Wale upgrades music with new record label

Eli Watson

When Wale debuted with Attention Deficit, the world received their first taste of hip-hop’s newfound prince. Technically gifted and vigorous in his delivery, Wale’s new-school sound showcased his respect and admiration of past rap acts and his contemporaries. He confidently provided narratives over production that ranged from TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, to The Neptunes’ very own Pharrell Williams, showing the hip-hop newcomer could be accepted by experimental, avant-garde rockers and alternative rap fans alike.

Unfortunately, Wale’s gradual rise to hip-hop supremacy was stifled due to complications with former record label Interscope Records. Fast-forward to 2011, and Wale has changed his game up completely: Backed by Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group and an assortment of talented producers, Wale returns with his sophomore album, Ambition.

In exchanging mass hipster appeal for the tutelage of Teflon Don Rick Ross, Wale actually manages to retain what captivated so many fans during his humble beginnings, while getting a fresh makeover. Opener “Don’t Hold Your Applause” and its roaring, snare drums strike with unrelenting force as Wale claims that he’s “tired of makin’ money … on to makin’ history.” A bold statement, but Wale and his half-insightful, half-braggadocio-filled lyrics embody his desire to embrace his newfound swagger and his old school hipster status.

“Lotus Flower Bomb” is an explosion of sensual chords, airy electronic percussion and guest vocals from R&B crooner Miguel, while the Diplo-produced “Slight Work” blares with cacophonous police sirens and bravado-fueled lyrics from Wale, and up-and-comer Big Sean.

The rest of the album shows an overall improvement since Wale’s debut, but the flaws lie in his encompassing of both the eccentricity that contributed to his rise and the mainstream success that looms overhead. On Attention Deficit Wale jeopardized being scrutinized for his eclectic choices in production and sampling, resulting in an album that ended up working in his favor. Similar to Kid Cudi, Wale’s debut took brave chances and reaped the benefits.

Ambition, however, can be a hit-or-miss in that the lyrics and production do not sync well, resulting in lackluster songs like “That Way” or “DC or Nothing” that get by, but have no resonance. It sounds as if Wale took the safe way on this album, sacrificing his chance-taking attitude for a more recognizable and familiar production scheme in hip-hop beat makers Lex Luger and Mark Henry.

Rather than continue to be innovative, Wale becomes another rapper who, like that of Wiz Khalifa, Rick Ross and Waka Flocka Flame, relies on some go-to producers to help redefine his sound, but their contributions do not benefit at all. Ambition embodies everything that Wale hopes to accomplish as his career grows. Although there are moments of displeasure, the album proves that Wale is constantly improving.