The much anticipated debut from Wale is appropriately called Attention Deficit
; the DC rapper flows extraneous topics with ease, but when it comes to introspection, the picture is fuzzy. The Mixtape About Nothing
taught us the cultural savvy and rap-referential mockery of a rhyme-slinger unafraid to laugh at his own job. The follow-up mixtape was no less sticky but less cohesive, a red flag that we'd never get the complete puzzle picture of Wale as a persona. Instead, he remains a cultural construct, billing producers left and right on his tracks, nabbing guest spots, and never allowing us to peek behind the curtain at the man pulling the levers.
There is no question that Wale knows who to ask for assistance with his recordings. Lady GaGa? There is no way he could have known how chart heavy she'd be at the time of release (but he obviously had a hunch). And then there are the a-list producer: Mark Ronson, Cool and Dre, and Dave Sitek all do a terrific job of assembling thick sounding back tracks that accent Wale as an alt-hip hop contender. And they let the right tracks hit the internet pre-release. The spastic "TV In The Radio," half homage to Sitek's band of the (almost) same name, is soaked in gasoline and ready to blow. "90210" is the other side of Wale. The chronicaling of a girl dreaming of reality stardom is satirical and refreshing from a clever lyricist who isn't afraid to laugh at his own wording (and he does, often).
When Wale talks about himself, like on "Mirror," it always seems tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic. But his humility as a rapper might be a great strength; in a world of predictable one-ups and superiority complexes, Wale isn't afraid to laugh at himself. The same goofball quality that made College Dropout
appealing, and that Graduation
sorely needed. "World Tour" could have been an old school Kanye song (can you believe such a thing exists already?), and I think Wale even feels it as he lays down the refrain. Dude knows what he was listening to five years ago and isn't afraid to imitate. And subsequently trump his contemporaries who've faded into auto tuned break-up poetry. Or worse; selling verses to anyone who'll pay enough.
isn't without missteps; some of Wale's weaker tracks fail to amuse or stun, but you can't fault him. He only has his own prior success to blame. Two mixtapes, one a contender for best rap "album" of the year without even being billed as such? If this was a debut in the traditional sense, the talk would be extremely inflammatory. Imagine this record coming out of nowhere? But that isn't how things work in the rap world today. For all we don't understand about Wale, most people knew that he was this good. At least, those of us paying close enough attention.-joe puglisi
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MP3: Wale - "90210" (Attention Deficit
Wale on Myspace