HEAR AND NOW: Hip-hop's next superstar| 11/16/09 11:00pm
The truth is, despite his relative obscurity on this campus, Wale has been hip-hop's all-but-anointed "next big thing" for years. The D.C. native came from Washington's local go-go scene and broke out into the hip-hop mainstream two years ago touring with the likes of Jay-Z and super-producer Mark Ronson and releasing a trifecta of high-profile mixtapes.
Wale was hailed as a thinking man's rapper, whose lyrical genius was matched only by the originality of his beats.
Music insiders and hip-hop fans have been waiting with bated breath for Wale's major-label debut this fall, hoping that the spring's less-than-impressive, Lady Gaga-featuring single "Chillin'" did not mean Wale had resorted to dumbed-down ringtone rap.
With "Attention Deficit" (2009), released on Nov. 10, Wale allays any concerns that he had sold out. The album is a fast talking, tongue-twisting, wholly-original debut with a surprising introspective strain.
The title refers to Wale's belief that the music industry has privileged easily marketable images over talent "If hip-hop need a wakeup/We the f*cking clock radio," he raps.
Wale has a swaggering, charming and earnest delivery that is a refreshing antidote to the emotionless synth-rap of late.
"Pretty Girls," featuring Gucci Mane, is an upbeat amalgamation of claps, horns and gospel choir-like vocalizing that shows Wale at his most earnest and crowd-pleasing.
Wale gets introspective on tracks like "90210," in which he explores the dark side of fame through the perspective of a young girl chasing fame and struggling with bulimia.
With playful lyrics like "What you sippin' on? It's no problem/Black and gold bottles like I'm pro-New Orleans/But shorty, I'm far from a Saint/But I got two AmExes that look the same way," Wale flexes his bravado and clever wordplay.
Wale expertly selects his guest artists, with tracks featuring the likes of Pharrell, Jazmine Sullivan, Gucci Mane and K'naan.
If students were turned off from Wale's music by his shout-out to "Dartmouth University" during the Programming Board concert, that's their loss. This man is a future star.