I'll be honest with you: I've been to a lot of pretty terrible shows at 4th & B, the Downtown concert venue that looks like an abandoned warehouse. That said, you gotta give it up to them because, despite past experience, you keep coming back for more abuse, or at least I do. No other venue is as staunchly dedicated to street rap as 4th & B seems to be. Every year without fail, you can count on rappers like E-40, Too $hort, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and DJ Quik to play that venue and many of them may even play there twice in a year. You might see these dudes rocking elsewhere once in a while, but 4th & B has kinda cornered that niche.
This Saturday, 4th & B brings Waka Flocka Flame to the stage. Waka is the Atlanta, Ga. street rapper who almost instantly went from being a nameless thug in mush-mouthed rapper Gucci Mane's Brick Squad clique to being a national star. He did so off the strength of dark, nihilistic anthems like "O Let's Do It" and "Hard in the Paint." Actually, his 2010 debut album, Flockaveli, is almost nothing but nihilistic anthems like these (pop single "No Hands" being the one exception) driven by dense, sonic aggression.
Waka is admittedly a terrible rapper (at one point, he even said he didn't wanna be known as a "lyricist"). But he can ad-lib the crap out of a song. If you remember how Ruff Ryders rapper DMX would bark after every other line, Waka's kinda like that. Except he takes those barks and adds layers upon layers of shouts, screams, and gunshot onomatopoeia to the mix. They combine with producer Lex Luger's thunderous beats to create a thick, unrelenting barrage of sound. And if you think I'm crazy or subconsciously racist for praising a rapper for his ad-libs, you obviously have never driven home from your hateful nine-to-five, bumping "Hard in the Paint" in traffic, screaming "FLOCKA!!!" at the top of your lungs, hoping you scare someone's kid in the car next to you. It's an extremely cathartic feeling.
And Waka's fight music is gonna be at 4th & B (hopefully, with moshpits and without actual fighting). I think this will be his first time at an actual venue in San Diego. The only other times Waka has been here, he's only made short club appearances. They're the sort of situations where you have dress up like a sleazeball trying to pick up drunken girls who are too good for you and then wait in hour-long lines with a bunch of teenagers trying to pass as 18 years old before you get into the club, watch the worst of humanity embody that YOLO life for a couple more hours and finally hear three and a half songs from the rapper you're trying to see. At least at 4th & B, there aren't any lines, you get to see a full set from the headliner and there are chairs so you can sit your ass down before the headliner comes on. It's not my favorite venue in the world (shouts to Porter's Pub) but hey, I'll take it.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog sdRAPS.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.