Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I'm always ... intrigued (careful word choice) to hear the sound when a new music scene is on the come-up from a city on the map not previously represented. While it was a little before my prime, in the mid '90s, Atlanta hip hop came out hard with a sound only capable of being described as Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik with groups such as OutKast, Goodie Mobb, and Parental Advisory in the early years defining their specific genre. Unfortunately, crunk became an offshoot of that as newer Atlanta acts became prominent in the mainstream. But it was something we hadn't heard before. And that's important, no matter what form it takes.

Houston is a more recent example. Children got to see before their very eyes the insanely huge, though temporary, celebration of the Chopped-N-Screwed and candy-painted movement of Texas with the inexplicable rise to fame of Slim Thug, Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Lil' KeKe, and others around 2005-ish. While I personally prefer to look at H-Town's richer history of the Geto Boys, Devin the Dude, and more recently Chamillionaire, no one can doubt the epic nature that distinctive sound took on the rap game for a little while.

Now the Washington, D.C. area is hoping to carve its niche in the hip hop universe on the shoulders of one man. Wale. Not "whale" as I ignorantly thought initially. But the magician/matador-like "Wah-lay"! I quote Phonte (pioneer of the NC sound!) way too much in my explanation of enjoyable and important rap music, but it applies here, too.

"Dope beats, dope rhymes. What more could y'all want?" (c) Phonte

It's a Calculus II-worthy formula that should be taught in kindergarden classes the world over. Wale prevails in his adherence to this formula. And if you're ever going to be formulaic, wouldn't this be the one you'd like to be classified under?

Before listening to the above tape I would never have believed anyone could pull off an ode to Seinfeld, regardless of genre. But Wale sets up each track as a Seinfeld episode experience in that they're methodically yet simply labeled "The [insert reason why it's relevant] Song". It's a beautiful concept that's beautifully utilized to poke fun at himself. Take for instance "The Cliche Lil' Wayne Feature" that was previously known as "Nike Boots (Remix feat. Lil' Wayne)" to earlier fans. That takes guts and humility to call yourself out as such. My personal favorite title is "The Roots Song Wale Is On" as he isn't even afraid to bill his song cementing his underground cred as thoughtfully funny on elaboration, either.

Wale takes chances in crafting his soundscape, but it's so second nature to him that the end product is consistently dope. He incorporated blatant go-go sounds as an ode to his hometown as well as live band orchestration, real drums, and heavy pop remixes, all while approaching his lyricism differently and successfully depending on the track he's adding to. His lyrics are constantly double-take worthy but never do you feel overloaded. If you're not in a thinking mode, he makes the flow just sound good so you can nod out to it.

Get up on Wale before that first official album drops. If not, you'll already be behind. And you'll have to be tutored in the fact that a single man is making rap relevant locally in America's capital. And his name ain't Barack Obama.

... and so concludes another masterpiece

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