Every MC has theories, and Wale has plenty, sharing his prophecies over his 18-track mixtape, The Eleven One Eleven Theory.
The introspective intro “‘Theory’ 11.1.11″ has the D.C. native setting the tone over bare piano keys with the opening line, “Sometimes a simple cadence can get in the way of greatness of a nigga’s statements.” Thankfully, Wale makes sure not to allow any cadences get in the way of his statements, as he proceeds to spit furious bars throughout the tape on an array of subjects, from women to ambition.
Tracks such as “Varsity Blues,” “Underdog” and “Barry Sanders,” show Wale’s love of sports, and see him using that love as a tool to explore wider issues. “Barry Sanders” has the MMG spitter comparing himself to a young Kobe Bryant, who was first drafted by the then-Charlotte Hornets, before landing and winning five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. “Interscope feeling like Charlotte when they traded Kob’ ya know/But I let it go, Rozay finna re-up/He got himself a Kobe and they stuck with Vlade Divac,” he rhymes.
“Varsity Blues” finds Wale tackling the double standard of the treatment of star college athletes—and the NCAA’s vast bread-winning because of them—all while looking at the issue in a larger social and racial context. “Brandon Davies had relations/What if Jimmer was screwing?” he asks, making reference to a Black college basketball player from BYU being kicked off the team this past season, but wondering if the squad’s White star would have suffered the same fate. The former XXL Freshman brings his message home as he closes the final verse, kicking, “Fuck who yo’ current team is/Cause every QB with my features is a Willie Beamen/We never gon’ be shit/Less we believe we the shit.”
The nifty sports references eventually pave the way for other deeper tracks like “Podium,” which sees Mr. Folarin preaching from the pulpit and delivering a passionate sermon with lines like, “My people pass the collection plate/He buy the Benz with acres and crazy real estate/That’s motivation, my people living wicked/That’s food for thought, you muthafuckas can do the dishes.”
If The Eleven One Eleven Theory is a taste of what’s to come for Wale, Ambition, and Maybach Music Group, then Wale’s analogy on “Barry Sanders” may be correct, and Rick Ross made a steal of an acquisition. —Mark Lelinwalla