Shine season, a long-awaited period of joy, is upon us. This fifth commercial album from DC rapper-writer Wale delivers on bangers and good vibes. Malignant forces within his country, from hate-mongering TV personalities to the insane political climate, have catalyzed Wale to embrace parts of his life that are worth celebrating.
Wale, as curator, gathers guests on most of his 14 tracks.
It's been almost a decade since Wale released The Mixtape About Nothing , an earnest collection of well-rapped thinkpieces couched in a savvy, "Seinfeld"-referencing framework. The sitcom was a tempting lure to attract the internet tastemakers, and they helped introduce the D.C.-area rapper to the mainstream. But early acclaim came with high expectations, from both Wale's audience and from Wale himself.
Coming off The Album About Nothing, a smash that took his conceptual fancy to the hilt, and the birth of his daughter -- for whom he wants to amass a fleet of luxury vehicles -- Wale reasonably takes a free, easy, more commercially minded approach for album five. Acronymic for "still here ignoring negative energy," Shine, loosely constructed with the rapper rarely in battle or even sparring mode, has no overarching theme beyond soundtracking good times. If anything, the program is maximized for streaming with numerous cross-cultural stylistic switch-ups and a lengthy register of producers and guest artists that might exceed that of The Gifted.
Wale is an interesting artist. When I say this, however, I mean it much more so in the sense of his shortcomings than of his talents. That may sound a bit harsh, but looking back at Wale's career as a rapper thus far, it is difficult to give much acclaim to his victories rather than notice where he has continuously fallen short. Said falls have mainly come in the form of his inability to make the transition from mixtapes to full albums, and what seems to be a lack of the desire to create something truly original.
Striving for greatness in your craft and feeling that you’ve come up short or have yet to receive the respect and appreciation that your talent or body of work merits can take a toll on anyone, let alone an artist. Baring your soul and sharing your innermost thoughts, fears and insecurities is a form of intimacy and vulnerability that’s admirable, but when that exchange of energy isn’t reciprocated, that vulnerability can become burdensome. Just ask Wale, who is among the more skilled lyricists of his era, but has lamented not getting the same cache and acclaim that is afforded to many of the very peers he came of age with and were once touted as the leaders of the new school.