Waka Flocka Raves on 4/20 in NYC

Many rappers proclaim their love of cannabis, but there are a few who truly stand above and beyond the norm for not only their love of weed, but of the whole turn up lifestyle. Waka Flocka is a rapper who, after scoring a hit with “Grove Street Party” focused his whole career on making music people can, well, party to. He even endorsed a line of cough drops specifically for weed heads. These factors, plus his amazing dreadlocks, make him the perfect person for me to celebrate 420 with.

It seemed like the perfect storm – a turnt up rapper, a solid DJ, and lots of blunts – all at a venue within walking distance from my office. It gathered a few of my friends and dove headfirst into the party. My excitement was amplified by Waka’s surprise announcement earlier that day that he is running for president. While we didn’t get a campaign speech that night, we did get a whole lot of celebration.

DJ Whoo Kid is assisting Waka on the tour, appropriately named the TurnUp Godz tour. Whoo Kid’s trademark is to play around 20 seconds of a hot song, and then jump right into the next one. This may sound maddening (and sometimes it is) but for the masses of 18-year-old ADD bro’s in the crowd, the tactic paid off. People were jumping around, vibing, and of course smoking, well before Waka hit the stage.

When he did emerge, the stage presence is undeniable. Waka is 6’3 with a giant head of dreadlocks he whips around like he is Willow Smith. His size and scale don’t stop him from running out on stage to get things going with the anthem “Hard in the Paint”, from the trap-classic Flockavelli.

At this point, my inner hip hop head was praying he would just go ahead and play Flockavelli front to back. Alas, it was not to be. But what happened was a lot more interesting.

After the first song, a crowd of about ten dudes attired in various combinations of black t-shirts, leather, and gold chains came onstage to bring the party energy up. They had water bottles to douse the crowd with (I was splashed several times) and were smoking blunts, which they kindly passed into the audience. Obviously, smoking is not an issue with the Webster Hall staff (I had a joint taken by security at the door, but I guess that was a miscommunication).

The first 3-4 songs were a combination of Waka’s hits and street anthems and popular mixtape cuts – “Grove Street Party”, “Bustin at Em” and “No Hands” all got me and the rest of the venue dancing all up on each other, with me and my crew rapping along every word. The weed smoke in the air certainly added to the house party vibe. However, Waka was spending most of his energy jumping and turning up the crowd – not rapping. He was his best hypeman, hosting and chiming in with live vocals over his backing track. While I usually hate when rappers just rap over their vocals, Waka’s energy pulled me along and made it work.

Then, one of the hype dudes started rapping some song – I was pretty high at this point and don’t remember specifics, but it seemed dope. While that happened, Waka disappeared. No one noticed because of 1) weed and 2) weed smoke, but Whoo Kid seamless went into a set of all the top hits. Drake, Wayne, and Kanye all got played. Just as I began to wonder “Where is Waka?”, Whoo Kid got on the mic to ask the same questions.

“I’m getting shots man!” said a disembodied Waka voice. And there he was, as the back of the bar taking shots with fans. The DJ dropped “Grove Street” again, and Waka started to make his way back up to the stage turning up with fans the whole way. A mosh pit surrounded him as he moved, and when he finally came to my section, I could see the pure joy on the faces of fans who were moshing and singing by Waka. After he passed me to get on stage one girl was crying “I touched Waka!” Turnup God indeed.

Once onstage, the show took a turn. He started with his remix of Turn Down for What, which Dj Whoo Kid let fly off into EDM territory. Then, the lights dimmed way down. “Let’s turn this into a rave!” demanded Waka. Pulsing EDM remixing – some good and some not so good – filled the room for around the next 20 min. With each drop, the audience got crazier and crazier.

Waka moved in and out of the crowd during the rave portion, smoking blunts and partying. Fans didn’t seem to care that genres were being smashed – this is what them came for. Then he started sampling blunts. “Who can roll?” he asked, hitting blunts passed up from the crowd. He judged each one with an air akin to a sommelier, and then called up the few best rollers on stage to party with him for the last few songs

Waka was turning up hard for almost 2 hours – longer than I’ve ever seen any rapper perform. By the time he ended with “For my Dawgs” (a street hip hop banger if there ever was one), everyone was sweating out weed smoke – exactly how it should be on 4/20.

Some hip hop purists might bemoan the lack of live rapping or the move toward an EDM style show. Some might think it was gimmicky, walking through the crowd. But if you were there, or at any Waka Flocka show, you have to admit, it was fun. And isn’t that why we go to shows? Technical prowess is great, but honestly I would rather rave and mosh than head nod to lyrical complexity for an hour. Especially on a holiday.