Rhyme&Review: Wale

9 11 2009

Who?

Wale, the D.C. rapper, has had a Drake and Kid Cudi-like rise to where he is now. He’s released some extremely popular mixtapes and his first studio LP, Attention Deficit, has been highly anticipated by the community. He’s in the mold of Lupe Fiasco and CommonTalib Kweli and Mos Def to a lesser extent — with cerebral, clever rhymes that touch on all topics worth touching.

To be honest, I wasn’t drinking the Wale Kool-Aid for the longest time, I just thought he didn’t bring enough to his songs. It was like listening to a disinterested Will Hunting solve incredible math theorems with little fanfare. Sure, you’re rhymes are Harvard-smart Wale, but you bore me! It’s a snooze fest over here, especially when he didn’t have a point.  Like his “Seinfeld” Mixtape About Nothing — you just rapped about nothing. You gotta have a point.  No matter how slick you are, if you’re not building towards a common theme, then you’re just speaking out loud. And I’m going to forget your songs.

We know Wale is incredibly talented, but he never put the pieces together. Until now.

Attention Deficit

Wow. You’ve got electronic elements, you’ve got guitar, you’ve got big band sounds. Basically, you’ve got everything you would expect from a Mark Ronson album, though he only is credited with production on three tracks. But with every listen there’s an additional instrument or production highlight that adds to the depth and quality of the music that compliments Wale’s words.

Breaking down the tracks, there’s plenty to appreciate. “Diary” has got some great spoken word rapping for the last verse, it sounds like something Andre 3000 would do. anytime you’re drawing comparisons to 3K, you’re doing something right. “90210” has a fantastic stripped-down beat from Mark Ronson, something like a 16-bit video game soundtrack. Plus, he grills every single L.A. girl who got a little too big for her britches, which is fantastic. Gunning of the highest degree. Get ’em, Wale.

“Contemplate” with Rihanna? Winner, with a great theme and the perfect voice to feature for the chorus. “TV in the Radio” has a Mos Def feel, specifically “Fear Not of Men”, and the beat becomes just another example of how good production will make this album one hip-hop heads won’t sleep on. “TV in the Radio” also features K’naan, who sounds like a Refugee All-Star that could have had a verse or two on Wyclef Jean‘s Carnival. Bun B was a fantastic choice for a guest spot,  and listening to Wale and him go back and forth on “Mirror” brings out the complimentary contrast of their sounds.

One complaint. It’s long. It’s only 14 tracks, but there is one song that’s less than 3:20 in length. There are a few songs, like “Mamma Told Me” where Wale takes the song too far. This combined with the fact that Wale has a static cadence that leads to occasional monotony. At times his verses sound more like droning than rapping. We know you can spit bars Wale, but you gotta let me recover and recuperate from each song. You’re tiring me out.

So Now What?

This is like the appetizer to Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers (If it ever gets released), smart, stylistic rhymes with quality, diverse production. Lupe was a little more adventurous with his first album than Wale is with Attention Deficit, but your first impression is critically important and Wale made good on his. Shit, 50 Cent is still making money because of Get Rich or Die Tryin’. I doubt Wale will ever reach the top of the charts with any of these songs, even if he did enlist the likes of Lady Gaga on “Chillin'” (which is much better than the mixtape versions because of beat that samples “Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye” — you know, the song they play at basketball games when people foul out? Of course you know).

It’s good to see Wale live up to the hype, and become the heir apparent to the Commons, Mos Defs and Talibs of the world.

Wale – Attention Deficit

1. Triumph (prod. Dave Sitek) – ★★★
2. Mamma Told Me – ★★★
3. Mirrors (feat. Bun B) (prod. Mark Ronson) – ★★★
4. Pretty Girls [feat. Gucci Mane & Weensey (of Backyard Band)] (prod. Best Kept Secret) – ★★★
5. World Tour (feat. Jazmine Sullivan) (prod.Cool & Dre) –
6. Let It Loose (Inhibitions) (feat. Pharrell Williams) (prod. The Neptunes) – ★★★
7. 90210 (prod. Mark Ronson) – ★★★★
8. Shades (feat. Chrisette Michele) (prod. 9th Wonder) – ★★★
9. Chillin’ (feat. Lady Gaga) (prod. Cool & Dre) – ★★★
10. TV In The Radio (feat. K’Naan) (prod. Dave Sitek) – ★★★
11. Contemplate (feat. Rihanna) (prod. Syience) – ★★★★
12. Diary (feat. Marsha Ambrosius) – ★★★
13. Beautiful Bliss (feat. Melanie Fiona & J.Cole) (prod. DJ Green Lantern & Mark Ronson) –
14. Prescription – ★★★

Attention Deficit Total ★: 38
Attention Deficit ★ Ratio: 2.71

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