Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On The Up and Coming: Wale

D.C. based rapper Wale describes his music in this way: "Think of what a def persons interpretation of very good music would sound like ...multiplied by your favorite songs impact when you knew you loved it multiplied by what would happen if music never existed until you heard it add a million to that and youd be 1/100000 of the way to understanding my sound."

Sounds cocky, huh?

Not necessarily so. I wouldn't necessarily label Wale as that interpretation, but I will say that the hype and buzz around this guy are very true. In 2005, Wale surfaced onto the D.C. rap scene with the single "Rhyme of the Century." This single put him on Source Magazine's June '05 "Unsigned Hype" list. From there, the buzz really began. He's been compared to Kanye West, Pharrell, Lupe Fiasco, and Common--not a bad crew to be a part of.

Wale credits much of his influences come from go-go bands. What's a go-go band, you ask? I myself had to Wikipedia this information. Go-go is a subgenre of funk that originated in 1970s Washington, D.C. "In technical terms, 'Go-go's essential beat is characterized by a syncopated, dotted rhythm that consists of a series of quarter and eighth notes (quarter, eighth, quarter, (space/held briefly), quarter, eighth, quarter)… which is underscored most dramatically by the bass drum and snare drum, and the hi-hat… [and] is ornamented by the other percussion instruments, especially by the conga drums, timbale, and hand-held cowbells.' A swing rhythm is often implied (if not explicitly stated)" (Wikipedia: Go-go). The call-and-response between audience and MC is also key to go-go.

After "Rhyme of the Century," Wale came out with many go-go inspired singles that started putting him on the map. He certainly blew up when Entourage showcased his song "Ice Cream Girl" on the June 24, 2007 episode (the one where E and Vince finally watch a cut of Medellin--by the way, the show is back September 7th!)

And then Wale got daring--he made a rap mix to Justice's "D.A.N.C.E." entitled "W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E." for his next FREE mixtape "100 Miles and Running." This album has been downloaded 30,000 times off his Myspace since its release. This is initially how I first heard of Wale--his song was a "Must Download" in June's Spin magazine. That is what truly impresses me about this rapper. He is not afraid of collaborations with artists and concepts that would seem outrageous or downright crazy. He recognizes the sick beats that Justice produces. Kanye West did the same thing by sampling Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" for his own "Stronger." With the easy access to music and the postmodern thought in today's digital world, collaborations, remixes, and covers are turning up more and more to create a musically shared and enlightened experience. One can influence the other and vice versa to create a union of uniqueness.

On May 30, 2008, Wale released his fourth FREE mixtape "Mixtape About Nothing," which is heavily influenced by the most unlikely of things--hit tv show Seinfeld (It can be downloaded at elitaste.com and 10deep.com--I highly recommend this album). Showcasing Wale's clever rhymes and indelible free flow, seriously this guy can rhyme for hours without stopping, "Mixtape About Nothing" samples many clips from Seinfeld episodes and things relating to it. Each song is titled the way episodes where--the article "The" precludes every title." He even inserts catchphrases and lines from the episodes into the songs while discussing serio-topics like modern identity politics and the state of rap today: "What's the deal with this rap stuff? / Since Napster / The sales been crashing."

On the track "The Kramer," Wale samples Michael Richards' racist slurs from the Laugh Factory and then launches into a rhythmic discussion on the use of the word "Nigga." He also samples Jay-Z's "Roc Boys" on "The Freestyle" in homage to one of his biggest influences. Wale delves into all sorts of genres from soul to go-go to R&B to this new wave of "futuristic rap" or sometimes known as "rave-rap," which is also discussed on "The Skit (Untz Untz). He even comments on the mainstreaming and selling out of certain hip hop acts. He parodies "Crank That Soulja Boy" in "The Skit" with his own "Crank That Squirrelly Boy."

He somewhat parodies Lil' Wayne too. He has a song called "The Cliche Lil' Wayne Feature," which features, well, Lil' Wayne. I'm not sure if this is a diss, a tribute, or both. Many pundits claim that Lil' Wayne was able to sell 1 million copies in one week for his latest album Tha Carter III because of all the free mixtapes and collaborations he has done for the past three years. In the same vein, Wale has now released four free mixtapes and is collaborating with the likes of The Roots, Kanye West, Mark Ronson, 9th Wonder, and Justice. Will he too sell 1 million copies in one week when his debut album with the above-mentioned artists is released next year?

Probably not because people still do not who this guy is.

But trust me, you will soon enough.

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