Over the course of just a few short months in 2010, 19-year-old producer Lex Luger reshaped the sound of street rap with his fulminating, city-quaking beats, and no album better captured that zeitgeist than Waka Flocka Flame’s debut Flockaveli. In Luger’s brute, no-nuance bangers, Gucci Mane’s loudest protégé found the perfect vehicle for his own brusque delivery, a savage bark that had previously seemed like an unfeasible commercial proposition. With his coarse charisma, Flocka has settled into fame so comfortably it’s easy to forget that his crossover was never guaranteed. It was Luger who introduced him to the lane that let him capitalize on his ingratiating goon act.
On Flocka’s follow-up Triple F Life: Friends, Fans, And Family, that lane begins to feel awfully narrow. Just two years after its debut, the Luger sound has been nearly exhausted, not only by a rap scene that never encountered a hot trend it couldn’t copy to death, but by Luger himself, who has continued to flood the market with interchangeable beats that rarely build on the spark of his breakthrough productions. That’s a problem for Flocka, who’s never been known for his range. Triple F Life makes just two attempts to take the rapper out of his wheelhouse, and they’re both messes. With its strobing synths, Auto-Tuned chorus, and drop-ins from Top-40 regulars Nicki Minaj, Tyga, and Flo Rida, the shameless “Get Low” panders enough for three pop-rap singles. The album’s half-sung outro track, meanwhile, is a bungled attempt at introspection that strives for Tupac but ends up more like Biz Markie.
Mostly Triple F Life sticks to the familiar neo-crunk of Flockaveli, with production handled primarily by Luger and his near sound-alike Southside, whose slightly slower beats lack the cathartic release of Luger’s best ones. What Triple F Life lacks in inspiration, it can sometimes compensate for with sheer sweat, and particularly during its many strip-club salvos, Flocka’s shouted enthusiasm and manic ad-libs keep the record animated. If there’s still life in this sound, though, it’s only because Flocka shocks it with a defibrillator every 10 seconds, a strategy that just barely carries him through this sophomore album, but won’t sustain him in the long run.