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Wale – Attention Deficit



D.C.’s Wale has been poised to be the next big thing for a while. From XXL Mag’s stamp of approval very early in his career,1 to the “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.” single that displayed his party-rockin’ abilities, to the brilliant [The] Mixtape About Nothing, which introduced listeners to Wale’s theme of tackling racism in contemporary America, and juxtaposed Michael Richards’ infamous tirade against the “Seinfeld” theme.

At the moment, Wale is touring with Jay-Z. Before that, Wale played bandleader at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, and has recently released his highly anticipated debut studio album, Attention Deficit. The album doesn’t follow the usual criteria of major rap debuts, but it does suffer from some of the usual pitfalls.

Wale has enlisted some atypical producers for a rap record, UK producer Mark Ronson, relative unknowns Best Kept Secret, and TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek (who puts forth some of the album’s best sounds). The record also features some usual suspects like The Neptunes and DJ Green Lantern. Guest spots include everyone’s guilty pleasure Lady Gaga, as well as Bun B., and house favorite Gucci Mane.

The major flaw of this record is an infestation of R&B hooks. The need for commercial (mass) appeal can’t be denied, but many of these choruses are neither great nor catchy. The exception is Chrisette Michele’s appearance on the awesome “Shades,” where Wale addresses favoritism toward light-skinned black men and women. On the track, Wale ponders whether Pres. Obama would have won had he a darker complexion. “World Tour” is an otherwise decent tune, but Wale’s repetitious twist on ATCQ’s “Award Tour,” coupled with Jazmine Sullivan’s singing, make for a dud of a song.

I’m a big fan of Wale’s style of rhyme, which is very non-chalant and swaying, conversational and often quite clever. The momentum on Attention Deficit is nice, the opening track, “Triumph,” is excellent, and is followed by a few commercially viable numbers. Later on, we hear a great deal of steadily good songs, with increasingly cloying subject matter, such as the afformentioned “Shades.” On “Contemplate,” Wale tells of a woman he met in a club, encouraging her to contemplate her path in life after their relationship: She’s still in the club all of the time. Very relatable unrequited love music merged with a different perspective on club-themed songs. The highlight of the album is K’naan’s appearance. The Somali-Canadian spits a nice, long, honest, skilled verse and a great chorus on “TV In The Radio,” which is, appropriately, produced by TVOTR’s Sitek. “How the hell did they fit the TV in the radio?” Wale and K’naan ask, discussing the flawed music industry and how they fit in. The two make a great duo.

This album leaves Wale’s hit “Nike Boots” an orphaned single, and its absence leaves Attention Deficit with no real street anthem. It is an entirely accessible album, though, an impressive accomplishment considering Wale’s desire to get his share of socio-political messages out there. Having said that, Wale’s subject matter gets washed over by the album’s clean, pop aesthetic. Heads expecting a revelatory debut album may be disappointed. Casual listeners might dig it, but as a total package, Wale’s not bringing the ground-breaking debut many of us hoped for. Listen to The Mixtape About Nothing instead.


  1. He went to college on a football scholarship!