Review : Wale - Ambition
PitchforkAmbition: Wale certainly can't be faulted for it. After his 2009 Aftermath debut Attention Deficit bricked, selling a chastening 28,000 copies its first week, most presumed he would disappear soundlessly, like his fellow 2009 XXL Freshmen classmates Asher Roth and Charles Hamilton. He had failed to become a serious pop star, represent his D.C. hometown, or smuggle social consciousness into the rap mainstream-- his three bedrock campaign promises. But instead of disappearing, Wale caught the eye of Rick Ross, just as the Miami kingpin was transforming into commercial rap's all-devouring center of gravity, and climbed aboard Rozay's ascendant Maybach Music Group. Ambition, the result of a pairing nobody saw coming, inaugurates the curious second phase of Wale Folarin's increasingly fascinating career.
The record is a testament to the virtue in the album's title. Never say Wale doesn't learn from mistakes: Everything that dragged down Attention Deficit, from hipster-baiting to its bewildering guest roster, has been jettisoned, along with introspection and any lingering modicum of respect for women. On Ambition, Wale is reborn as an unrepentantly shallow strip-club rapper, and the production is a gleaming phalanx of freshly minted beats from Ross' MMG assembly line. The album is unmistakably a product of Planet Boss, the lurid neon kingdom of B-movie saxes and cartoon excess in which Rick Ross has built his empire. And Ambition provides a remarkably effective demonstration in how a shpritz of Planet Boss can jumpstart a flagging rapper's fortunes.
Wale's complete persona 180 will strike his original fanbase as repellantly cynical, and there is something vaguely unsavory and disorienting in the eagerness with which he embraces his new role. But it turns out that many of the gifts that got him noticed in the first place-- a nimble tongue, a high-stepping flow-- lend themselves as well to flossy nonsense about watches and women as they did to examining the sociopolitical implications of Soundscan. And Ambition is a high-velocity parade of flossy nonsense, with an extremely dense ratio of Headslaps-Per-Minute: "I'm sort of like Socrates in a Prada T"; "I aspire for awesome/ That requires some flossin'"; "Fuck rap, I get pussy off of haiku." There is a Sandra Bullock namedrop that references the 1992 sci-fi comedy Love Potion No. 9. Everything is fast-moving, breezily entertaining, and patently ridiculous....full text
XxlmagBacked by welcoming keystrokes and light female vocals, Wale opens Ambition with “Don’t Hold Your Applause,” putting forth the task at hand: “Tired of makin’ money/I’m on to makin’ history.” Now liberated by the artistic and financial mobility achieved by uniting with Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group, Wale is focused on lasting impact, not sales or major-label-manufactured hits.
At his core, he is still the same artist that became a leader of the early run of Internet baby boomers late last decade—standing on slick and nimble wordplay complemented by honesty, conscience and perspective. But now Wale seems freer, both musically and mentally. Early on, “Miami Nights” is a jazzy, colorful celebration of Ross’s hometown. That upbeat spirit persists over the subtle synths of the female-friendly “Lotus Flower Bomb,” featuring Miguel, and “Focused,” an up-tempo, overdue reunion with friend turned foe turned friend Kid Cudi.
The rowdy drums and heavy bass of Rozay’s own offerings and the MMG compilation Self Made, Vol. 1 aren’t here, but it feels like The Bawse’s sense of proper beat selection looms over the musicality of the album, rife with live-sounding instrumentation.
Wale does diverge from the pep on the harder “Chain Music” and “Ambition,” a smooth, rolling opus featuring Ross and Meek Mill. On the dark, determined “Legendary,” he promises his “only fear is mediocrity,” and proves throughout that such middling will never be an issue lyrically. The part-time ESPN analyst proves he’s still the captain of sports references, kicking, “I’ma let the chips fall/Niggas is Kemba Walker, tryna see me pitfall,” on “Double M Genius,” a crafty reference to when Walker, a recent college basketball star, caused a Pittsburgh player to hit the hardwood with a quick deke....full text
DjboothOn December 31, 2010, Wale landed at Miami Dade international airport, stepped out into the crisp Florida air and climbed into an all-black Land Rover. From there he was driven directly to Miami’s legendary strip club, the King of Diamonds, instructed to pick up the black duffel bag at this feet and escorted to a private table where has was greeted with enormous open arms by Rick Ross. Ten hours, a duffel bag full of cash and more booty and Patron shots than he could possibly remember later, Wale and Ross sat down to a breakfast of lobster bisque. “Look,” rumbled Ross as he slid a SoundScan report over to Wale; his debut album Attention Deficit was highlighted with the album’s first week sales, a paltry 28,000, circled in red. “You can spend the rest of your life trying to please people who don’t really want to be pleased and won’t buy your album anyway, or you can sign to MMG, help give my label a little lyrical depth, and last night can be your every night.” On February 5, 2011, Wale announced that he was now a member of the Maybach Music Group.
Ok, so I completely made that up, but I really don’t think it’s far off. Whether it was because of a case of serious overhype (maybe), Interscope’s failure to properly push the project (maybe) or combination of both (definitely), Wale’s debut effort fell far short of the hip-hop savior tag so readily being applied to the D.C. native. It’s the kind of failure that makes a man seriously re-consider his plans, and almost two years to the day after the release of Attention Deficit he’s remodeled himself into an emcee sheathed in layers of hustle-fueled luxury with a lyrical core. So while the “old” Wale is still visible on his new album Ambition, you’ve got to sift through a lot of sex and expensive watches to get there. The question is, is that such a bad thing?
“Miami nights, it was all a dream, if I can get my money right I’m bout to OD.” It’s lines like that, off the live instrument fueled Miami Nights, that make me think my fiction in the opening paragraph isn’t that far off. But more than embodying Wale taking his talents to South Beach, Miami Nights is exemplary of Ambition’s mood; call it luxurious grind, hustling with shorts on. Better yet, call it White Linen (Coolin’). There’s enough between-the-sheets action on Ambition to fuel a seductive EP and the Ne-Yo assisted record leads the way, followed closely by the guitar focused quasi-ballad Sabotage and seriously steamy Lotus Flower Bomb. They’re smooth jams, they go down easy and they’re indicative of Wale’s more focused marketing plan: women buy music from men who make them feel wanted and promise to take them away from their bland reality, even if only for one night....full text
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