Wednesday, January 13
Before J. Cole and Drake stepped onto the scene in late 2008 and early 2009 and gained the title of "Best up and coming MCs" in my books, Wale held that position for months and months prior even before XXL included him in their 09 Freshman list, last December . Wale originally gained my interest and respect with his "100 Miles & Running" mixtape with his unorthodox rhyming schemes, use of percussion heavy go-go beats and surprisingly interesting social commentary about a variety of subjects. Jay-Z, Bun B and producer Mark Ronson's co-sign of Wale proved more enticing for me, as I wanted to find out exactly why so many important figures in music were interested in him. The more and more I listened to his music the more I began to understand everybody's fascination with this man, and the more my appetite for his songs grew. After gassing up the fans with anticipation with his "Back To The Feature" mixtape in the summer, Wale announced that his debut album would drop sometime in early fall. Due to some behind the scenes politics the album got pushed back several times, but eventually made it onto music store shelves on November 10th.
When future generations are going to look back at this point in time in the history of hip hop and it's artists they will recognize a few particular characteristics that differentiate today's artistst from their predecessors, which in my opinion are the following; lyrics with more substance than just discussing drugs, rims, bling, materialism etc., the return of narratives and story-telling, REAL emotions and honesty that listener's can relate to, captivating personalities, resurgence of creativity. Wale is an example of all of these characteristics, and this album is extremely well rounded with songs that everybody can appreciate. Lyrics with substance can be found in tracks such "Shades" where he goes in depth about the reality of racial/ colour boundaries, and on the track "90210" where he raps about bulimia, drug use and the "hollywood dreams" that many young girls seek to attain in real life after being influenced by the lifestyle through the media. A great honest and emotional narrative can be found on "Diary", a story of a young woman's inability to accept love because of her upbringing and past relationships. A lesson in psychology can be found on the brilliantly produced track "Mirrors" with Bun B.
"But if you took a second Mr. Mirror you would see, That you just mad at you, man you ain't really mad at me
You took the hatred of yourself and just project it out, No disrespect, you can't respect yourself then just get out"
The features on the album also add to the consistency of the songs and really send the message home. An awesome chorus by lovely miss Melanie Fiona and a show stopping verse by my favorite new comer - J. Cole, can be found on "Beautiful Bliss". Toronto's very own - K'naan drops an impressive 32 bar verse on the ever so amusing " TV On The Radio", as well as other note-able contributions from the likes of Pharrell, Lady GaGa, Jazmine Sullivan, Marsha Ambrosious and others.
As a long time supporter of Mr. Folarin I have to to say that this album delivered much of the charismatic and exceptional types of songs that I've grown accustomed to hearing from him. The production on the album is top notch, with contributions from The Neptunes, Mark Ronson, Cool & Dre, Best Kept Secret and others. The mood of the album shifts from celebratory, to contemplative, to triumphant and excited to relaxing, and accurately conveys the emotions that are presented through the lyrics. A wonderful piece of work, and a very impressive debut album from one Hip Hop's foremost storytellers and rhyme-sayers.
THUNDERKUSH: Top 10 Albums of the Year - #6 - Wale - Attention Deficit