On December 31, 2010, Wale landed at Miami Dade international airport, stepped out into the crisp Florida air and climbed into an all-black Land Rover. From there he was driven directly to Miami’s legendary strip club, the King of Diamonds, instructed to pick up the black duffel bag at this feet and escorted to a private table where has was greeted with enormous open arms by Rick Ross. Ten hours, a duffel bag full of cash and more booty and Patron shots than he could possibly remember later, Wale and Ross sat down to a …
DJBooth Album Review
Ok, so I completely made that up, but I really don’t think it’s far off. Whether it was because of a case of serious overhype (maybe), Interscope’s failure to properly push the project (maybe) or combination of both (definitely), Wale’s debut effort fell far short of the hip-hop savior tag so readily being applied to the D.C. native. It’s the kind of failure that makes a man seriously re-consider his plans, and almost two years to the day after the release of Attention Deficit he’s remodeled himself into an emcee sheathed in layers of hustle-fueled luxury with a lyrical core. So while the “old” Wale is still visible on his new album Ambition, you’ve got to sift through a lot of sex and expensive watches to get there. The question is, is that such a bad thing?
“Miami nights, it was all a dream, if I can get my money right I’m bout to OD.” It’s lines like that, off the live instrument fueled Miami Nights, that make me think my fiction in the opening paragraph isn’t that far off. But more than embodying Wale taking his talents to South Beach, Miami Nights is exemplary of Ambition’s mood; call it luxurious grind, hustling with shorts on. Better yet, call it White Linen (Coolin’). There’s enough between-the-sheets action on Ambition to fuel a seductive EP and the Ne-Yo assisted record leads the way, followed closely by the guitar focused quasi-ballad Sabotage and seriously steamy Lotus Flower Bomb. They’re smooth jams, they go down easy and they’re indicative of Wale’s more focused marketing plan: women buy music from men who make them feel wanted and promise to take them away from their bland reality, even if only for one night.
Rick Ross’ ironic genius lays in not overthinking. The Bawse’s unofficial motto is “entertain people and they’ll like you” and it’s a sentiment Wale adopts wholeheartedly on Ambition. With the exception of Illest B*tch (kind of), gone are Attention Deficit’s intensely personal offerings like Diary and Shades, replaced by booty bouncers like the flat Slight Work and jewelry-centric anthems like Chain Music: “Tried to give ‘em light in the message, but you ever have some f**kin VVS’?” Yep, that about sums it up. Now Wale has claimed that beneath the glossy surfaces of offerings like That Way lays some serious lyricism, and that’s true to a limited extent, but getting mad that listeners didn’t catch your subtle wordplay on a Jeremih and Rick Ross assisted radio single is like walking down the street with no pants on, then getting mad people didn’t notice your hat. Wale’s certainly pretending to be from the trap on Ambition, and he’s far more intelligent than your average booty rapper, but he’s certainly coming uncomfortably close for some fans of his original work.
It’s a fine line Wale’s trying to walk, too far one way and he no longer has the commercial appeal he so obviously wants, too far the other way and he’s suddenly just another rapper, but for the most part he walks it well on Ambition. The overall result is an album that’s easily enjoyable, but not particularly interesting. It’s a trade off, sure, but if you’re sitting with Rick Ross, sipping on lobster bisque and imagining your future with Maybach Music, don’t you make the same trade?
(Want even more on Wale's deeply debated debut? Check out Nathan S' extended take on our partner site RefinedHype: Did Wale Sell Out? Oh Hells Yes
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 11/1/11
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