Release Date: Jun 25, 2013
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Rap, Underground Rap, Hardcore Rap
While his first two efforts were smart, clever, funny, and infectious, rapper Wale was never one known to offer rich insight, but on the opening number of the aptly titled The Gifted, he spits "The status got me trippin'/I like my bitch but I like these bitches on my dick be spittin'/Tell that you feelin' different, knowin' you the bread winner," and suddenly the hook of this great album reveals itself. Besides being solidly built and not overstuffed at 16 tracks long, The Gifted is the fascinating sound of the life of the party growing up, and that's as in "in the process," because there are still plenty of club bangers, strip-club jams, and irresponsible moments, and all of them are welcome. "LoveHate Thing" is a breezy summertime jam reminiscing with plenty of gun talk and reckless stories of youth, but the complicated Wale can look to his dangerous past with much love and much gratitude that he made it through those days alive.
Originally, June 25th was scheduled to be the major release date in June. With Wale, J. Cole, Mac Miller and Fabolous all scheduled to drop products in retail on that day, Hip Hop fans felt they had a lot to look forward to. However, when a popular Chicago rapper/producer decided to drop his project on June 18, lots of things changed.
“They gon’ love you a little different when you at the top,” Wale prudently asserts on “LoveHate Thing”. True dat. The lyric plays cleverly within his third album, The Gifted, as well as wisely within real life. Perhaps it’s Wale’s ‘trill’ approach to his rhymes that establishes him as one of the present day’s most gifted rappers.
Wale :: The GiftedMaybach Music/Atlantic RecordsAuthor: Steve 'Flash' JuonI know we tend to be self-referential on RR at times, but it's almost impossible to review Wale's "The Gifted" in a vacuum anyway. I would just as soon refer to Jay Soul's "Ambition" review as a starting point because it addresses my biggest concern about Wale as an artist - whether or not he's "fast food rap" that is quick and enjoyable but lacks the minerals and vitamins, irons and the niacins to be good for you. The fact he had MexManny remix "Bad" and replace Tiara Thomas with Rihanna only increased those concerns.
Long-time fans kissed off any chance of really seeing Mixtape About Nothing-era Wale again when they largely ignored his major label debut, and that stinging early rejection has continued to inform this sizable chunk of Wale's bills-paying lyricism, not dedicated to sneakers, women and blunts, ever since. On The Gifted, the DC native attempts to wheel it back a little bit and slip into something with greater depth than his recent offerings, not only showing more focus in his rhymes, but couching them in a more vibrant sound bed of live instrumentation and retro samples. Cuts like "Sunshine," the Dap Kings-featuring "Gullible" and "Vanity" best demonstrate this revamped pose, albeit with mixed results, particularly in the execution of that latter track.
Kanye West spends most of Yeezus struggling with the same character crises that have plagued him since his debut, making hay of his inability to find a happy medium between espousing social consciousness and celebrating empty consumerism. It's a common hip-hop predicament, the primal urge of self-aggrandizing flash clashing with the deeper need to communicate a constructive political message, and one that's gained poignancy as rap's activist branch has continued to wither. This means that effusive young talents like Wale are left without a movement to suit their specific voices, making it even more of a challenge to develop a thoughtful, coherent persona in an increasingly narrow, competitive industry.
Wale’s third official album, The Gifted, had the bad luck to come out a week after Kanye’s Yeezus. It’s terrible timing for any pop album; for the former backpack rapper who found unexpected mainstream pop success who went into the studio to attempt a singular, definitive artistic statement, it's bound to set up some unfair comparisons. There’s also a vaguely beefy line in “Heaven’s Afternoon” about how Wale wears Givenchy but doesn’t wear kilts that doesn’t help the situation.
Don’t get me wrong: we in Washington, DC, are rooting very hard for Wale. Only last weekend, the Post ran an A1, above-the-fold feature on the city’s native son, its only rapper of note in the game right now. The story painted a picture of an artist very much in flux, one clambering to reach the next rung on the ladder. “They gonna love you a little different when you at the top,” he explains on “LoveHate Game”, an early track on his just-released third studio album, The Gifted.
Who is Wale? After a handful of mixtapes (including the excellent Seinfeld-themed The Mixtape About Nothing) and two so-so albums, The Gifted sees the Washington, DC, rapper suffering from an identity crisis. On his third album, he tries to appeal to everyone with us-against-the-world rallies (Heaven's Afternoon), strip club anthems (Clappers) and slow jams (Bad), with diminishing returns. The main problem? Wale's neither a larger-than-life personality like Maybach Music head honcho Rick Ross nor a gritty street rapper like labelmate Gunplay.
“We ain’t supposed to never have nothing/We ain’t supposed to never have shit,” Wale raps on his third LP. The MMG rapper speaks about his come up as if he’s still living that experience. You really can’t fault Wale for that. After his Interscope debut Attention Deficit didn’t impact as expected, the DC rapper became determined to be a legitimate rap star.
Those expecting Wale to finally take his game to the next level will have to wait as his third record is inconsistent and mostly forgettable. It’s not unfair to expect more from the brainy Washington, D.C., native, who has made commercial inroads and shown flashes of excellence. The MC has a deep vocabulary, ambition, and little to say here. Despite his rep as a cerebral artist, these tracks — other than a few songs (“The Curse of the Gifted,” “Black Heroes”) — are shallow and mostly bereft of sharp lines.