Far more often than not, it’s the packaging and marketing of an artist that inevitably determines how well received they are by the public. For every braggadocious rapper flooding the airwaves with chart hits, there are equally as many talented individuals who Hip Hop seemingly doesn’t care for. This arguably was the case for the now Maybach Music affiliated Wale. From being the Nike boasting, good girl loving free spirit to flirting with critical acclaim due to clever anecdotes and engaging material, Washington, DC’s almost favourite son has divided Hip Hoppers opinions over his merits. But under new employers, a somewhat new image and a new album, Mr Folarin gets another chance to define himself to those still looking to place him in either the Hot or Not categories of emcees.
Whilst his debut effort Attention Deficit (2009) flirted with an array of musical flavours, Ambition definitely sticks to a more defined recipe for beats. Although predominantly made up of large, engulfing productions which are branded with the Maybach Music emblem, the score for Wales second outing also are assisted by some brilliant compositions which are jazzy and funk filled.
“Don’t Hold Your Applause” blends dreamy piano keys and rapturous drums to open up the album in glorious fashion, steering away from any early preconceptions of what a Wale-MMG album would sound like. What’s most appealing as well is that the rich musical fruits continue to blossom beyond track one. Mr Folarin struts on the jazz inspired “Double M Genius” and basks in the night life on “Miami Nights” – expressing a natural confidence which has often lacked in his performances.
For those who doubt the rappers ability to work wonders on the beefier tracks synonymous with Rick Ross‘ stable, the collaboration with former nemesis Kid Cudi is the spark which sets fire to any claims. “Focused” is a pumped up anthem declaring all eyes on the top prize, with Cudi serving up an emphatic chorus. Although Wale’s verses could have been more inspiring (a trait which follows through most of Ambition), it does show signs that the VA commander is now comfortable within the more amped realms of music which he once was stranger to.
The link up with messrs Rick Ross and Meek Mill on the project’s title track is an ominous affair, with each protagonist itching to tell their story of their rise to top dog status and “No Days Off” finds Wale puffing his chest, fully embracing his hustler spirit.
Lyrical performances remain consistent; Wale’s lyricism has always been applauded but dismissed due to reasons ranging from being boring to void of content. Ambition however finds his verses having some degree of depth – whether flossy or ‘conscious’. The prior overcooked use of NBA/NFL references have decreased whilst bars have been filtered of name brand referrals; this leaves stanzas which are more bearable and enjoyable – if at times simple.
Wale also throws a clutch of tracks for the ladies – the delicate “Lotus Flower Bomb” with Miguel, “White Linen” alongside Ne-Yo, “That Way” and the far superior duet with Lloyd on “Sabotage.” Any of those four songs make for an ideal radio single, albeit giving a different representation of the Wale most are familiar with. Even the following who have enjoyed dissecting the rappers more pressing issues will find a favourite in “DC Or Nothing” – adopting the role of a Washington everyman listing in detail the toils many face.
For those worried about the new reincarnation of the former XXL Freshman, Ambition puts to bed a number of those anxieties. Wale 2.0 is more of an evolution from his previous self – rapping with more boldness and clarity, productions being fatter and possessing an aura which commands the highest attention. The MMG co-sign has arguably made Wale a more complete artist – being given the room and resources to volley his unique offering to the masses with greater effect. The ego may have slightly grown and the depth which he’d once been applauded for slightly less, but unofficially, Wale has finally arrived – hungrier and more focused than ever. Now embarking on a different musical journey from before Ambition firmly puts Wale on the path for a more rewarding future.