As Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame neared the end of his hour long set on Wednesday night at Cat’s Cradle — the third and final of a three night string of sold out shows in Carrboro — he took upwards of 10 iPhones from the extended hands of eager concertgoers and briefly recorded himself and the crowd for the fans’ Snapchats.
He rapped into the mic while the crowd screamed in approval; several times, the snippet of video seemed to take precedence over the performance as Waka forwent rapping in favor of recording himself.
The interaction captured the essence of the night. To his credit, Waka knows his audience, who emphatically confirmed when asked at the beginning of his set that they were, in fact, in attendance to party. The music often came second.
DJ duo Styles & Complete established this tone, opening up the night with, quite frankly, the most eclectic and confusing setlist I’ve ever heard at a concert.
The two men hopped around the stage, danced, turned knobs, and coaxed the willing audience into jumping on command as they played their own remixes of everything from Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” as well as a litany of contemporary hits such as Travi$ Scott’s “Antidote.”
As DJ’s sampling another DJ (amongst other artists), the two did little to refute the characterization of their genre as one largely dependent on recycling. But the pair certainly served their purpose — to get the steadily filling Cradle energized for the main course that followed. If a concert can be analogized as a meal consisting of different flavors designed to give the listener a holistic, nutritious musical experience, Styles & Complete are the equivalent of downing three 5-hour ENERGY drinks — not necessarily the tastiest or healthiest option, but it certainly does the trick.
After an hourlong set from Styles & Complete, Waka — accompanied by his DJ, an older gentleman who simply sat in the corner of the stage and several other men who spent most of the show Snapchatting, catching bras, and dancing — took to the stage, opening with crowd pleaser “No Hands.”
The song garnered the most positive crowd reaction of the night, but highlighted the disparity between his few hits and the rest of his catalog. With the exception of well known songs such as “Hard in da Paint” and “Round of Applause,” crowd reaction was limited and lulled noticeably when the hits weren’t being played. It seemed many purchased their tickets primarily to turn up, with the added bonus of hearing a couple of songs they recognized.
I don’t mean to discredit the presence of true Flockavellian faithfuls — certainly, there were those in the crowd who knew every song. Still, Waka was at almost all times supported by pre-recorded tracks of his and other verses, and chimed in at his own discretion when he wasn’t making faces at the crowd, manning the turntables, or whipping his dreadlocks about.
Waka Flocka Flame knows how to have a good time, and embraces the hedonistic character he has developed over the years working stages. But rap seems to be moving along without the Atlanta MC. Whether one follows the diverging paths of rappers like Kendrick Lamar, who continues to experiment and push the genre to new limits, or Future, who simply throws a bigger and better party, Waka will almost certainly remain in the rearview mirror, jumping around and yelling “brick squad” into the void.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.