Review : Wale - Attention Deficit
PitchforkIt's no secret that the Internet is hurting rappers. Hurting their record sales. Hurting their ability to control narrative. And, perhaps most crucially, hurting their ability to self-edit. Flip cam freestyles, track-a-day mixtapes, local radio interviews delivered worldwide. Reining it in has never been more difficult. To his credit, Wale has appeared to be in clear control of his output. In the space of three years he's released three proper mixtapes: 2007's giddy grab bag 100 Miles & Running, 2008's triumphant and savvy The Mixtape About Nothing, and this year's modest Back to the Feature. But even that tempered rollout may have been too much. Wale's proper solo debut, Attention Deficit, feels like a mishmash of those three tapes, flashing greatness but almost never transcending, and always sounding effortful. Has he said too much already?
Initially positioned as a refreshing rejoinder in a new generation of rappers, Wale was never fit for savior-dom. He's said the Roots' Black Thought is his favorite MC. That's about right: technically gifted, occasionally thrilling, mostly destined to be a cog in a machine. Attention Deficit seems to ignore that, especially on the front end. What's made so many rap debuts successful is a fluidity, a connectivity from moment to moment. Wale's been slapped with the dreaded "no personality" tag in recent months. The opposite is true: Wale seems to jump constantly from persona to persona....full text
SlantmagazineWale has been on the brink of a breakthrough for so long now that it's neither far-fetched nor oxymoronic to refer to him as a veteran up-and-comer. Since around 2006 or so, the D.C.-based rapper with roots in the area's local go-go scene has existed as rap's semiofficial next best thing. He's collaborated and toured with Mark Ronson, released a trio of high-profile mixtapes (including last year's terrific Seinfield-themed The Mixtape About Nothing), and maintained a Twitter and blogospheric popularity impressive for someone who's yet to release an official album.
So, Attention Deficit is both Wale's major-label debut and his moment of truth, and on it he walks a fine line between selling out, repping his city, and gaining the approval of the post-backpacker underground. A lot of us who have been anticipating this album for an embarrassingly long time were worried about the first of these goals and became a little squeamish when we heard the album's first two singles. "Chillin" and "World Tour" (featuring Lady GaGa and Jazmine Sullivan, respectively) are both tepid Cool & Dre productions in which Wale seems to be attempting Black Eyed Peas-style halftime-show rap. But aside from these and a forgettable Neptunes track (are rappers required by law to throw Pharrell and his tinny, tired book of beats a bone every time they release an album?), the album's crossover bids are mercilessly few. The larger trends of Attention Deficit are Wale's further evolution as an "issues" rapper and his continued willingness to wax free-associative over outside-the-box production....full text
CulturebullyOlubowale Victor Folarin, aka Wale, is DC’s wonder-kid, rap star in waiting with the backing of celebrity producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse/Lilly Allen) and comes co-signed by Jay-Z and The Fader. Wale garnered attention with his early breakout hit, “Nike Boots,” a remix with Lily Allen, and such critically praised mixtapes as 2007’s 100 Miles & Running which produced “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.” with France’s electro kingpins Justice, followed in 2008 with the impressive Mixtape About Nothing, and this year’s Back To The Feature, all of which showcased his raw skills and energetic, playful delivery and punchlines with the distinctively “go-go” flavor of DC. All of this hype has ushered Wale to the top of the rookie class with Kid Cudi, Jay Electronica & Blu and Drake among the leaders of a new generation of emcees. Wale seems to be unsure which lane he’s in though, dude is a rookie with attitude like he’s owed something, taking shots at old school cats, bragging, talking a lot about his expensive name brand clothing, how’s he’s the next great hope of the genre, and other nonsense about nothing. Technically we know he has skills and can spit, he did after all make great waves with his Mixtape About Nothing, but Wale ends up mainly rapping about rapping, young girls/strippers and sneakers.
With appearances by Lady Gaga, Bun B, Gucci Mane, Marsha Ambrosius, Chrisette Michele, Jazmine Sullivan and K’Naan and production handled by heavyweights Mark Ronson, the Neptunes, Cool & Dre, 9th Wonder and TV on The Radio’s Dave Sitek, expectations are high. Opening with the Sitek produced, high-life of “Triumph” Wale declares “I ain’t trying to be politically correct, but I rest rest to I’m given my get my respect/My vision isn’t set on the money imma get, but more or less I’m the vet coming for your neck.” “Mirror,” produced by Ronson, is a head snapper, with Houston’s OG Bun B. Calling out “fake” emcees? Well the track is nice, Wale flows about some girl he met, then refers to her as an ‘09 gold digger. “Mama Told Me” continues to ride the “go-go” flavor of his city, as does the confusing “Pretty Girls” with southern underground star Gucci Mane, which seems confusing and out of place. The bouncy “Let It Loose (Inhibitions),” featuring Pharrell on vocals is a standout track; it’s such songs like these the “go-go” inspired tracks that separate Wale as they work best with his delivery and cadence. The early single “Chillin’” features Lady Gaga in an attempt to make like M.I.A.’s breakout “Paper Planes,” while “World Tour” cotinues by paying respect to the A Tribe Called Quest classic “Award Tour.”...full text
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