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Photos by Jason Jiron
Waka Flocka Flame didn’t want to be a rapper when he grew up. He didn’t want to write hit songs, perform in front of thousands of people at packed clubs or hear his songs played on radio stations across the country. But more than a year after bursting onto the
scene with his debut single, “O Let’s Do It,” the Atlanta rapper has managed to make more of an impact on the music industry than most rappers who have spent their entire lives trying to do it. And thanks to an influential cosign from fellow ATLien Gucci Mane, and a string of chart-topping singles, including the remix to “O Let’s Do It,” featuring Rick Ross and Diddy, and his latest hit, “Hard In Da Paint,” it doesn’t look like Waka Flocka is ready to quit rapping anytime soon.
Born Juaquin Malphurs in Queens, N.Y., Waka Flocka certainly had all the connections to forge into music at a young age. He grew up around the corner from Murda Inc. recording artist Ja Rule, lived near LL Cool J’s grandmother and even had a cousin who used to hang around the popular group Lost Boyz in the mid-1990s. But when his mother Debra Mizay—now the CEO of artist management group Mizay Entertainment—relocated the family to Riverdale, Georgia when Waka was 11, he shied away from music and instead focused on his love for basketball. And after his youngest brother died in automobile accident when Waka was just 14, he moved even further away from it, instead opting to spend his time running the streets of Atlanta with his friends.
“I never dreamed I would be doing what I’m doing today,” says Waka, who earned his unique nickname from a cousin when he was younger while they were watching an episode of Jim Henson’s classic puppet show, The Muppet Show (he later added the “Flocka Flame” to the end of it at the suggestion of Gucci Mane). “I never imagined I’d become a rapper, let alone a successful rapper.”