With so many young faces emerging in the landscape of hip-hop right now—whether they be under a veteran’s wing or “cookin’ up dat piff” in their momma’s basement—it is extremely easy for both listeners and musical hopefuls to become inundated. Over the years however, it seems that a schism between new and old has emerged: too many new artists develop a style based on a successful artist instead of cultivating their own sound. While a very unfortunate thing to see, especially in a genre where there is “no biting allowed,” it does make it easier to weed out who is here for now and who is here forever. With that being said, Wale is someone music needs right now because while he is a fresh face, nobody sounds like Wale.
Having been in tune to the moves Mr. Folarin has been making since he “…did Justice justice” on W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E. off of his third mixtape, it has been apparent that he was something special. Making use of jumbo-sized verses, irregular rhyme patterns and super-charged punch lines that require numerous listens to truly appreciate, Wale has certainly never played the “butter notes.” The downside? The most apparent concern for a Wale album was that his marathon style would cause him to struggle with writing hooks when the time came for it. Well, on Attention Deficit that fear has been shattered.
On his debut album, he has combined a seemingly unknown knack for great chorus writing with the elements that made 2008’s The Mixtape About Nothing so good. The first track, “Triumph,” goes hard. With a backdrop that sounds like an electro-butter and go-go sandwich, not only does he declare that he’s out for the necks/spots of the greats, but he drops such gems as, “So I dreamed of presenting myself/ And the only thing I fear is Jimmy Iovine’s shelf.” If nothing else, this D.C. native has got balls. Surprisingly, most of the songs have hooks- good hooks. Even so, Wale throws the 16-bar format out of the window and messes around with verse length, making for a refreshing listen and bars packed to the brim with metaphors. Close listening is definitely required.
It’s hard to say that the album feels extremely cohesive one-hundred percent of the time, but with a title like Attention Deficit that is also a very hard thing to judge. Either way, the production offers great instrumentation and paints moods very well for Wale and his expertly-picked guest appearances. Yes, even Gucci Mane is enjoyable on the undeniable “Pretty Girls.” And on one of the album’s best tracks, “Shades,” he discusses a struggle with race that is both very personal yet hardly exclusive. Whether Wale’s sheer ability will be able to hold the masses’ A.D.D.-riddled focuses after being hooked by his infectious single is irrelevant; he knows who he is and what he is doing, which is insight any artist, old or new,would be lucky to have.