Never Party with the Brick Squad
How a VICE reporter nearly died trying to hang with Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame.
Illustration by Meaghan Garvey
As the host of Noisey Raps, the new hip-hop show on VICE's music site, I've been spending a ton of time with famous rappers who like to get loco and do things poor degenerates only dream of. Getting fucked up is a time-honored tradition for musicians of all genres, but rappers, as with everything else they do, take inebriation to absurd new levels. They even invent weird new drugs and give them cute nicknames like "hokey-pokey" and "pterodactyl." You might think, I love the hokey-pokey. This must be harmless. Then, the next thing you know, you're being arrested for wiggling your genitals at an old lady, while the famous rapper you just made "friends" with is riding away in his Maybach, sandwiched between two gorgeous models, laughing his ass off. The thing to remember is that these guys are professionals at getting wasted. They rage day in and day out, one dust-laced blunt after another, and then they get paid exorbitant sums of cash to write songs about it. Trying to keep up with them is stupid and dangerous. Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way from members of the 1017 Brick Squad.
It was a chilly night in October, and I had been invited to shoot Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane backstage at their show at New York's Irving Plaza. Unless you're a geriatric or in jail, you should know that Waka and Gucci are two Atlanta MCs who make unrepentant Southern gangster rap known as trap music.
When we arrived, it looked like your typical rapper green-room scene. There were a whole lot of dudes, because—despite all their lyrics about sexual conquests—rappers love sausage fests. As per usual, a thick cloud of smoke was hovering in the air, and all you could hear was the clash of liquor bottles and the chatter of country drawls.
I'm usually disappointed when I meet rappers in person because they're often short, meek versions of what you see in their videos. Waka and Gucci, however, look like a couple of linebackers. Their presence is super-imposing, and this was only the second on-camera work I'd done in my life. In hindsight, I should've taken some more time thinking about my appearance before the interview: I was wearing pop-bottle glasses and a Cosby-like Pendleton sweater. They immediately started clowning me.
The instructions my producer Andy Capper gave me were to "hang out and get some natural footage." But Waka and Gucci took one look at me, and it became awkwardly obvious that they weren't trying to hang with me at all. After a pretty terse greeting that resulted in Waka practically breaking my hand when he shook it, the rappers formed a smokers' huddle on the other side of the room that I couldn't breach. Precious time was being wasted. I had to do something quick to get in good with these guys or else I wouldn't be asked to host anything ever again.
Like everyone backstage, Waka, Gucci, and a couple of their lackeys were passing fat blunts back and forth to one another. To break the ice, I thought it'd be a good idea to ask them what kind of weed they were burning. Gucci just looked down at me like I was a narc, handed over the blunt, and said, "You tell me."
Now, I've been smoking blunts since I was 11 years old. And I grew up in the suburbs, so I'm no stranger to bongs, bowls, and weird white-people shit like vaporizers. But nothing prepared me for how high I was about to become after hitting Gucci's burner. The closest thing I can compare it to is being pushed headfirst down a K-hole. The second after the smoke left my lungs, I couldn't even form a complete sentence. Andy was whispering in my ear, trying to tell me what questions to ask because I was just standing there like a zombie with the microphone limp in my hand. And then everything just went black.
Next thing I knew, I was sweating bullets outside the backstage area with Andy fanning me like I was a menopausal mom who'd just had a hot flash. But I stood up and told Andy I couldn't go out like a punk; he had to let me go back and finish the interview. It was a terrible decision. A real man knows when to call it quits, but I was on a foolhardy mission and probably still very high.
When I returned to the green room, Gucci, Waka, and their boys were all looking at me with shit-eating smirks. Even the few model girls who were there were giggling about how I couldn't handle my shit. I walked over to Waka and asked him what the hell was in the blunt I had puffed. He told me it was called "gas"—a highly potent strain that the Brick Squad grows just for themselves. I know it sounds defensive to say this, but I am fairly certain there was something else besides Mary Jane in that blunt—but whatever. I let it go, and things started to lighten up. Waka dropped his guard a bit and let me ask a few questions, and eventually we were fucking around with each other and having a good time. I was starting to feel redeemed, like maybe they were beginning to see that I could hang after all. But these good vibes were short-lived. He told me it was time to go to "level two."
Problem was, I had no idea I was on level one. "What's level two?" I asked. Waka then opened up an astronomically expensive bottle of Hennessy and handed it to me. I grabbed it and took a big swig with my eyes closed. When I opened them, everyone in the room was looking at me once again, except this time they were all extremely pissed off. "Did you just put your lips on that bottle?!" Waka said. "That is a violation of the man code. You know what that means? That's your bottle. You've got to drink the whole bottle."
There's no way in hell I'm going to finish this entire bottle of Hennessy, I thought. But then everybody backstage started putting money on it, betting on whether I could kill it in 45 minutes. First Gucci ponied up $1,000. Then Waka upped the ante with another grand. Before I knew it, everyone—even the fucking PR people and the security guards—were throwing down dollars and egging me on to drink it. The pot climbed up to $5,000, but I still declined, knowing that drinking that much liquor in such a short time would only lead to certain doom.
I stayed rational and didn't bow to the pressure until one of Waka's hangers-on said, "I thought you worked for VICE magazine?" And that was it. He planted a seed in my mind that, in the heat of the moment, made me think that if I didn't drink this fucker it would hurt my career. So I started taking big monster gulps. Stupid move.
After a few rough swigs, it was going down like Kool-Aid on a hot day in July, and I was feeling very loose. Gucci was giving me props and patting me on the back for the willingness to destroy my liver in such a short time frame, and Waka was joking around and passing me blunts, telling me the only way I'd be able to finish that bottle and not puke everywhere was if I stayed very, very high. Again, stupid move.
I made it through four-fifths of the bottle before completely blacking out. I have no memory of the rest of the night. I have been told that I became rude and unruly, argued with security people, and was kicked out of the venue before Waka and Gucci even took the stage. Apparently, I was also spotted stumbling around outside, mumbling profanities to myself, and clutching a huge wad of money. But where that cash actually ended up, I have no idea. I'd like to think the rappers were bluffing and took it back, but it's more than likely I either gave it away or it was stolen by an EMT while I was drunkenly splayed out on a stretcher in the ambulance that someone apparently called for me a short while later.
My next memory was waking up at Beth Israel Hospital at ten the next morning. There was a wad of $300 in my pocket, but I was still thoroughly wasted and completely blind because I had lost my glasses in the process of whatever the hell I was doing after drinking all that Hennessy. I thanked God I hadn't pissed or puked on myself, the hospital discharged me, and I drunkenly wandered out into the morning traffic of New York City, squinting as I tried to hail a cab. Later that night, after speaking with my girlfriend, boss, and parents, I promised myself to never party with rappers again. I'm just not cut out for it.
Watch episode one of Noisey Raps:
And be sure to watch Wilbert become a drug-and-Hennessy-induced zombie in an upcoming episode of Noisey Raps this spring at Noisey.VICE.com.
More of Wilbert's run-ins with rappers: