Release Date: Mar 31, 2015
Record label: Atlantic
Almost seven years ago, a Washington, D.C. emcee named Wale dropped a Seinfeld-inspired project called The Mixtape About Nothing. The emcee emerged as the prime "backpack rapper" out of the area at the time. Fast-forward to 2011, and the rapper dropped his backpack to sign with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group and released two more studio albums, but four years later, he has circled back around to the high hopes of 2008 with his newest release, The Album About Nothing.
Wale :: The Album About NothingAtlantic RecordsAuthor: Clara Wang"The Album About Nothing" continues a trend in his series of works about "nothing." Besides capitalizing the same pronoun in front of every song title, it clearly differs from his other MMG produced works. Whereas his previous album had sounded at certain points like other MMG releases, "The Album About Nothing" is thoroughly Wale.The soulful production, harnessing plenty of live instrumentals, mixes well with the lingering hints of MMG production. Gospel chants intersperse the post-hyphy drums and heavy, minimal basslines.
Playing off the ideas and structure of his 2008 mixtape The Mixtape About Nothing, rapper Wale's fourth studio album uses the television sitcom Seinfeld as the framework for an introspective and autobiographical effort, and as odd as that sounds, this is the second time it has worked. It worked better the first time, but much has changed for Wale in the seven years leading up to The Album About Nothing, meaning a rekindled, quirky idea like this could put his fame at risk. It's a fame so huge that Jerry Seinfeld is actually Wale's friend now, and while the sitcom star was sampled for the 2008 mixtape, he narrates this album.
Wale worries too much. About everything. It’s a fact. For someone as established as the D.C. rapper, he spends more time than necessary dealing with online trolls, which only adds to whatever issues already plague his everyday life. Most people block out the trivial bullshit. But Wale doesn’t ….
Wale and Jerry Seinfeld are the most unlikely pair in pop culture. The rapper first paid tribute to his favorite comedian with 2008's The Mixtape About Nothing; Seinfeld returned the favor by shouting him out in last year's Top Five. Here, they consummate their friendship with a full-on collaborative LP. Wale uses Seinfeld's advice not just as a gimmick but as a jumping-off point: "The Pessimist" opens with a nihilistic George Costanza rant, but it becomes a heartfelt reflection on racism and police violence.
Long before Wale Folarin was a rapper, he was a lead chanter in a go-go band in Washington, DC. The lead chanter’s role is to be a half-singer/half-rapper and constant entertainer, the man responsible for providing a vocal guide into the percussion-driven band’s soulful groove. On latest album The Album About Nothing, in providing the guide to understanding the worlds of superstar comedian Jerry Seinfeld and that of his own superstar rap career, he’s using those well-honed go-go learned skills, but falls short of providing content that allows him to uniquely (and best) use them connect with a now much larger audience.
Wale’s alignment with the Top 40 rap crowd never felt like a healthy fit. Since his 2011 alliance with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music, the D.C. rapper has found success but has never seemed comfortable with it. And the critical failure of his last album, 2013’s The Gifted, must have shaken him to his core, because at first blush, his latest effort, The Album About Nothing, screams "return-to-form." Its title nods to his 2008 "Seinfeld"-referencing breakout The Mixtape About Nothing, a freebie hosted by Fool’s Gold impresario Nick Catchdubs.
Over time, the fact that Wale released a mixtape based on Seinfeld seemed more like a gimmick than a solid idea. The inventive choices that he made on 2008’s The Mixtape About Nothing faded away, replaced by vague memories of a track that sampled the theme song, some “What’s the deal?” references, and a phone-in appearance from Julia Louis-Dreyfus. But that’s what happens when an artist aligns themselves with a mass market heavyweight and proceeds to release watered-down versions of their material, as Wale did under Rick Ross and Maybach Music.
Wale’s Album About Nothing is presumably the most substantial rap/Seinfeld collaboration the hip-hop community will ever witness. The effort was derived around concepts and show titles from the nine season-long NBC series, which ran from 1989 to 1998. With his fourth studio album, Wale not only revisits pre-superstardom mixtape days—The Mixtape About Nothing was released in 2008; More About Nothing came out in 2010—but he, along with Jerry Seinfeld himself, crafts together hip-hop’s most notable nod to one of the best-written TV series of all time.