DC’s first mainstream rapper, Wale, has spent his entire career deciding who he is as an artist. "The Gifted" is Ralph Victor Folarin’s best effort at melding together his various behind-the-mic personalities: the brainteaser rhymer that started the buzz, the anxious relationship expert, and the Maybach Music-produced frontman.
"The Gifted" clumsily hits all of the notes Wale feels he needs to hit. It has the airy and soulful "Gullible," the ratchet "Clappers," and the required optimism-in-spite-of-circumstances "Black Heroes."
It’s the Massachusetts Avenue of albums: it sonically travels past the majestic embassies in Northwest Washington to the urban blight that surrounds RFK Stadium in Southeast.
A lot of Wale’s fans pine for the rapper’s early work, when he would sample scenes from Seinfeld and rap over Go-Go beats that brought hip-hop heads across the country to the Goodman Game. Wale’s earliest adopters probably won’t care for "Tired of Dreaming," which is a Ne-Yo and Rick Ross record with a Wale verse.
But "The Gifted" is as mainstream the mercurial Wale will ever be. Hip-hop is a numbers game, and if Wale is going to be recording the teased "Album About Nothing" with Seinfeld, he’s going to need to appeal to more than just his base. I was gobsmacked that in the 15 tracks there was nary a reference to RGIII. There will always be an ADHD aspect to Wale's production, but "The Gifted" has enough for everyone to hold your attention.
Published under: Hip Hop