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REVIEW: Wale, Attention: Deficit

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Attention: Deficit

Washington, D.C., is ecstatic. After years without any representation, there’s finally a brother running the city. His swagger is impeccable. His sense of style is on point. His way with words is captivating. His African roots give him universal appeal. He’s the people’s champ, and his name is Olubowale Folarin, but you can just call him Wale.

Much like President Obama’s rise to power, Wale had to put in a lot of legwork to become Chocolate City’s first nationally celebrated MC. The 24-year-old’s push actually kicked off back in 2006, when his go-go–fueled track “Dig Dug (Shake It)” got regular radio play in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas. That led to the release of two well-received mixtapes—Paint a Picture and Hate Is the New Love—and DJ/producer Mark Ronson signing on as Wale’s running mate. The joint ticket went on to rally more public support with “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.,” off Wale’s 2007 mixtape, 100 Miles & Running. The record’s success earned the rapper a major-label endorsement from Interscope, in 2008, and paved the way for Wale’s inaugural album, Attention: Deficit.

Every rapper on the campaign trail makes promises of changing the status quo, but few actually deliver on that lofty goal. Consider Wale the exception. Staying true to his hometown roots, the 2008 XXL Freshman 10 alumnus infuses his opus with heavy doses of go-go funk, while still maintaining his hip-hop edge. The Cool & Dre–produced lead single, “Chillin’,” finds Wale teaming up with techno-pop star Lady Gaga for a distinctly D.C.-sounding anthem. Known for their signature synths, the Miami beatsmiths switch their sound up even further on the Jazmine Sullivan–guested “World Tour,” which is a nod to A Tribe Called Quest’s 1993 gem “Award Tour.” Over a summery sound bed of sparkling piano keys and rugged percussion, Wale spits, “Mama ain’t raise no fool, true/But me and my brother never made it outta school.”

What Wale manages to avoid is regurgitating the same frivolous concepts and mundane subject matter that so many rookies feast on. In fact, on the Ronson-helmed “90210,” he boldly touches on females suffering from bulimia and coke addictions (“She throws up whatever she eats/She leave the bathroom with her nose bleed/She live her whole life like TV/And she do anything for everything”). The rapper pens another introspective tale, in the form of “Diary,” featuring Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius. Local producers Sleepwalkers provide the melodic backdrop for a heartfelt letter to a woman too hurt to love. After his promises of eternal devotion fall on deaf ears, a frustrated Wale retorts, “Every problem that you ever had with another man I gotta face.”

After baring his soul for the ladies, Wale puts his armor back on in the company of men. Holding his own alongside hip-hop heavy weight Bun B on the reality checkin’ “Mirrors,” Wale employs a stutter flow that barrels through Ronson’s sonic collage of strumming guitars, funky bass line and fading horns. The upstart MC does his thing on his hypnotic duet with Gucci Mane, “Pretty Girls,” but meets his match on the high-octane “Beautiful Bliss,” where North Carolina native J. Cole exhibits and undeniable hunger when he drops witty bars like, “You see me, let me in/All I wanna do is eat like a freaky lesbian.”

Aside from a few head-scratchin’ lines on “Mama Told Me” (“I would invest in a poncho/’Cause I won’t punch-out like Glass Joe”) and his narcissistic tendency to say his own name ad nauseam, Wale creates an impressive body of work for his first term in office. Not only does he stock his cabinet with a diverse list of musical advisers, ranging from DJ Green Lantern to rock band TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, he tackles key issues like education (“Be Right”) and suicide (“Contemplate”) head-on. With hip-hop continuing to take a creative downturn, Attention: Deficit is a long-overdue stimulus package. On the robust “Triumph,” Wale makes one resounding promise to his rap constituency: “I ain’t tryna be politically correct/But I won’t stop until I get my respect.”—ANSLEM SAMUEL

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  • http://Pierzy11@gmail.com Pierzy

    Wale is my favorite of the new artists (KiD CuDi is 2nd) and dude’s got skills. He did well as the leader of the house band at the VMA’s and I’m stoked to hear Attention: Deficit.

    I think he’s on track to being a star…

  • Ayre

    Not only that he’s a real down to earth dude. He walked in my store a few days ago to pick up BP3. He was excited about this release and told me it got an XL.

  • thaFace

    ever since I heard “mixtape about nothing”, I’ve been looking out for dude…can’t wait to hear this

  • General

    Can’ wait to cop this one, Wale is one of the new cats that I think is gonna do well…


  • http://www.twitter.com/mo_betta Mo Betta


  • AZ40

    i know his pen game is ill…im just worried about the beats and the fact that he worked w/ Lady Gaga just bugs me(the lyrics were on point didn’t like the beat)

  • stoneyisland

    Wale is the next big thing fuck that Drake kid, put drake in a cypher with Wale and Drake gets his pretty light skinned ass sent back to canada:)

  • Kakhaze

    the glass-joe line isnt a head scratcher..its a reference to punch-out..game for nes,super, and wii…wale is obv a gamer

  • ri067953

    Yo, after only a few seconds I think I got it…”invest in a poncho” means put on your bullet proof because he “won’t punch-out like glass joe” meaning he ain’t throwing blows but shooting them hollows

  • http://www.justice.gov.za GO-Getta’

    “Well,u said u got a lot of wheels,i have a lot of cars” – (Chilling)

    That line alone shows (Wale) still have a room 4 improvement & XXL was right 2 put him in
    “Step up ur Game” section

    • Detroit P

      I thought the line was

      “You say you got alot fo cars, but I got a Lot”(i.e. a Parking Lot)


      And that Punch-out line wasn’t a head scratcher, I got it and ri06 seems to have gotten it..smh@these dumbass reviewers critiquing shit they don’t even understand…I call you a dumbass because just because you didn’t get it, you made the assumption that it doesn’t make sense, when in actuality, it makes sense, you just didn’t get it. You need to humble yourself..you think you’re smarter than you actually are.

  • CJ

    Hold Da Fuk up
    THE real DC is not ecstatic. WALE is not from DC. He just comes down here to shoot videos. I live real close to the locations where they shot Chilln Bens Chili Bowl and Cardozo High school Uptown dont respect dis clown because he’s from Montgomery County. Funny. But dis aint complete Hate I think the alblum is goin be good. I just know alot of people in DC dont fuck with Wale at all because he dont represent them.

  • kedordu


  • DetroitDraper

    Wale’ is straight trash…garbage. Im a lover of hip hop/rap and I love originality but his style, lyrics, and those horrible ass go-go beats does not produce good music..at all.


  • RD

    Pretty Good Debut Wale is a little too flashy for his lyrical style he needs to focus on more of a rappers point of view and evolve lyrically which i think he’ll do

  • PRBoi1229

    This album is dope. Its not bad at all for a debut. And the line about a poncho, it means that he gonna get a poncho cuz its like those robes that boxers use when they enter a fight. and the glass joe bar was reference to punchout, the nintendo video game from back then. he got a future, and theres only room for improvement. looking to see him in the game for some time.

  • mav

    this dude is wack an xxls reviews r mad weak

  • LiveLoveMusic

    Wow… All these critics going to a core debate on this album.?? I believe to agree to disagree but, this album has the total diverse aspect that hip hop was needing. I’m no writer nor a blogger I’m just a student of music & Wale approach towards his debut album is classic..!! Classic in the meaning of begin timeless because there hasn’t been a artist in recent years to give and display a different outlook to music. The sound was enticing, the concept ” attention deficit” shows Wale being able to adapt to many music concept’s & being able to explore different music revenues..

    Bottom Line The Debut Surpass All Expectations. Keep Up The Good Work – ♤Å.ß♤

  • Strike

    I’ve tried hard to get into this album but it’s just not working. Except for the go-go inspired stuff none of this sounds original. It sounds like Lupe Fiasco and Kanye west wrote this album.

  • VLK87

    Wale is exactly what hip hop needs at the moment , we are tired of Lil Wyne and all of them bubble gum fake music pop stars like Gucci. Wale got that fresh sound if u just give him a listen u’ll get to the point that he is trying to push!! Fuck where he comes 4rm, people just gotta give it to him if he does good music!!! Keep it rolling Wale good music is what we need!!!

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  • Erik

    wale is the sickest rapper on earth
    period all his mixtapes are on point love “more about nothing”

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