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Wale’s Journey From Adversity To Artistry

Image Source: Dusty Kessler

Often criticized for straddling the fence between pleasing Hip-Hop purists and commercial casual Hip-Hop fans, Wale has proven himself as an artist’s artist. He can’t easily be placed in a box, and that may be at the core of much of the criticism he has faced throughout his career. It’s no secret that Wale has justifiably expressed frustration with the other side of the music business. The label and management changes, combined with the challenge of satisfying listeners, only add more fuel to the fire. Whether it’s ‘Chain Music’ or ‘Shades,’ Wale has demonstrated his ability to embrace diversity in music content in a room filled with “Mr. Me Too.”

He is an artist and he is sensitive about his sh*t! True artists want appreciation for their work and whether you like it or not he consistently hits the check marks for what you want from a Hip Hop artist. Consistency, check. Rapping ability, check. Ladies love him, check. Versatility, check. Longevity, check. Let’s also sprinkle a nice mixtape discography on top with “100 Miles & Running”, “Mixtape about Nothing”, “Back to the Feature”, “More about Nothing”, “Folarin”, and ” The Eleven One Eleven Theory”, for notable mention. You can argue that he doesn’t have the overall album sales or commercial appeal of say a Drake, but take into consideration that many don’t or never will. Four platinum/multiplatinum singles, three gold singles, and two gold albums are not a small feat by any means. Often overlooked for his contribution to hip-hop and genuine expression of his true feelings, ideas, and perspective on wax, it’s hard not to mention him in the likes of your current Hip Hop greats.

What more do you want from the guy?! To possibly be disingenuous with his music to please critics and grab the awards or to deliver timeless, good music that can be felt as sincere and true to the art? In this new era of rapidly consumable music, we’ll see what truly withstands the test of time.

Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Nicki Minaj, respectively, were listed as the 2010s Mt. Rushmore of rappers according to Spotify’s Rap Caviar in 2021. Not only did it set the social media streets on fire, but it also started to cause conversations around that specific era in music and said artist’s impact on the music game. Though the names of Future, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne were brought into those conversations, the unsung hero hailing from the DC area truly deserves his credit. Let’s discuss his moves in overcoming adversity in the music industry shall we?

Coming off a slew of mixtape rumblings and delivering a classic, “Mixtape About Nothing” (2008), Wale’s debut album ‘Attention Deficit’ (2009) was not well received according to album sales. Music critics delivered disappointing reviews, and the result of the album ultimately resulted in him being dropped from Interscope. Wale has mentioned in the past his displeasure of Interscope’s involvement with the album, more importantly, the lead single ‘Chillin’ featuring Lady Gaga. Although album sales were not the greatest, Wale still managed to give us cult classic records, such as “Diary” featuring Marsha Ambrosius, “Pretty Girls” featuring Gucci Mane, and “Beautiful Bliss” featuring J. Cole and Melanie Fiona. The production was there, the features were there, and the lyrical content was there. It makes people wonder what went wrong. Luckily they didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Coming off the dark clouds of ‘Attention Deficit’, there were brighter days. Wale gave us a mixtape titled ‘More About Nothing’ that ironically was about everything. A project that is a continuation of a past mixtape ‘Mixtape about Nothing’. Wale displayed his MC abilities over Go Go-inspired beats and Seinfield audio references. Following a great feature on the summertime banger ‘No Hands’ by Waka Flocka featuring Roscoe Dash (now a diamond-certified single), the fans could not help but want to hear more of Wale.

Wale inked a deal with Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group, in which he joined the likes of Meek Mill, Gunplay, Stalley, and more. The sky was the limit! His MMG debut ‘Ambition’ (2011), was easily considered the most popular album of his discography, peaking at #2 on Billboard’s 200 list. This album gives the balance fans looked for and chart success. Lead single ‘Ambition’ appeared in the top 10 on Hip Hop/R&B charts. His second single “Lotus Flower Bomb” featuring Miguel became radio gold as it earned him a Grammy nod and a Platinum-selling single.

The only way is up from there. Maintaining consistency, Wale delivered another great mixtape with Clarke Kent “Folarin” (2012), and followed up with two #1 albums “The Gifted” (2013) and “The Album About Nothing” (2015).

His album “Shine” didn’t go over well and soon he found his way out of another label situation with Atlantic. His album “WOW…That’s Crazy” (2021) cracked Billboard’s Top 200 peaking at #7 and earning him Gold status but his follow-up Folarin II didn’t garner the same success peaking at #22 on Billboard’s Top 200.

Now in a newly inked deal with Def Jam, we can look forward to the next phase in Wale’s career. Loyal Wale fans will be thrilled to see what he has up his sleeves and if he can replicate past success. Check out his new joint “Max Julien” now on all music streaming services!



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