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Though attendance at Fillmore Silver Spring was close to an optimal sell-out crowd, new school trap rap legend Waka Flocka Flame hit the stage with a classic trapper’s mentality. It was another night in yet another town, and it was his job to prove that he was slinging the illest dope in the global hip-hop community. At the end of the evening, that point was in doubt; however, the crowd in attendance left for the evening in full remembrance of the vitriol and fervor of the Southern trap music legacy.

If this hip-hop sub-genre were a nation, Waka appeared as a venerated ex-president; beloved and well-respected with an undoubted legacy, nothing new replacing the glory of days gone by. With Chicago drill rapper Chief Keef, the resurgent Juicy J, 2012 megastar 2 Chainz all at the forefront of trap’s year in the spotlight, the Brick Squad Mafia lieutenant’s (second in command to Gucci Mane) new material has less impact overall than his new competitors. He’s certainly not the emcee that J or Chainz are, and lacks the complete, youth-driven reckless abandon of Keef. However, in a 90 minute live set, you knew you were in the presence of a legend, a timeless artist who in a few key moments nailed notions that drive the current national zeitgeist.

He hit the stage, on-time, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit. His self-criminalizing act felt more like a prop than a threat, Flame as a play-acting trap god. The most frightening energy of his set? Not from his words about no-good cops, smoking kush  and promising death to all of those who were wack and/or generally not supportive, but rather from the sound of a drum. The go-go derived bounce beat is the most under-publicized of reckless sounds in contemporary hip hop music. It involves a drummer playing simple breaks on a drum kit, live kickdrums and hi-hats replacing the synthetic knock of a hi-hat and 808 programmed on a beat. In the live environment, it takes the turnt up energy of a crowd to an organic space, wilding out having a more primal edge. The addition was unexpected, and for slightly less impacting new tracks like “Rooster in My Rari,” the bounce beat inclusion gave them the something extra needed to elevate them to the level of the top hits performed.

Juicy J’s “Bands a Make Her Dance” works because it’s the most immoral and decadent love song of the year. However, setting the stage for the ex-Three Six Mafia member’s rise to Pantheon-like heights was Waka Flocka’s 2011 hit “No Hands,” and early 2012 smash “Round of Applause.” The visceral notion of an exotic dancer fitting her ample, sensual curves around the lush instrumentation and  thick bass lines make these songs amazing. Breathing life into these tracks is the work of Waka,  and while Wale, Drake, nor even Roscoe Dash were in attendance, the level of debauched excellence these tracks caused was high. Hearing both tracks in concert is to turn an entire venue into an enormous strip club, young women in their best nightclub gear imitating strippers, their inner ids made sentient.

Hearing 2010 anthem “Hard in the Paint” in the live realm is a next level music experience that is the modern hip-hop equivalent of watching the Jimi Hendrix Experience fry minds with “Purple Haze” at the original Fillmore in San Francisco. Apropos to the level of the moment, Waka Flocka Flame took leave from the stage and paraded through the crowd during the song, not so much rapping as he was walking about, vigorously shaking his dreadlocks, engaging his fan base. If you can perform a concert and have a laptop computer filled with drops of your own voice saying your own name, you already know how great you are. Thus, the acting of rapping in the face of the absurdity that already exists might feel like something extra. Furthermore, when you have a drummer beating away at a kit as though it is so many pots and pans, and a rotund DJ wearing approximately $50,000 of platinum jewelry around his neck, it’s a supreme tableau, and speaks volumes by itself.

Falling short of expectation as a trap rapper is like being an alcoholic and losing your house keys at the Samuel Adams factory. While a) you can’t get home, b) there’s all the beer in the world available, so you’re ultimately exactly where you need to be. Waka Flocka Flame has made an entire life of work out of mainstreaming a literally dead end and marginal life. In successfully massaging ids, egos and superegos worldwide, he’s created a space for impossible notions to always have a space in reality. Even if the show isn’t a sell-out and the reaction is underwhelming, Waka’s life is bigger than that moment. In creating an ideal where getting paid to get high, get drunk and make legal trap money is possible, his ignorant and ratchet brilliance are the stuff iconic dreams are made of.

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