Wale Is Ready To Take Back Hip-Hop
The genre has become too mainstream, and many artists who are talented
receive no backing and development from labels that tend to opt more
for ring-tone rappers and one-hit-wonder than anything else.
Nevertheless, a fresh sound has emerged from our nation's capital.
This new sound, one which blends hip-hop with go-go music, seems as if
it is is going to reinvigorate a genre long since gone stale.
And Wale, an artist who is original for creating
that fusion and mainstream in his on-the-cusp popularity, has joined
the forefront of this movement. Featured in publications such as Rolling Stone and on programs such as HBO's Entourage, which
played "Ice Cream Girl," a song from his mixtape "100 Miles and
Running" (30,000 + downloads since July 2007) and his breakthrough "The
Mixtape About Nothing" (May 2008), Wale has garnered an attention and
success unprecedented for an unsigned artist from an area not exactly
considered Hip-Hop Mecca.
Born Olubowale Folarin, he adopted the name Wale, "We Ain't Like Everyone." This backronym encapsulates his originality: a style greatly influenced by performers from Big Daddy Kane to Jay-Z, Eminem to the Digable Planets.
By the end of 2007, Wale's song, "Nike Boots," was selected as iTunes'
single of the week. This song digs deeply into his life. It, like his
other songs, attempts to convey a message of "self confidence and self
appreciation." Here's a typical fusion of rhyme and metaphor Wale uses
in 'Boots' :
we all here, from the dealers to the kids/to the squares to the fly/
one thing we are aligned with/black on black Nikes/that represent the
lifeless lives/and it reflects the plight of those fighting/
This is a precise example illustration of Wale's talent to create a
great song while inflecting his lyrics with references to his
upbringing that serve as both a response as well as an affront to those
critics and cynics who have doubted him since day one .
In a time when artists and their lyrics are mostly comprised of
self-congratulatory themes and hyperbolic views of this hip-hop
lifestyle, fueled by a desire to make their money before their shelf
time and 15 minutes are up, Wale genuinely cares about his fans and
shows it through his music.
His "Mixtape About Nothing" has turned that buzz into a deafening roar.
Signed to Interscope Records along with a production deal with Mark
Ronson's Allido Records, the 24-year-old Wale has been able to make
major inroads on the way to international stardom over the past year.
Over this time, Wale has performed with artists such as Ronson, Lil Wayne and The Roots. While making the rounds through the European Festival circuit, he played to crowds with as many as 50,000 people in them.
Critics reacted well to the performance he gave at the at two recent
sold out shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Wale has taken a
place as one of the flagbearers of the hip-hop scene, staking a claim
as one of the most important new voices out there.
The industry buzz surrounding Wale has become so strong that it was able to attract artists such as Chris Brown, M.I.A. and Maroon 5 to
want him on some of their remix tracks. Also, he has made guest
appearances on a number of tracks and has been getting shout-outs by
industry players such as Jay-Z and Diddy.
Wale may have, of late, reached a prominent success, but that success
didn't happen without hard work. Over the past few years, Wale has been
playing to massive crowds in the greater Maryland-Washington
DC-Virginia area, scenes at by no means the Hip-Hop levels seen in New
York, Los Angeles or Atlanta, and those efforts have paid off. After a
few months on the grind, Wale got the attention of DJ Alize, an
influential DJ for Washington DC's WKYS.
That station was and still is one of the most essential cogs in boosting Wale's exposure.
"He [Alize] has been a mentor and [has] been helping me since Day one," Wale recalls fondly.
Although he has had a lot of success in a short period of time, Wale
knows that he has to stay focused on the work itself. He has said he
doesn't wish to stress himself out by trying to make himself or his
music something it is not. However, this does not mean he has an
overwhelming degree of self-confidence.
In fact, it is rather the opposite. Wale refers to himself as "an
underdog"--which accounts for the level-headedness he's exhibited about
his accomplishments thus far. He notes that viewing himself that way
"keeps [him] grounded and that [his] expectations for [himself] aren't
really that high [but] that everyone else's are too high."
But that self-consciousness does not reflect itself in the next moves he seems to be making.
When it comes to a description of the upcoming year, saying Wale has
"big plans" would be an understatement. With multiple tours, numerous
showcases and an April album release lined up, he seems unstoppable.
Industry powers agree with this assessment
"Wale is the truth," said super-producer Pharrell Williams. "That kid has a lot of talent, [and] he is going to be one of the next great voice in music; I know it."
And even if he's not yet the Hip-Hop king, he will rise to the top. In
the end, good music will survive in spite of all of the sub-par work
currently being released.
Wale promises to be a fixture on your airwaves and on your iPod for years to come.