PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER GABELLO.
In the basement of a tattoo parlor on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, 25-year-old Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame is lying on his side on a long wooden table and getting a tattoo of a pinup girl on the back of his left calf while a TV crew films it. His crew is milling around the room quietly and his mom/manager sits on a couch facing him. Waka Flocka Flame is talking about the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remake while everybody else listens. He is not pleased that Michael Bay is turning the turtles into aliens.
Waka is wearing a black T-shirt with a little red Polo logo on the bottom corner, red low-top Chuck Taylors and True Religion jeans that are rolled up on his leg to accommodate the tattoo he’s getting. As he slides over a little bit to shift his weight, his T-shirt is pulled up and his stomach is exposed. It hangs down a little bit because he’s laying on his side and he has a little bit of a belly, and his mom/manager affectionately jokes that he’s getting fat and he laughs. He pulls his shirt up, which exposes his stomach further, and then looks at his mom and pats his stomach and says, “Should I be embarrassed about my fat stomach?” His mom laughs. He starts rubbing his stomach and grinning: Waka Flocka Flame is an extraordinarily happy guy.
He looks away from his mom and addresses the whole room, laughing: “When girls lay down they wanna rub it! And then you fall asleep!” Everyone in the room laughs, TV crew included, and then he jokes around with his own crew and the tattoo artist and talks about how he once got a tattoo in county jail with a paper clip.
A few minutes later, everyone heads upstairs to the tattoo parlor’s main room and Waka Flocka drops a freestyle, and then a man Waka terms “the homie with the smoke” calls to let Waka know he’s on his way. Then it’s time for our interview.
After we’re done, Waka Flocka Flame picks up his phone and walks outside the tattoo parlor. We follow him out and find him sitting in the back seat of a red Toyota Camry, next to a guy with a Macbook Pro on his lap, with a microphone set up in the middle seat between them. Waka has headphones on and he’s rapping into the microphone in the back seat of the car while his crew stands on the sidewalk and marvels about the mobile recording studio in the car. He looks like he’s having a good time in there.
DAVID SHAPIRO: What’s your middle name?
WAKA FLOCKA FLAME: Why?
SHAPIRO: I looked at your Wikipedia page and it says your name is “Juaquin Bertholimule Malphurs,” and Bertholimule sounds like a middle name so unconventional that it, you know, didn’t sound real.
FLAME: [laughs] What’s it say? Bertholimule? My middle name is James.
FLAME: Ecstasy is like the generic version.
SHAPIRO: Have you recorded a mixtape with Tyler, The Creator?
FLAME: We working… But in secret! It’s a secret!
SHAPIRO: But you are working on it?
FLAME: [laughs] Man, everybody wanna know that shit.
SHAPIRO: What’s your favorite snack food?
FLAME: Potato chips—salt and vinegar… Man, my arms smell like dry bacon! That’s not good. Gotta get some deodorant.
SHAPIRO: Are you a vegetarian now? I saw your ad for PETA. I thought it was touching.
FLAME: Nah, I joined PETA for minks and dogs. I need my beef, my chicken, my seafood.
SHAPIRO: I understand. What would you be doing if you weren’t rapping?
FLAME: What rhymes with rappin’?
SHAPIRO: What do you regret about your career thus far? Is there someone you’ve worked with or something you’ve done that you’d change if you could do it over?
FLAME: I don’t regret nothing.
SHAPIRO: I read a profile of Pitbull in GQ today in which Pitbull says, “Pitbull is a product. Don’t get it fucked up—I’m a businessman. This industry is 90% business, 10% talent. It’s the people who think they’re talented, that their shit don’t stink, who get left behind.” Is Waka Flocka Flame a product?
FLAME: Waka Flocka is a product, a franchise, a brand, a label… And a good guy!
WAKA FLOCKA FLAME WILL BE ON TOUR STARTING MAY 15, AND HIS ALBUM TRIPLE F LIFE IS OUT JUNE 12. FOR MORE ON THE RAPPER, VISIT HIS WEBSITE.