A few years back, all eye were on three rappers on the come-up to unite their lyrical rap skills as the force that would take back the hip-hop culture and lead us into the Holy Land of the new school rap scene. As you may have guessed, these leaders were J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Wale.
2013 was a successful year for the three rappers. Kendrick was just off the success of his second studio album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, with songs like “Poetic Justice” and “B*tch Don’t Kill My Vibe” still producing plenty of buzz. At the start of the year, J. Cole dropped his album, Born Sinner and hit the road on the “What Dreams May Come Tour,” which just so happened to feature Wale. At the time, Wale was on fire, his 2013 album, The Gifted, debuted at No. 1, with his hit song, “Bad” featuring singer Tiara Thomas that was later remixed by Rihanna. Still, with all of this success, many would argue whether 2013 was the same year that K. Dot and J. Cole’s talent began to eclipse Wale’s, with both artists now peaking at the top of the rap game and Wale… well, not so much.To his credit, Wale had experienced plenty of difficulties during his time in the limelight. Back in 2008, Wale signed a deal with Interscope Records for what was reported to be valued at $1.3 million. Still, I’m sure no money in the world could prepare him for the upset that was just around the corner after the label decided to make “Chillin,” Wale’s first single off of his debut album, Attention Deficit. Unfortunately, for him and Interscope, this song “flopped” leading to low album sales and him eventually being dropped from the label.
Fast forward to now, and we see that not much has changed.
Wale’s fifth studio album dropped late April and with a combination of a surprise early release date, minimal promotion, and lackluster single performance, Shine, was yet another one of Wale’s bodies of work to be declared a “flop,” earning him a mere 28,000 equivalent album units. On Monday’s episode of Complex’s Everyday Struggle, Wale and DJ Akademiks exchanged their opposing views surrounding the album’s disappointing numbers and Wale deflected by mentioning the performance of his Shine tour dates, stating that he has “sold out shows” in both LA and Atlanta. In the same breath, Wale tiptoed around the act of calling out his label, Atlantic Records, for not providing him with the proper support to successfully launch Shine, saying, “I didn’t create enough awareness like I should have…. I put it on me, I don’t put it on Atlantic,” and that he didn’t want to “point fingers”. Well, Wale, someone needs to start pointing something.
Now, if you were once deemed as one of hip-hop’s rising stars only to be thrown in the flames of bad record deals, bad press, and bad album sales, you would have a chip on your shoulder too, right?
To this point, I would like to refer to the words of the great songstress, Erykah Badu, “I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my sh**.” You see, in all the interviews and articles I’ve read about Wale, there is one common theme that ties everything together, Wale’s hypersensitivity. The guy is an artist and his passion can sometimes come across as arrogance and being thin-skinned. He feels overlooked and underappreciated, and every chance he gets to express that, he will. People have found the red button to press when seeking to ignite Wale’s indignation: his art. Because of this, commentators, radio hosts, and blogs have made it their goal to send subliminal shots aimed to press these buttons, get a rise out of him, and simultaneously taint Wale’s image.
Wale, you’ve given us the music, but for some reason, it’s just not connecting with your fans or “the culture” for that matter. The general public has an impression of you to be defensive and sensitive, and the two have lead in the overall consensus of you being “corny” that transcends your music. This isn’t my personal view, but as a student of the culture, it’s what I’ve observed. And the sooner you come to peace with this reality, the sooner you can collect all the information you’ve been presented and strategize on your next plan of attack.
Go away for a while. Spend some time with your new daughter (who is adorbs by the way), maybe work on a sneaker collab, start a college tour with speaking arrangements, stay the heck off social media, and regroup. As J.Cole mentioned in his song, “False Prophets, you’ve got a ” …platform to make a classic rap song/To change a n*gga’s life, but you too anxious livin’ life/Always worried ’bout the critics who ain’t ever did it.” Get back to the drawing board; we are rooting for you, Folarin.Before you go: Let me know your thought on the Wale’s music career. Are you a supporter? Think he’s a non-factor at this point or can he rebrand and redeem himself? Sound off in the comments below, I’d love to hear!
Peace, peace, peace,