Music Feature

Roots Picnic Primer: Review of Wale's "Ambition"

by Ryan O'Connell
A late to the party review of the rapper's 2011 release

I am frequently late to the party. Literally. There were a couple times during college when I was so late I found myself playing beer pong by myself. You can probably imagine- it was anti-climatic and regardless of how I shot, I always ended up drinking warm beers with ping pong balls floating in them; not always a bad thing.

But I am also frequently late to the party in terms of new music, new TV shows and new movies. For instance, I didn’t get into HBO’s amazing new TV show, Girls, until about episode three. And like most of us who are now diehard The Wire fans, I didn’t get into that show until season four. Please don’t tell David Simon that. He’s not totally cool with that.

As for coming late to the music party, the list can get pretty long. Sometimes new albums or artists slip through the cracks or slip through the Google searches or slip through the Twitter feed. It figures that I finally got into LCD Soundsystem just in time for James Murphy to disband the project.

To make a long story short, with the Roots Picnic coming in hot, I decided to take today to prepare myself. I started out the day listening to old De La Soul albums, which is always a good time. Then I decided to bone up on Wale, who I had a casual relationship with, but had never really devoted much time too. Up until this morning, the only song by Wale I could name with any confidence was “Smile,” off of the album 100 Miles and Running. Thanks to the radio this morning, who played “Slight Work,” I found out Wale’s latest album was Ambition from 2011. Cue up a Google search and we’re off and running.

First impression…Wale kind of sounds like Tupac. I actually thought the first song, “Don’t Hold Your Applause,” sampled the deceased rapper/popular hologram. But nope, it’s Wale and the deeper you get into the album, the Tupac similarities start to fall by the wayside- replaced by a rapper whose flow is brimming with swagger and energy and is a smooth as a Chandler Parson’s wink during the NBA draft lottery. Throughout the entire album, Wale essentially owns it. It’s nothing new to say a rapper has command of his shit, but I feel it is something to new to say Wale has complete command over his shit.

The phrase “Wale is an extremely confident sounding dude” is a massive understatement.

On Ambition, Wale is joined by Kid Cudi (headlining the Roots Picnic’s Sunday program,) Big Sean, Ne-Yo and that bearded mountain of a man Rick Ross. The production on Ambition is great- never once over-shadowing Wale’s lyrics and rapping and instead providing a perfect complement to his bouncing lyrical style.

Someday I want to have as much fun as Wale constantly sounds like he’s having on this album.

So Wale, I’m sorry. I should have started listening to you earlier; back when I was in DC all the time and you were all people were talking about. I should have not just pronounced “Smile” as my jam and should have used it as a damn good reason to start listening to more of your jams. Wale, on this cloudy and slightly foreboding Friday morning, I can only you forgive me.

Wale plays Saturday at the Roots Picnic. Wale is also part of Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group, who along with Ross, Meek Mills, Omarion and Stalley are releasing Self Made volume 2 on June 26th.

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