Monday, October 31, 2011

Album Review: Wale: Ambition


The time for Wale has come.  In my earlier post on Wale, questioning whether he really was that good, I answered "No."  I said I would give his new sophomore album Ambition, dropping tomorrow 11.1.11 a chance, even after I hated his mixtape ElevenOneEleven Theory.  But Wale is somebody many people see potential in, and many people listen to Wale for his witty lyrics and the true essence of hip hop he brings to the table.  In a game where everyone is singing on their hooks and "hip pop" is spreading through the mainstream and sweetening up radio waves, Wale is still spittin lyrics with the same cockiness and wit he always has, always living up to the "niggas be rapping" claim he made back on Back to the Feature.  Wale's lyricism was never in question, but his ability to hold one's attention, add another element to tracks through his words and flow, and his mic presence were suspect.  Add that to what many people believe was a less than stellar debut, and an eyebrow raising deal with MMG and Rick Ross, and you get a whole host of pressure for the DMV emcee.

Many assumptions were made about how this album would sound, how much it would sell, what part would Ross play, how would it compare to the other albums released this year, and whether Wale was legit or not.  Wale himself went as far as to call his album "classic" numerous times before the public even heard it, saying ahead of time that his lyrics may go over people's heads....

Yea he said that.  And he believes that.  The cockiness, the arrogance, the gall even.  That type of talk can rub listeners the wrong way and apply too much pressure to your project, setting heights that may be too tall for the album to live up to.  Wale did not see it that way.  Not only was he confident in his product, but he also has said that he has to be confident and cocky, and that "being humble keeps you in the back."  He even said this on his album.  Well the leak came out a few days ago, the album officially releases tomorrow, and Wale is the talk of the town and the net.  What are people saying?  What people think?  What do I think?  Well.........

A track by track review won't let you know how I really FEEL about this project.  As I sat down and listened to Ambition, giving it 5 listens in the first day it leaked, I listened with an non biased ear.  I have been critical of Wale in the past, but I still want good music from him, THATS ALL.  In the end......thats what I got.

The first three tracks really jumped at me, like really really REALLY jumped at me.  Don't Hold Your Applause sounded so melodic yet powerful.  Wale didn't smash the beat, but he rode on it fairly easily.  This beat, along with Double M Genius and Miami Nights, really grab a hold of you from the start, and thats not a feeling Im used to having when listening to a Wale cut.  But was it Wale or the beat?  Hmm.........

I liked the first three tracks, and Legendary is where I came across my first encounter with an emotion that would plague me almost every time I heard a Wale song or feature...........indifference.  The beat was great in my opinion, but not as uplifting and powerful as the first three tracks.  This song needed Wale to add an element to it to make it pop, not "poppy" but to keep you invested.  Wale had lyrics, but his whole delivery and presence on that song was real low key.  Real underwhelming.  The lyrics kept the song from being wack, but I couldn't feel no way about it, good or bad.  Although I was optimistic thinking this would be one of the few times I would feel this way, indifference reared its ugly head again and again.  Tracks like No Days Off, DC or Nothing, Chain Music, and Illest Bitch, tracks that I can admit were not lacking in flow, witty bars, and everything Wale is known for, didn't surprise me, impress me, or do anything to me or make me feel anything.  They honestly felt like Wale.....rapping over dope beats.  I liked all the beats (besides Chain Music) but it didn't mesh with the DC native.  It shouldn't be him just rapping over beats, not when he prides himself on being an artist.  Besides this is an album, not a mixtape.  Not saying those sound like mixtape songs, but they didn't do anything for me.  Good or bad.

There were some tracks I thought were wack, and I knew Wale would have those usual wack tracks that only Wale can think really sound good.  Focused was so laughable...from the struggle hook that Kid Cudi delivered, from that neo-80's pop beat, to the way Wale tackled the song.  Not my taste at all.  I didn't like Slight Work at all, I felt it was cheesy and well it had Big Sean on it so.....yea.  And White Linen sounds like Lotus Flower Bomb part 2 but a little sped up and different lyrics.  Doesn't help that the whole song put me to sleep.

There were some special tracks up here.  Lotus Flower Bomb, although now I'm a tad indifferent to it, is a hit in my opinion.  Great single, perfect way to make a tune for the ladies and not have it come across as soft and sugary like How to Love was.  Sabotage featuring Lloyd is a great track.  The beat really grabbed my attention, Lloyd added a nice vibe with his singing, and Wale merged with the beat to also set a vibe that you can zone to, something I'm not used to him doing.  Ambition is hands down my favorite track though.  I have already gotten into arguments about why Meek Mill's verse is not only the best on that song but the best on the album (Meek really did destroy that song though), but I will focus on Wale, and he sounded real at home alongside Meek and Rozay on that track.  I loved that song.  Wale really drives home his point and the theme of the album without making it sound like he is beating you over the head with it.

Wale's bars are on par here, and his message is delivered fairly well.  But does it SOUND good?  Is Wale boring as usual?  My experience with this album was a trippy one, as the tracks I did not feel anything for and was indifferent to slowly but surely began to sound better listen by listen.  I initially wrote Legendary off as sleepy and that it did nothing for me, but by the next day, the lyrics were sticking, Wale's flow sounded sharper, and I started to appreciate the track more.  Same with No Days off and DC or Nothing.  This leads me to another point...

I think this album is a "grower."  You know how Wale do, he's not gonna jump out at you on a track unless you're already a loyal fan.  Loyal fans will have a field day with this album as he gives them those witty lyrics and that thoughtful message he usually gives.  The rest of us will initially come away raving about how dope these beats are.  I mean these beats sound crisp, sharp, powerful, and whatever redeeming adjective one can come up with.  But after continuous listens, this album should grow on you more, and Wale should slowly win you over.  This is actually a good album.  I still have my songs I absolutely don't like, and some songs still haven't won me over yet, but everything I do like about this album did the job for me.  Don't Hold Your Applause, Legendary, Lotus Flower Bomb, Chains Music, Sabotage, and DC or Nothing are all good tracks.  Miami Nights, Double M Genius, and Ambition are all GREAT tracks in my opinion, with Ambition being the best on the entire album.  Wale has made steps in the right direction here, as he still doesn't jump out at you at first listen, but adds enough wit, honesty, and pure hip hop in his lyrics and switches his flow up enough to warm your ears up.  I don't see any reason to say this is a bad effort.

I didn't know what to make of Wale before this album, and I still don't know after listening it.  He has been consistent with the projects he has released far as quality (with More About Nothing being the clear standout) but he has been underwhelming in a majority of his works.  He always has good lyrics and decent flow, yet many people say Wale is boring.  I heard this album, and after my very first listen said if this album was an instrumental album, I'd like it more.  NOW?  I take that back.  I can't take back everything I've said about Wale, he surely hasn't turned me into a fan with Ambition, but I do enjoy it, and I do think he's turning a corner.  I think MMG and Ross are really bringing the best out of Wale and he is going in the right direction musically.  Ambition isn't perfect, it is not amazing, and it is certainly not "classic."  But it is a host of quality good music and thats all I really wanted in the first place.  Attention Deficit was ok, but Ambition is sounding a little better to my ears right now.  Probably his second best effort after More About Nothing.  But I enjoyed this album.  Not telling if he has answered his critics, silenced his haters, or gave his fans a classic album, but I do know that this a  good album.....maybe not one of the better albums of the year, but a good one nonetheless.

Do I think Wale is really that good NOW?  Nah not really, but hey this album ain't bad at all.  I think Wale got a hold of some pretty high caliber beats, did his best to keep you entertained. I recommend you listen and buy it even.  The beats are still the strong point on this album to me, but Wale does play a decent role in building an atmosphere that I feel suits him, his theme, and the music he makes.  Wale fans should be happy, and so should he.  Now if he really expected THIS to be a classic though..........

naaaaah, that aint it bro.

Cop that though.  Whurlin!

2 comments:

  1. i will check out the ambition track and move on from there.

    good read.

    ReplyDelete