Under Partying With Rappers, Flo Wright reports on backstage encounters with hip hop musicians.
I had been with Waka Flocka Flame for about 30 minutes before he removed the Ziploc bag of weed from his pocket. “Finally,” I say to myself. “Let’s get this Brick Squad party started.”
We’re standing three flights above the stage at Chicago’s Congress Theater on a brisk Sunday evening. It was about 6pm because due to gang threats and a history of violence the concert had to be over by 9:30pm. Perfect for all the kiddies to enjoy a little riot before the school week. But I was here as the guest of a journalist and my goal was to win the title of #NewFriend. If you’ve never seenWakaFlockaBSM on Instagram, he posts almost daily pictures posing with fans captioned with the hashtag NewFriends. If I was going to meet Waka, we had to make our relationship Instagram official.
The interviewer, photographer, Waka and myselfintroduced ourselves and sat down on plush velvet couches and high-backed chairs. Standing at at least 6’5” wearing a Givenchy Rottweiler shirt and a Bulls beanie over long dreads, Waka was an intimidating presence, but friendly vibes filled the air almost as soon as we introduced ourselves. Minutes after we sat down Waka took three hugewads of cash out of his pocket. As the interview went on, Waka counted and re-counted, banded and re-banded his money. It must have been his idea of a stress reliever because he didn’t stop until we stood up, always finding more cash in the endless money pit otherwise known as his pocket. Sliding his fingers across the bills, he happily told us his favorite Waka mixtape (Lebron Flacka James 2), hisupcoming projects (mixtape with Tyler, the Creator coming soon) and his relationship with fellow trap rapper and old friend Gucci Mane (all good, folks).
As it turns out, Waka Flocka Flame is polite, friendly and professional. I might even go as far as calling him a momma’s boy, but in the hour or so we spent together he never mentioned Mizzay.
“I get turnt down before shows,” he admits, only half-joking. It was strange seeing him so calm and serene. Plus, there were no intoxicating substances so far, but I refused to believe that Waka Flocka Flame goes onstage stone cold sober. And then, we finished the interview and moved on to the photoshoot. It’s a good thing he was wearing cargo pants because the extra pockets left just enough room for a bag of weed among the wads of cash.
Waka posed with a blunt in his hand, smoke billowing out of his mouth and a mean mug on his face. But the face was just for show. He gladly passed the blunt along to Matt, the photographer, expecting him to partake. Little did he know this was Matt’s first time ever smoking. Nick, the interviewer, and myself then took our turns. In this circle we became friends, unknowingly watching as Matt lost his weed virginity to Waka in one beautiful moment. But we weren’t #NewFriends, yet.
Waka had to show us his chains first. So he brought us downstairs where the rest of the Brick Squad was pre-gaming with Hennessey and Ciroc. We caught a glimpse ofSouth Side, Brick Squad member and the producer behind “Illest Motherfucker Alive,” but continued straight to the back of the room with Waka, away from the alcohol. He brought out what appeared to be a titanium briefcase. The kind you see in movies where gangsters and mobsters are exchanging large sums of money. These briefcases exist in real life too. And they’re made for holding bling— Lots of it. Waka proudly held up each one, fondly remembering when he bought it and recalling stories from wearing them. He reserved the most time for his rooster — The Rooster to his ‘Rari. They obviously have a special connection. He puts it on, but complains to his manager G-Boy that it’s still broken. He replaces the rooster with his 1017 Brick Squad piece, and in that namesake piece we snap the picture that will officially make us all #NewFriends.
But the pre-show affair isn’t over yet. Dinner arrives and everyone lines up buffet style. We chat with South Side and the Brick Squad as they eat standing up at the pre-concert smorgasbord. But Waka isn’t like Kanye with his five-star dishes and different exotic fishes. He opts for pizza and chicken wings, and as he stands holding pizza in one handand his plate in the other, the cheese slowly slips off the sauce and lands on the floor.
I stare at the cheese for a second, but everyone goes abouthis or her business. I imagine someone from the venue will magically appear for a clean-up, but instead Waka grabs a paper towel, bends his giant frame in half and swipes up the cheese. He wipes the floor one extra time for good measure.
A moment later South Side walks over to me. “I bet you didn’t expect him to do that,” he says. “He’s a neat freak.”