Wale, born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, is a relatively new mainstream rap artist who first gained local celebrity status in 2006 with his hit, “Dig Dug (Shake It).” Prior to the success of Wale’s “Dig Dug (Shake It),” the D.C. born rapper released several mixtapes – “Paint a Picture” (2005), “Hate Is the New Love” (2006) and “100 Miles & Running,” all of which helped to solidify his place in D.C.’s nomenclature.
Arguably his biggest hit to date, “Nike Boots,” released in 2007, was a song truly representative of Wale and his D.C. culture. With the release of this song, Wale was seen as being at the forefront of D.C., finally putting them on the map in the rap game.
After signing with his first major label, Interscope Records for $1.3 million, in 2008, Wale released “Chillin,” the first single from his album, Attention Deficit. Staying true to his D.C. roots, the video for the single was filmed in the heart of the Nation’s Capital, featuring local high schools, corner stores, and many of Wale’s hometown homies. The release of Attention Deficit was Wale’s emergence on the scene as something fresh and new that hip-hop needed. However, his honeymoon with success did not last long.
Released on Nov. 10, 2009, Attention Deficit sold only 28,000 copies in its first week. The low numbers were a result of a supposed under shipment of albums. In an interview with Honey Magazine, Wale said, “We’re not going for first week sales. We’re only shipping out 30,000 of them. We’re going for that grind. We’re showing people that you can build a fan base the old fashioned way.”
Despite the seemingly positive attitude the rapper expressed during his interview with Honey Magazine in regard to his low album sales, lyrics in his song, “The Problem,” paint a different picture: “It’s just my fate, lemme chill, nah flip, my s**t was submarine like, under ship.”
Wale left Interscope Records saying, “They weren’t competent enough to believe in something different.” Interscope employs everyone from Lady Gaga, Dr. Dre, Soulja Boy and N.C. State’s own, Scotty McCreery.
In 2011 Wale signed with rapper Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group. Whether or not Ross believes in something different can be debated, given he’s been rapping about the drug game consistently since 2006.
In his earlier work, Wale often made fun of label executives. His skit, “Tasty Skit,” pokes fun at a music label that is calling to sign him. This skit includes someone from “Cliché Records,” that is looking for artists with “Lil” or “Yung” in their name, and in a subsequent song, “The Skit (Untz Untz),” the same “Cliché’ Records” calls, asking him to make a “Crank That” song. Though funny and invigorating in 2007 and 2008, Wale’s creative antics became less funny when he actually signed to a cliché’ type rapper and label.
Industry aside, Wale’s lyricism is now also a topic of debate.
Having always expressed a disdain for wearing chains, Wale can be heard saying this in his music in 2007, in his song “Warming Up Cane,” saying, “I don’t wear jewels, too much conflict.” Only three years later, in 2010, Wale switched things up in this line from “The Soup,” saying, “They ask me why I never wear chains, but if you brought up how I’m brought up, then you probably feel the same. And I ain’t saying chains suck, probably get me three or four.”
The same rapper who said he would never wear chains because of his upbringing, then turns around in the very next line to say he’ll probably get three or four.
Last year, on “Chain Music,” Wale said, “Keep a gold chain, h*es changed, I didn’t.” Is Wale being ignorant, contradictory, or just plain dumb? Neither, he’s too smart for that. On the same song, in the next line he also says, “They say karats help your vision, but somehow it made them listen.” Is he selling out to sell? f Wale is selling out, whom exactly is he selling out to?
Wale’s target audience is young, African-American females. His lure was once his poetic style with lines like, “B*tches ain’t sh*t, but women ain’t b*tches. See, women are the queens, and b*tches just b*tche.” In another of his gems, he lays this classic line, “Black mother of the Earth, you know I forever owe ya; I will never ignore ya; cuz I’m forever loyal.”
However now that he is apart of Maybach Music Group it seems Wale has backtracked on this poetic style. In the summer hit, “No Hands,” Wale boasts, “I slang that wood I just nunchuck’em…I sweat no b*tches that sweat out weaves…I put it on a train little engine could, B*TCH!” Wale also spat some eyebrow-raising freestlye-lyrics on the “Make It Rain” beat, “She like me from that No Hands but imma need her to use no teeth,” blatantly referencing oral sex.
While some argue that Wale was saying things like that before signing with MMG, the point subtlety and delivery should be raised. In 2009, on “Rather Be With You (Vagina Is for Lovers),” he raps a ballad to vagina. Funny? Yes, but nonetheless thought provoking and not your average rapper’s sex song.
Wale took a different approach to his female audience on his first album with MMG. In his hit song “Lotus Flower Bomb,” the first thing he says is “I’ma rap to you real quick. I wanna enjoy the luxury of like, not really knowing each other for real.” For those not quick on the draw, this is an invitation for a one-night stand. Wale gained fans with that song, but also lost some.
One thing that has remained consistent in the rapper’s music however is that he has always had D.C.’s back…right ?
On one of his first songs ever, “Uptown Roamers,” Wale says, “District has arrived us, time to shine. Yeah, I am the nail forever holdin em down”. Anyone who knows Wale knows he has always repped for D.C., and the DMV area as a whole.
“The revolution will proceed / unification of the DMV I will achieve indeed,” proclaimed the rapper in 2007. On his latest album, Ambition two songs stand out in particular when thinking about Wale repping for “his” city. The first track, Miami Nights,” an ode to Miami, Fla. where his boss, Rick Ross, resides. “Miami nights, it was all a dream.If I can get my money right, I’m about to OD Little more weed. First class seats, first class h*es, we on South Beach,” says Wale. While this sounds like a great place to be, this is not Wale’s city.
On the second track, “D.C. or Nothing,” Wale paints a horrible picture of a poverty-stricken land saying, “ When the city was chocolate, there was death in the air. All I’m hearing is AIDS, I ain’t deaf in my ear…Pray for peace with the babies, they a beast in the summer. “Of course he fiending for trouble, he had a fiend for a mother…A’int nobody here leaidng, it’s way too easy to follow.”
Sure Wale has shouted out D.C. in plenty of songs, but waits until his second chance at stardom to vividly portray a wasteland of a city? Instead he praises Miami.
It sounds like Wale has a case of “LeBron-itis,” damning his own city in hopes of success in another. The only difference between the two is that in this case, Wale didn’t take his talents with him to South Beach.