Album Review: Wale – Ambition
In my opinion, Music has certain roles. Roles that many individuals play and those who manage to be different in these lane’s have the ability to be legendary for their efforts. For the sake of the review, I’ll focus on Hip Hop when I describe them. There are rappers, those who rap and do nothing more, nothing less. They fulfill their duties and don’t really think too much more of it. It’s more of a job to them than anything else. Then there are the Businessmen (or women). They may not exactly lay their vocals on a track, but they may be a manager, an A&R, an engineer, or anything in the industry that may have to do with the work of an artist/rapper reaching the ears of the people. Also, an important note about Businessmen and women is that they do NOT have to be getting paid in money or any of that sort to be classified as such. Moving on to Producers, those who create the sounds for the rapper or artist to express themselves and last, but certainly not least, the Artists.
An artist respects what we call the game on a level beyond an average rapper, and turns the idea of being a rapper into a SUCCESSFUL career. Artists come in different shapes and sizes and are usually debated on more than anything. You may not like an artist but the fact that he’s made himself (or herself) relevant enough for you to discuss him (her) means his efforts towards creating a life out of this for himself (herself) is working. That fact alone is worth some degree of respect but I digress, those out there who can blur the roles, merge the two for themselves or even create entirely new roles to fill, are destined for greatness.
Jay-Z for example, started off as a rapper releasing Reasonable Doubt without any thought to truly live off of Hip Hop. He evolved and eventually took every role possible in the growing genre, which has brought him to new levels no one would’ve expected of him. Now he is in the eyes of many, the greatest who has ever touched a microphone. Now am I calling Wale the next Jay-Z? No, I could never do that. What I can do, is applaud him for reminding me that there’s another role out there that may not be as fleshed out as the others, but it surely exists. Wale Folarin isn’t a rapper, he is an artist and also, a poet and just like most poetic artists in Hip Hop in this day and age, receiving support behind your project is that much more difficult.
Wale was born in Washington D.C. and if you’re a fan, you know he’ll never let you forget it. He has a ton of pride and represents where he’s from proudly however, that type of loyalty was something his previous label couldn’t get behind. Interscope, the big label that had Wale on it’s roster prior to MMG, didn’t respect his vision. For example, it was one thing that Interscope had interfered and changed Wale’s sound for his single “Chillin” off of his first album Attention Deficit, but it was another issue entirely when Lady Gaga, the feature for the record itself (and fellow Interscope artist) refused to come to Wale’s home of D.C. in order to shoot the visual for it. Folarin offered to pay for her entire entourage and bring them all out because of what it meant to him, but there was no room for debate with no type of interference from the label. He shot the video in Boston, but add to that the fact that Interscope only funded the lead single (Chillin) and under shipped Wale’s project in the first place, it was clear that Wale needed to make moves immediately.
The sad part behind that is that these issues happen everyday to artists who aren’t supported because they may bring something different to the table. Wale isn’t afraid to be a poet and say thought provoking statements while he delivers his product, beyond a hot 16 bars and that’s what makes him a respectable MC. Interscope wouldn’t give him the opportunity he fully deserved after building his own name up around the DMV (meaning the D.C., Maryland & Virginia area) but after a good discussion with Rick Ross, Wale and the MMG Boss found an understanding and he was signed to Maybach Music Group. Several tracks with the team and one MMG album later, Ambition is due to be released November 1st and now the question is, with the freedom and comfort he’s wanted all along, did Mr. #NoDaysOff manage to put out a project worth remembering?
The triumphant Don’t Hold Your Applause cruises on in the beginning and allows Wale to speak on some topics and thoughts that surround him such as how it feels to be where he’s at now. He’s fully aware of his ability and he has no issue making it clear. His MMG backing has him speaking with the utmost confidence and the track does a good job of introducing us to the project.
The upbeat yet short Double M Genius shows Wale letting loose over a solid beat with a decent yet repetitive hook chanting “They talkin, they talkin about Folarin”. He drops lyrical gems all over the beat, with lines like “Niggas is starring like a Synagogue, think about it”, “Loud smoking so pass the L like a semicolon” and “Verse 2 gon’ be fuckin with verse 1, especially when you’re writing shit that can never be done”. Bragging and reckless rhymes float all over the beat from beginning to end on this one and it doesn’t hurt Folarin at all.
The feel of Miami Nights immediately gives me the same vibe that Wale’s track “World Tour” featuring Jasmine Sullivan carries, only better. The boss Rick Ross is heard in the back for this one providing adlibs and supporting words in the here and there, encouraging Folarin while he dances all over the record. There’s definitely a sense of celebration and victory with this one, but at the same time carrying his entire theme of the album which is having the drive to put yourself in a situation where you can relive these Miami nights all over again.
Here the project takes a more aggressive tone, leaving Wale with a simple but powerful beat to get intense over. “Fuck fame, fuck money…” is mentioned in the hook, and it shows Legendary has the feel that makes you think Wale is definitely focusing more on his own goals of achieving greatness more than the distractions that come with fame. That said, the beat is one of those beats that is truly measured by the talent that inhabits it, and Wale made sure the track is one worth keeping on repeat.
On the airy yet smooth Lotus Flower Bomb, Wale brings along one of R&B’s latest singing sensations in Miguel to carry the hook along while he praises a woman in a way that only he can, with his sly delivery. Although short, the track itself is a slow hit for sure, particularly maintaining it’s freshness as the beat picks up half way through each verse, Wale keeping the pace with it as he glides along. It’s definitely a good song, but is it anything truly unique? No.
The delightfully ignorant Chain Music samples MMG Commander and Wale’s boss, Rick Ross all over the hook and lets Wale get comfortable in the discussion of what happens when you’ve got a chain and you make that chain music. The comparison between how the women act towards Folarin is mentioned often here while he tackles how these ladies never want to consider him as someone worth speaking to until he’s got the fame and the glory in the form of jewelry.
Following a recent reconciliation with G.O.O.D Music soldier Kid Cudi, Wale recruited the artist for a hook on this track that reinforces the theme of the entire project. Interestingly enough, Kid Cudi and Wale both have personalities that are rebellious towards the game and some of the culture’s superfluous yet common acts (such as how labels can be, how women can act, etc.) and because of that, I feel these two merge for one of the better tracks on the entire project. Focused is definitely a hit in it’s own right and stands alone, although I feel some of Wale’s more poetic verses would’ve made this record that much more powerful.
Fresh off of an argument with someone a woman we can assume was significant in his life, Wale heads right into the booth and lets loose a really vulnerable yet proudly displayed trio of verses based upon his experience with a woman while Lloyd delivers an extremely solid performance over the hook and bridge reinforcing Wale’s point: “My girl likes to sabotage our love yeah, she can only take so much more than her heart got, she can only live for the moment, why? I’ll never know it, guess I’ll meet her right back at start”. The two collaborate well with a great beat courtesy of Cloud Eater and the overall ability to relate to the words in Wale’s poetic delivery makes this another one of the standout tracks from the honesty, to Wale’s legit honesty of going right into the booth with a strained voice. It’s a hit for sure.
Wale takes after his Boss and gets to stunting in this Ne-Yo collaboration. The entire track is enforced by a nice beat done by Producer Deputy who has also done work for Flo-Rida (Act Like You Know) Sean Garrett (Grippin, Come On In) and Diggy Simmons (This Feelin). The track, although a solid effort from all involved, has nothing that truly stands out about it alone besides the beat itself.
Slight Work is nothing but an absolutely fun beat to float over and that’s not an issue at all. Wale and Big Sean both get comfortable in the pocket with their verses and snap and between the two with lines like “I do this, I turn a straight prude b*tch to a nudist, and I’m blowing up like b*tches we went to school with” and “B-I B-I B*tch, B.I.G, two things I don’t need are you and my I.D.” it’s not easy to pick a favorite line. The fact that the two get along so well also adds nothing but fuel to the friendly competition between the two, and thanks to the sounds and samples throughout the track it looks to be a track geared towards the ladies enjoying themselves. Side Note: Considering Sean’s latest little run in with the law, it’s entertaining to hear Wale say at the very end “We need to see ID.”
Toronto’s next up and coming super producer T-Minus lays out a gritty beat only very slightly similar to “She Will” for the three current shining stars on MMG to shine bright. The trio all succeed in delivering powerful quality verses, the first two describing what they have endured and came through to get where they are and what they’re doing now, a proud moment for MMG surely considering how they’ve firmly established themselves at the front of mainstream Hip Hop as of late. Ambition pushed them forward and as Wale is left to end the track he doesn’t sit on the idea of what he’s been through at all, but turns more in the direction of showing how great lyrically he is and he does in one of his better verses on the project, mainly because the verse represents what Wale is in his verses as a whole. A young but wise, brash yet intellectual individual. Next time someone tells you MMG as a unit isn’t worth listening to, this is your defense.
The cruising, easy to grove to beat on illest b*tch alive (thanks to The Bizness, who created Young Money’s Every Girl, for it) accommodates Wale as we get something that is definitely within his element. He embraces the women who may be struggling out there with this one, and ties the perfect knot at the end of the track with his vintage Wale poetry.
That said, Wale does just that on his nickname turned track that is No Days Off. The beat is far from the flashier tracks on the project and allows Wale to define how great the track is mainly by his own delivery. The effort is clearly noted here however, it fails to stand out on it’s own. To be one of those tracks that reinforces Wale’s entire concept for the project, it doesn’t stand with the others before it. Well, it doesn’t stand as tall as the others that may have come before it on the album, that is.
DC or Nothing is a record that has an aura of greatness, or at least, the feeling of greatness on the horizon. Produced by Tone P, (Who produced 4 of the 16 tracks on this project) this is one of the best beats on the entire album with a hypnotizing hook (done by upcoming singer(?) Sam Dew) while Wale takes two verses to release more than just the story of his come up, but a heartfelt set of bars revealing what goes on in the struggling side of streets of DC. He defines himself as a hometown hero with the way he delivers his craft here, before finishing with his poetry like only he does.
The heavily pushed single That Way speaks for itself with it’s smooth vibe, sampling “Give Me Your Love” which was written and performed by Curtis Mayfield. Originally appearing on MMG’s Self Made project, Wale’s individual effort went on to be so well received that the team had no choice but to let it grace this project as well.
For the final track on the album, Tone P creates a monster of a banger in the 4 minutes and 30 seconds of pure excitement with Bait. Lyrical presence is never really in question with Wale but with tracks like these it’s better to just enjoy the track for the fact that it can get you hyped up beyond belief if heard in the right environment.
Wale’s an artist and a poet. His debut album Attention Deficit was a very solid project and it didn’t see nearly as much as he deserved to sell due to his label underestimating his abilities but I never compare projects when writing reviews. Now with the proper backing, Wale is definitely going to prosper and be the best he can be, which is always a great thing for Hip Hop since Folarin will continue to help the idea of Poets in Hip Hop become relevant but with all the talented artists in the world, sometimes other artists who aren’t as developed get lost in the shuffle. That said, Ambition is a good piece with some moments in which he truly shows his potential, but this album isn’t where he CAN be. Wale has grown but he still has room for improvement. The album as a whole came off to me as just “good” which of course isn’t bad, but if you’re in a room full of A students and you get a B+, how special can you possibly be then?