Two years after making his Maybach Music Group debut with Ambition, Wale has unleashed the highly-anticipated follow-up. The artist's third studio album in total, The Gifted boasts 16 tracks' worth of new material from the D.C. heavyweight, including reader-approved singles "Bad," "LoveHate Thing" and "Rotation." 2 Chainz, Cee-Lo Green, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross are just a few of Wale's many notable collaborators throughout the set, which packs production by the likes of Cardiak, Just Blaze, Mark Henry, No Credit, Sean C & LV, Tone P, Travi$ Scott and more.
Fans can also freely stream the album at iTunes.
DJBooth Album Review
The good news is that familiarity should allow us to take a clean listen to Wale’s new album, Gifted. As much as is humanly possible without one of those Men in Black memory eraser devices, let’s try to listen to Gifted like we’d never heard Wale Folarin’s name before. And if this truly was my introduction to Wale, I’d say the man really has a thing for lush, live instrumentation paired with direct but complex lyricism. (So like Yeezus, except the exact opposite.) It’s a style that he used on Ambition, and it returns in full here, most powerfully on Golden Salvation. A full choir, a soaring piano line and some seriously lyrical rhymes that flow from unabashed stunting to thoughtful introspection, this is when Wale is at his best. The similar album opener, The Curse of the Gifted, falls a little flat, he sounds oddly disinterested in his own song, but that’s not a problem on album standout Heaven’s Afternoon. With MMG’s Meek Mill riding shotgun, this is some of that classic dope rhymes over a dope soul sample hip-hop lovers won’t be able to avoid. Throw 88 into this group and you've got a solid album…
…but Wale didn’t stop there. He spends the rest of the album ensuring he crosses off everything on the “Make a hit album” checklist, and now that he’s got Lotus Flower Bomb to his credit, he can’t help but take another shot at rap/pop/r&B crossover magic. The Bad (Remix), which for the album’s purposes has effectively replaces the original bad, might just find its way to a radio near you solely on the strength of a Rihanna hook, but otherwise it’s a frankly unremarkable song. Switch out Wale here with a host of rappers, and it wouldn't sound much different, and the same can be said of the Ne-Yo assisted Tired of Dreaming. By contrast, Gullible’s a much more interesting selection; there aren't many who would use a chorus from a certified hitmaker like Cee-Lo to talk about social ills, give Wale credit where credit’s due.
He’s still not done circling the bases though. Having already covered “intricate lyricist” and “hit single relationship rapper” territory, for the last third of Gifted he turns to the streets, and here’s where the album falters. Rotation has an appropriately hypnotic beat, but it feels more like a song he felt like he should make, not something he was genuinely inspired by. I feel the same way by Clappers, the album’s obligatory strip club anthem, and while Bricks has some true depth, hearing Yo Gotti’s verse is only a reminder of what street rap can more powerfully sound like. For the record I’m not interested in something as cliché as wanting Wale to only make “conscious” records. If he can make a booty-shaking anthem as good as Pop That, I’ll take it. But the truth is bangers just aren't his strength, and what’s wrong with wanting to hear someone at their strongest?
Ultimately though, as much as I try to focus on the present and forget about the past, listening to The Gifted sounds like listening to an artist who still doesn't really know who they are as an artist. More than any of his peers – Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick, etc. – Wale doesn't have a distinctive sound. Call it the blessing and curse of true talent. When you’re dope enough to sound dope rhyming on everything, you end up rhyming over everything. But the cost of that versatility is focus. The Gifted is a collection of tracks from an unarguably talented emcee, but the point at which a collection of music becomes an album, a singular work with a focus and unity strong enough to truly make an impact, Wale still hasn't reached that point. If Wale goes down in hip-hop history as a gifted emcee who also made some hit songs, there are a million rappers who would kill for those stats. But if he wants to go down as one of the GOATs, he still needs that classic album, that Ready to Die, that GKMC. Maybe he’ll get there, maybe he won’t. In the meantime, we’re left with a quality album, and I get to say that far too rarely to take it for granted.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 06/27/13
Related Songs & Features
Given Christ’s comments on the rich throughout the Gospels, it’s more than a little ironic to see rappers expressing their faith by rocking diamond-encrusted copies of his visage around their necks. On new single...
I must have the opposite of a dirty mind, because my first thought upon reading the title of Wale‘s latest feature was of The Clapper, the infomercial-shilled gadget that allows you to turn your light fixtures on with...
June is already a huge month for hip-hop with ‘Ye, Mac and Cole all releasing projects on the 18th, but let’s not forget about one of rap’s most misunderstood figures, Wale. His Gifted album is set to drop...
In anticipation of his forthcoming junior set, The Gifted, Wale recently released a remix of hit lead single Bad. The difference, aside from some even slicker wordplay from the DMV ambassador, is the input of perhaps the...
On the lead single off Wale‘s third studio album, hookwoman Tiara Thomas warned the DMV repper that, while she’ll be good to him in bed, she’s going to treat him Bad as soon as they’re out of the sack....
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Nike Boots" (2007)
Member Reviews and Ratings
- Best/Worst Of The Week: Coolio Turns To Porn, Nicki’s Comical Booty & More
- Russ, The Wild Card #TopProspects
- Sean Brown - The Top
- Even More Porn Stars in Music Videos (NSFW)
- Common - Nobody’s Smiling
- Real Recognize Real: Wrekonize on Pink Floyd, the Rise of TDE & More
- Kanye Thinks Drake is #1 Right Now - Is He Right? (Rap Power Rankings)
- Bobby Shmurda is the New Worst Thing to Happen to Shmusic
- The Best Hip-Hop & R&B Songs of 2014 (Ongoing)
- DJ Blaze - Blazing Cuts (June 2014)
Discover the best new songs, videos, and albums added to the Booth.