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Friday, May 1, 2009

Wale: King of the DMV

Living in DC (at least for another 9 days), I have a certain affinity for rapper Wale, who was born and raised in Washington and nearby Largo. And while DC has historically been very rich musically, not since the 80s DIY, hardcore punk scene that began with bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, S.O.A., and other bands that only Decker likes has DC had a legitimate musical act about which people cared. DC brought to the forefront Duke Ellington, Go-Go music in the 70s, hardcore punk in the 80s, and nothing since. Unless you count small time artists like Army of Me or Vertical Horizon (yay Georgetown!).

Like other rappers that have been getting a lot of press so far in 2009 such as Asher Roth, KiD CuDi, Charles Hamilton, and B.o.B., Wale was listed in XXL's Freshmen of '09. Having listed to all the guys chosen by XXL, I think Wale may be the best of the bunch, except for maybe CuDi. Though I am afraid that Kanye will take too much control of CuDi's album and force auto-tune down his throat. And though I previously said that the Silversun Pickups' new album Swoon is the best album so far, I have a sneakign suspicion that Wale's debut LP may usurp that position when it comes out.

Maybe that's why Wale's rise to fame has been such a big deal in DC. Like with most other rappers, Wale treats his birthplace as a source of pride and not as something over which he had no control. It's interesting that you hardly ever hear any other artists besides rappers singing about their hometowns. You never hear Nickelback singing about Canada, but honestly I wouldn't know if they did or not, I'm just assuming now. Anyways, Wale loves DC and frequently states in his mixtapes that it's his goal to "bring that Grammy back to DC." From what I can tell though, he's only played on radio stations in DC like 96.3 WHUR and 93.9 Kiss FM. He doesn't get the national recognition that artists like Jay-Z or even Asher Roth receive. Well, for one thing, it's probably because he has yet to put out an actual album yet, just a handful of singles such as W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E, which samples the Justice song, and Nike Boots, which has become his biggest hit so far. He recently put out a new single with Lady Gaga that we played on the show a few weeks back called "Chillin'."

Despite Wale's incredible lyrics (i.e. "I remain a Giant while you're Jeremy Shockey" and "No congressional reppers, no respectable rappers"), maybe that last one doesn't make any sense if you don't know about DC's political problems...despite Wale's increidble lyrics, I do get annoyed that many of his lines deal with shoes. I just don't understand rappers' predilection towards shoes, but I guess it is better than rapping about rims still. Nevertheless, in the song "Nike Boots," which actually not about shoes at all, Wale does get past his love for shoes and shows that he can rap about the meaningful. More often that not, he does rap about meaningful things such as the use of the word "nigga" in "The Kramer," and about the decline in the quality of rap in "Politx," and about the all the haters in "Nike Boots."

So, Wale is absolutely backpack, but that's the style of rap that's becoming more popular these days. Wale has released a total of 0 albums, but has put out 4 mixtapes (which you can pick up at datpiff.com). And amazingly, each of his mixtapes is better than the last, so with his 5th mixtape, Back to the Feature, produced by 9th Wonder, coming out May 7th, expectations are high. And about a month after that, his first album Attention: Deficit will be released on Mark Ronson's label. So, while most rappers get Steve Rifkin or Cool and Dre or The Neptunes or Timbaland to produce their albums, Wale got British artist Mark Ronson to do his debut album instead. Ronson is known much more for his pop and alternative production, as he works mostly with artists such as Lily Allen and the Kaiser Chiefs. But his work with Amy Winehouse on her album Back to Black made him a popular choice for artists who sought retro style of production. And with Wale being so influenced by DC's 1970's go-go scene, the possibilities here are endless. Though an actual release date hasn't been announced for the album, Wale did take the time to take this picture to announce his album's drop this summer. Twitter. Shoes.

The title Attention: Deficit refers to the "crumbling music industry that is producing whack, disposable tunes: 'nobody pays attention and I’m trying to change it.' "

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