Review : Wale - Back to the Feature
PitchforkNo upside. Skills won't translate to the "next level." Gimmicky. If he's on the wrong team, he'll be exposed as a limited talent who's been coddled by swagger-hating purists. Wale loves himself some NBA namedrops, so even as The Mixtape About Nothing stands as one of 2008's best rap albums, it can't sit well with him that his detractors talk about him as if he were college star/NBA rookie Tyler Hansborough. Especially since he closes out Back to the Feature by coincidentally comparing himself to Psycho T's new teammate, the far more physically dominant scoring machine Danny Granger.
So it's understandable that he's gotten a little defensive on Back to the Feature, if not a little worrying-- Nothing's biggest risk wasn't its sampling of Seinfeld, but the spots where he threatened to get too caught up in the navel-focused minutiae of being an up-and-coming rapper (answering MySpace requests, Soundscan numbers, etc.). Despite Feature's motivation ("we just wanna let these broads know, [we] be rappin'"), the secondary theme is constraint-- being boxed into the same old comparisons (Lupe, Lil' Wayne) and the fishbowl effect of internet tastemaking, where the ability of haters to bring him down far exceeds his ability to rise above it. "Think Barack got it bad, try being a rapper" goes a particularly overreaching line, and if Wale isn't exactly gunning down his detractors, he's at least trying to let them in to more than just his shoe closet (though he still boasts about having property in Beaverton and "Phil knight talking about, 'How you got them?'").
You might not think that was the case judging from the features-- Talib Kweli, Royce Da 5'9", Joe Budden, Skyzoo, Joell Ortiz. Basically, if you've heard someone recently complain about how post-Kanye and/or southern trends have ruined hip-hop, those are the guys they're probably saying you need to listen to instead. True or not, it's hard to overlook the fact that all of these guys are super talents, and in terms of pure quotables, Feature has few peers this year. The feature-heavy lineup can detract from Wale being able to display his personality, a sort of Everyman that skirts the usual blue-collar connotations of that word to embody the sort of person for whom constant immersion in ESPN.com results in pop culture references finding themselves infecting every part of their life-- from relationship dust-ups ("I wouldn't fuck another girl out in the club/ I was Rodney Stuckey, wasn't giving my number up,"), to dealing with overzealous fans ("They be hawkin'/ I call them hoes Josh Smith") to just general shit-talk ("new MJ's hurting their eyes like Amare," "you ain't doin' shit til you put…uh…10 g's on fantasy football"). I could listen to him go off on that all day....full text
PrettymuchamazingMixtapes are strange beasts. They’re held in a different light than albums – new ideas painted over familiar canvasses featuring a variety of voices. Often, mixtapes seem minimally edited, as if they were rushed out as fast as possible without worrying about polish or shine. They are sketches, samplers, tastes of what may come to full fruition in the future.
But this form – which started underground and now rears its head in the mainstream – has started to shift its shape. More care is given to production, and many songs seem like they’d be right at home on a proper release. The line has become blurred.
Wale’s latest mixtape, Back to the Feature, blurs the line even more....full text
ThagoodlifereviewsWale brings it hard again on his most recent mixtape, Back to the Feature which features him working with the studio genius 9th Wonder. The mixtape before this one, Mixtape About Nothing, really turned me onto Wale and really got me following him, and his most recent release has kept me up with that same interest level that the Mixtape About Nothing had. Wale brought it hard not only with his lyrical flow, but with the beats, and all the sick nasty featured musicians. I don't think I have ever seen so many features on a mixtape before, especially for someone who is relatively new to the music game! We covered one of the singles a while back by Wale on his track, "Chillin'," which featured the ever-so-popular Lady Gaga (P.S. Also check out DJ Benzi's remix of the track "Chillin'," it has some pretty dope video work done on it, and I highly suggest it, CLICK HERE to check it out!). I knew that when that song leaked, that this tape was going to be mad dope and something special.
One thing that is great about Wale is that he doesn't just focus on one sort of Hip-Hop, he has various ways of sending his message and conveying his music to the masses. There was a ton of hype to this mixtape, and surprisingly, the tape did not let down whatsoever. Another thing I loved about this tape was that it featured some musicians that are already all-stars in the music industry, and at the same time, it featured musicians who may not be huge right now, but definitely have the potential to become something big one day (i.e. Daniel Merriweather, Curren$y, etc...). The tape as a whole really brought out the best in Wale, and his features really went along with the tracks they were on. Each beat really fit with the musician he chose to work with on the track, which is something that is generally ignored by many musicians out there! Anyway, peep the rest of the review below, and be sure to check out the tape, if you don't you'll be missing out!...full text
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