Release Date: Nov 1, 2011
Record label: Warner Bros.
Wale's career had all but stalled last year – until the D.C. rapper won another bite at the apple by signing to Rick Ross' label. On his second LP (and first since he started rapping about strip clubs instead of Seinfeld), he takes advantage of the do-over, lacing expensive-sounding beats from the likes of Diplo and Lex Luger with dialed-in flows.
Wale’s sophomore album Ambition could best be characterized by the line, “GQ ‘Man Of The Year’ / Cudi, Drizzy and me / Went away for a lil’ / Let my wisdom increase.” Yes, there was a time when all three of these rising stars were considered equals. However, Wale’s musical journey since that GQ issue hasn’t been as clear cut and fruitful. Now though, he is an integral centerpiece of a respective crew in Maybach Music Group, a similar occurrence for his perceived counterparts (Cudi and G.O.O.D.
On the title track of his sophomore release, Washington, D.C. rapper Wale declares that “Ambition is priceless, it’s somethin’ in your veins.” He’s speaking from experience as this varied and vibrant success displays, proving he's hungry to tackle some moody deepness on the title track while, just one cut earlier, “Slight Work” finds him in 2011 party mode, bouncing with fury as a Diplo beat percolates underneath. “Lotus Flower Bomb” is a laid-back throwback that could mix fine with any given Erykah Badu ballad, while “Illest B****” is the kind of stuff that puts hands up in the air, sounding soulful and all the way live as Wale testifies about the strong women in his life.
Ambition: Wale certainly can't be faulted for it. After his 2009 Interscope debut Attention Deficit bricked, selling a chastening 28,000 copies its first week, most presumed he would disappear soundlessly, like his fellow 2009 XXL Freshmen classmates Asher Roth and Charles Hamilton. He had failed to become a serious pop star, represent his D.C. hometown, or smuggle social consciousness into the rap mainstream-- his three bedrock campaign promises.
Just three years ago his path to stardom looked pretty well plotted out, but Wale’s odds of achieving the rap-legend status he openly covets look considerably longer now, a point that the promotional campaign for Ambition has more or less conceded in its protestant highlighting of just how hard the D. C. rapper is working these days, presumably to ensure that his sophomore album isn’t as roundly disappointing as Attention Deficit.
After all of the hoopla over his mixtapes and the repeated delays on a full-length debut, Wale‘s first record, Attention: Deficit, didn’t make the splash that the anticipation would suggest. Maybe it was just that the Seinfeld-themed Mixtape About Nothing had the ultimate hook of familiarity, with its sitcom references and samples, leaving the excellent (if less focused) LP reaching out in a handful of eccentric directions for something to latch onto. No matter the reason, Attention: Deficit just didn’t sell as well or reach as wide an audience as it should have.
The music industry isn’t known for its sustained pragmatism, but it’s still pretty crazy thinking about the rollercoaster of mistakes, promises, hype, backlash and rebirths of D. C. ’s Wale.
Of all the members of hip-hop’s 2007 free agent class, Wale has had perhaps the least predictable, most ambiguous career trajectory. Starting out as a frequent collaborator of Best Kept Secret’s and champion of all things DMV (as in D.C./Maryland/Virgina), Wale first caught everyone’s attention through a verse on the Roots’ Rising Down and Seinfeld-themed Mixtape About Nothing, both of which found Wale in a pretty social-oriented headspace. The latter was particularly notable for its heavy reliance on go-go sampling production, which was in line with Wale’s reverence for his roots in D.C.
Backed by welcoming keystrokes and light female vocals, Wale opens Ambition with “Don’t Hold Your Applause,” putting forth the task at hand: “Tired of makin’ money/I’m on to makin’ history.” Now liberated by the artistic and financial mobility achieved by uniting with Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group, Wale is focused on lasting impact, not sales or major-label-manufactured hits. At his core, he is still the same artist that became a leader of the early run of Internet baby boomers late last decade—standing on slick and nimble wordplay complemented by honesty, conscience and perspective. But now Wale seems freer, both musically and mentally.
Washington, D.C. rapper goes for gloss on his sophomore album. Marcus J. Moore 2011. Two years ago, Wale was the saviour of Washington, D.C. hip hop, the golden child who would rescue the aspiring masses from its unrelenting despair and wash away all those years of unrealised potential. Certainly ….