome Back Concert

Waka Flocka Flame headlines the College’s Welcome Back Concert. (Kimberly Ilkowski)

To cap off the first week of the semester, the College was treated to an explosive performance by the “Turn Up God” at the College Union Board’s Welcome Back Concert on Saturday, Jan. 30. Rapper Waka Flocka Flame took the stage in Kendall Hall, commanding the audience with his lyrical finesse, effortless dance moves and charismatic smile.

It was only appropriate that Waka Flocka opened the night with “Wild Out,” a Borgore track from 2013 that highlights the rapper’s beginnings with electronic dance music.

“When I learned electronic music, I wasn’t in America. I was in Europe for… four months listening to, like, deep house, dirty house, Dutch style… that’s how I learned it,” Waka Flocka told The Signal in a pre-show interview. “When I got to America… America was liking the shit Europe was liking five years ago.”

Waka Flocka returned to the U.S. with a new style of music that he learned to blend with the rap technique for which he had become notorious. His first mixtape of 2015, “The Turn Up Godz Tour” with DJ Whoo Kid, showcased his new knack for incorporating electronic elements in his music.

Since that collaboration, Waka Flocka has dropped two more mixtapes — “Salute Me Or Shoot Me 5” in April and “Flockaveli 1.5” in November.

“I feel like mixtapes are albums,” Waka Flocka told The Signal. “At the end of the day, an album… just gets more technical because you gotta go by corporate standards. You gotta prepare for this day, two months down the line, and maybe the music don’t sound the same in two months. So that’s why, in my opinion, people prefer mixtapes — because it’s right then and there. It’s the feeling.”

Waka Flocka also said he enjoys that mixtapes allow him to collaborate more often with other artists, such as his 2012 collaboration with Machine Gun Kelly. The brainchild of that pairing was the fierce track “Wild Boy.”

During that particular song, Waka Flocka jumped off stage to sing, weaving his way up and down the aisles of Kendall Hall for a more intimate performance.

He followed that stunt up with 2010’s “Hard in da Paint” from his first studio album, “Flockaveli.” The track arguably put him on the map and earned him air time on big-name radio stations across the country.

Fans anticipated “Flockaveli 2” to drop in 2013, but when it didn’t, they took to Twitter to demand its release.

Waka Flocka Flame puts on a dynamic show. (Kimberly Ilkowski)

“(When I was in Europe), somebody stole my cameraman’s bag with like 14 videos, both albums — ‘Flockaveli 2’ and the sequel to the album that was gonna drop 45 days after the album, for free,” Waka Flocka told The Signal. “Ended up losing my fucking hard drive. Lost all my music.”

He recovered from the loss of his album by throwing himself into the Aokify America Tour with electronic artist Steve Aoki.

“His dad was, like, Benihana and I see Steve is fucking throwing cakes,” Waka Flocka told The Signal of his tourmate.

Aoki made a name for himself by throwing cakes at concert-goers, a trend he has since reserved for headline shows.

“I saw that and I thought, ‘OK, these are my kind of people,’” Waka Flocka said.

The night wouldn’t have been complete without his most famous track, “No Hands,” during which Waka Flocka grabbed a front row fan’s phone, mid-video recording, and danced around the stage with it. The crowd pulsed under the colorful strobe lights to the beat of the song’s chorus: “Girl the way you movin’ got me in a trance, DJ turn me up, ladies this yo jam…”

Waka Flocka kept the energy up by launching straight into “Round of Applause,” a 2012 track featuring Drake, and he threw it back to 2010 with the hit “Grove St. Party.”

Waka Flocka Flame guides students in a singalong. (Kimberly Ilkowski)

Before he took the stage, Waka Flocka told The Signal that he’d rather be remembered as a real guy than a respectable rapper, and he showed that authentic side of him when he ended the night with the track “How It Feel” from “Flockaveli 1.5.”

“They don’t know how I feel,” he sang, cross-legged on the floor, illuminated only by fans’ cell phone flashlights.

As for how he feels about the College, Waka Flocka made that patently clear in his pre-show interview with The Signal: “I can’t wait to come back.” Until then, students will remember that the Brick Squad and Waka Flocka Flame laid the foundation for an unforgettable semester.

This story originally appeared in The Signal.

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