TBTS Guilty Pleasures: Why I Shouldn’t Like Waka Flocka Flame’s “No Hands”…and Why I Do
If you have listened to any mainstream rap/hip-hop/R&B station in the last two years—and I’m not assuming you have—you have heard “No Hands” by Waka Flocka Flame (yes, his chosen stage name). Though you probably can’t conjure it up dry, you’d recognize it if you heard a snippet. It of course feat. some friends, Roscoe Dash and Wale, and is a pretty typical paean to money, fame, and women, and the rapper’s ability to amass lots of all of them. It’s a song that I should strongly dislike because of its lack of originality, superficiality, and sexual objectification of women.
But I don’t dislike it. I love it. As in, I get pissed off if I can’t hear it when it starts playing in a bar, more often than not because I played it. I’ll move to a quieter corner, away from my friends, away from more booze, away from fun, so that I can hear it. I’m not proud of this, but since I have fully embraced my love of shitty music, I am not ashamed of it either.
The other day I began to examine why I like “No Hands” so much, if on paper I should hate everything about it, and similar songs elicit a loud “No!” and quick station-change. A lot of circumstances surrounding the song make it fun, like the name of the album, Flockaveli, which is so derivative (Makaveli, et al) that it’s kind of cute. Also, when I first heard “No Hands,” I couldn’t make out the chorus. My wife was riding in the car with me, so I asked her if she could understand the words because she’s like freaking Bones when it comes to deciphering song lyrics. (This is before we had Soundhound.) She was hunched over my tinny 3-inch door speakers, brow furrowed, deliberately and methodically piecing together, “Girl…drop it to the floor (well, flo’)…I love the way…your booty go?”
That can’t be all of it, though, because the song itself is pretty lackluster: instrumentation that could have been produced on a Casio PT-82 keyboard (remember? the keyboard that is the reason you know that one song is called “Greensleeves”?), cluttered and nearly unintelligible lyrics, etc. Then I realized that I was subconsciously associating this song with one I heard as a kid, “CussWords” by Too $hort. The two songs share an anthemic feel, with a minor-key melody that builds and builds with the addition of high-end “horns” and thumping percussion. Also, as you might deduce from the title, “CussWords” was rife with cuss words, so many in fact that the “clean” version of the CD doesn’t even include the song. As a 13-year-old boy, this was so funny that my friends and I would listen to it several times in a row, laughing with the same intensity every time. “CussWords” is actually pretty terrible and misogynistic, but I didn’t really get that at the time. I guess the fond, if misplaced, feelings I had for it carried forward.
For some reason, though, my guiltiest and silliest pleasure in “No Hands” is a line near the end:
It’s a baller like I’m comin’ off a free throw, shook yo head in the game no cheat codes
Lambo Roscoe no street code ’cause yo booty go me lost like Nemo
Yo booty got me lost like Nemo…damn. I imagine a renowned philosopher, a confident but rakish Renaissance man, studying the Platonic ideals, basing his incorrigible propositions on the stark and inviolable line between the real and the perfect. He travels through each day with the certitude of the thinker who believes he has turned every rhetorical stone, patched every logical hole, parried every ruminative riposte. But one day, as he digests Kant and a muffin at his local coffeehouse, he glances up and sees the unattainable—no, the impossible!—the perfect booty. In an instant, two worlds run together, and the ideal has become real. His reality is shattered. He spends the rest of his days in a small, sparsely furnished flat, scribbling brilliant but disjointed thoughts in a tattered notebook, aimlessly wandering the gaslit cobblestone streets at night, his face looking even more gaunt under the lambent glow of the streetlights, searching for just one more glimpse of that perfect booty…
I realize that my love for “No Hands” is wrong, my justifications feeble. I do not invite, but I do accept, your opprobrium, scorn, and contempt. I ask only that you attempt to understand, my friend, as one day you may be on the other end.