The Story of Wakai (as of today)
Thrifting and digging for records on Hollywood Blvd, Baton Rouge rapper Wakai let us in on some behind the scenes to his sophomore album, Some People Scream, Some People Talk.
*All photos by Tania Rangel*
In 2018, Waiki and his friends visited Los Angeles “broke and wide-eyed.” They came for no specific reason, but that changed quickly. An LA friend who goes by the name Jarvis, described as “that guy who could somehow make things happen,” made magic happen for Wakai and his collective on their short visit. “Imagine you just sitting in a room and then someone's like, ‘Hey we about to go to Oakland. We about to perform’ … I'm like, word! Y'all don’t know no details.”
The group took their sprinter up to Complex Oakland to open up for Robb Banks. They really only had the six hour drive to let it sit that they were about to put on a performance, without even a rehearsal. On top of not having rehearsal time, they were running late which nearly got their gig canceled. However, Jarvis came to save the day once again.
“I know he was using a gift for gab… He's talking to the dudes like just like nah, like, we didn't drive all the way over here.” They went on to perform three songs as their time got cut short. “The crowd was fucking with us. None of this was rehearsed because we didn't know we was about to have a show.”
Fast forward five years, it all came full circle at his album release party in July, hosted and packed out at the iconic Grandmaster Recorders, a studio home to legends such as David Bowie, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, and more.
“I didn't know how iconic the spot was. Some of my managers were telling me… They recorded some Kanye shit there… It was like a very notable place… Thanks to the label. I was grateful.”
For Wakai, Some People Scream, Some People Talk serves as an embodiment of vulnerability in Black men and encourages them to embrace it. “When you're vulnerable you don't think about what you're saying, you're just expressing yourself… I feel like you let go of that energy once you speak it.” He admits that writing music has allowed him to practice his vulnerability. “I mean, honestly, I think I got better with it from making so many songs, like, recording became therapeutic for me. It’s definitely like having free therapy sessions.”
The title of the album perfectly reflects how understanding Wakai is of what it means to be vulnerable and how we project that feeling in different ways. “I know it's harder for some people to be able to articulate themselves… but I practice it so much. It’s damn near like a trait to the point where it's the relationship with myself that I practice.”
Through his experimental, psychedelic, jazz sound, Wakai walks us through his moments of vulnerability. On the track “Nature Sings,” he touches on breaking generational trauma. “All this aggression won’t ever make me a man. It’s the last call. Not for alcohol, just the trauma involved.” He also mentions his relationship with his father and how he is a mirror of him. “Checking on pops just really praying he straight. I’m a reflection of him curving a cycle of pain”
Although Wakai appreciates a good head nodding banger, he says you truly reach someone when they are able to close their eyes and feel something through the music. When I asked him what track off the new album successfully accomplishes that, he immediately said all of them. However, if he had to pick one it would have to be “Stevie & Sanford,” which unfortunately had its beat stems stolen.
Kirti Pandey, who produced the song and executively produced the entire album, was on the train traveling from New York to Virginia and forgot his bag. When he returned to check if it was still there, he came to find out that they had stolen his SP 404 Sampler and the hard drive, but left his laptop. Unfortunately, a lot of rough mixes that were on the drive could not be redone.
Wakai likes to remain organic when it comes down to putting stuff out into the world. He believes that some work cannot be redone when it comes to tone and emotion. “Some people are gifted at doing that… I can’t recreate myself waking up at 8:30 a.m. and tapping bro to make a song in Brooklyn.” He says that the same tone is simply not there as it once was.
Wakai made sure there was intention even when it came to picking an album cover. He appears looking over the Malibu waters through a tire tied with a rope. “It was near Malibu, and it was like they had like this little overpass and we put the tire over. We took a rope and I had to swim in the water and jump through the tire. Then I was just positioning myself… I bruised my rib cage taking that photo, oh my gosh. It took a minute.” Although they had hired a professional photographer, the label decided to go with the shot taken on Iphone by his manager Nick Coleman
As for what’s next, Wakai says a tour is in the works. In the meanwhile, stream Some People Scream, Some People Talk available on all streaming platforms.