Waka Flocka Flame closed his show at Mandel Hall on Friday by remarking, “There’s some beautiful people in this audience.” This was a change from his mood at the beginning of the concert—after his first song, he paused to remark that security was too tight. He then jumped in the audience, causing a rush to the area by the stage that had previously been blocked off after a certain number of students were allowed in. Waka Flocka is known for rowdy concerts, and this show was as close as a crowd of UChicago students could get to that.
Aside from jumping into the crowd, Waka Flocka also snuck offstage and reappeared at the back of the auditorium (accompanied by the DJ asking, “Where’s Flocka?”). This was as effective at energizing a room full of youths as the game adults play with small children where they pretend they can’t find them, finally bemusedly remarking, “There you are.” Which is to say, very effective. On the whole, the rapper’s stage presence was tangibly uplifting, despite an overwhelming (but enthusiastic) crowd.
Recently, the rapper, known for trap bangers, has hinted at a change of direction, if his Twitter is to be believed. He did not comment on this at the show, but he did change pace for a moment to ask if the audience had soul, and proceeded to play “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” If the fact that this song was as well received as Waka Flocka’s own discography is any indication, they did have soul, or at least a baseline knowledge of the hits of the last century. Perhaps this song was a hint at his new direction, perhaps just an acknowledgement that most of the audience was only there to hear “No Hands,” “Hard in da Paint,” and “Grove St. Party.”
Aside from a large portion of the crowd that most likely attended to hear Waka Flocka’s most famous songs and see the show, there seemed to be a lot of real fans in attendance—especially members of the MAB board who joined the rapper on stage for a few tracks, and two brave non–MAB-affiliated students who somehow made their way on stage and danced solo for a few minutes.
As for the rapper’s actual performance, it did not disappoint. He appeared to be unaccompanied other than the choruses of a few songs, which is unfortunately not to be counted on these days. He even, in a refreshingly candid moment, freestyled, poignantly recounting seeing his brother shot and other low moments in his life before fame, which painted a stark contrast to the cushy university setting. Between this, the aforementioned hits and (relatively) lesser known songs like “O Let’s Do It,” all of Waka Flocka’s set held up quite well, signaling that he might have been ahead of his time, having released many of his most famous tracks almost a decade ago. However, he continues to innovate—he is set to release his next album, Flockaveli 2, which will be produced by Zaytoven and 808 Mafia’s Southside.