There aren’t too many sure things in this world, but here’s one of them: If Waka Flocka Flame records a song called “Randy Savage,” in which he and various other rappers scream professional wrestlers’ names and yell the word “flex” a lot, I am going to love it. This song has a target audience of approximately one, and I am that one. I’m sorry. There’s just no helping it. You can’t expect me to maintain any semblance of critical distance when Wooh Da Kid is in there rhyming “Uuuundertaker!” with “fuuuuck a hater!” It’s not happening. This thing simultaneously mashes on so many of my pleasure centers that I become a catatonic zombie, wandering around and muttering to myself, “Call me Lex Luger! I got torture racks!”
But as much as it pains me, let’s put aside “Randy Savage” for now. For a minute there, some of us were worried about Waka Flocka Flame. Flocka had come into the game ranting about exposed brain-tissue over beats that sounded like guitar-free Ministry and bringing levels of anger and chaos that had gone missing from rap music as it continued on toward upward mobility and became dependent on corporate sponsorship. His arrival was like the return of all the repressed pain that birthed so much of the music in the first place. Amazingly, he managed to keep that same exploding-grenade vitality on his official debut, Flockaveli, still one of the most undiluted pieces of crunked-up angst to get a major-label release in years. But then Flocka got really famous, and seemed to enjoy the experience. He started showing up in PETA ads, taking bookings at fashion shows. He started seeming like a happy and well-adjusted individual, which is great for him but not necessarily great for his music. And then he released this summer’s sophomore LP Triple F Life, a decent-enough album that suffered greatly from attempts at EDM-pop and Flo Rida appearances. But now here’s Salute Me Or Shoot Me 4, Flocka’s umpteen billionth mixtape but his first since Triple F Life. And it’s a welcome indication that the Flocka we knew is still alive, even if his soul doesn’t burst with hate the way it once did.
For the most part, the Flocka of Salute Me Or Shoot Me 4 is more likely to rap about being drunk and rich than he is to rap about shooting you, though there’s still plenty of that. And he’s rapping over tracks from unknowns like Sizzle and TM88, not past frequent collaborators like Southside and Lex Luger (the producer this time, not the wrestler). He devotes one entire song to ecstasy, and a few of the beats at least nod toward the EDM sounds that he experimented with more brazenly on Triple F Life. There’s a line about all the frat boys fist-pumping the second he walks into the club, which is a hilarious and probably also accurate image. But this is still fundamental Flocka. Even with increased BPMs, the end result is still a bludgeoning, overwhelming hour of scream-rap, Flocka carpet-bombing every single track with uncontainable energy. And even if the tape doesn’t have the grim power of Flockaveli, it’s still an artifact from someone who has seriously started to enjoy the spoils of his success, and that’s infectious. For maybe the first time ever, the Flocka we hear here is one who’d probably be great to hang out with for a night.
Flocka turns serious and thoughtful exactly once on the tape, on the closing track “Realest Shit I Wrote,” which is all emo sentiment and goopy late-period Eminem melody. And even there, when he’s not lamenting the plight of his old neighborhood or the childhood friends now hooked on coke, he’s still praying not to go broke or yelling, “Damn right I’m country, nigga!” Even when he’s turning introspective, he’s still fun.
But even if this tape was like 19 tracks of Tyga collabs and “Randy Savage,” it’s still probably win Mixtape Of The Week. Seriously. “Smell what the Rock is cooking? Now that’s straight-up base!”
Download Salute Me Or Shoot Me 4 for free here.