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Wale, Ambition

Backed by welcoming keystrokes and light female vocals, Wale opens Ambition with “Don’t Hold Your Applause,” putting forth the task at hand: “Tired of makin’ money/I’m on to makin’ history.” Now liberated by the artistic and financial mobility achieved by uniting with Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group, Wale is focused on lasting impact, not sales or major-label-manufactured hits.

At his core, he is still the same artist that became a leader of the early run of Internet baby boomers late last decade—standing on slick and nimble wordplay complemented by honesty, conscience and perspective. But now Wale seems freer, both musically and mentally. Early on, “Miami Nights” is a jazzy, colorful celebration of Ross’s hometown. That upbeat spirit persists over the subtle synths of the female-friendly “Lotus Flower Bomb,” featuring Miguel, and “Focused,” an up-tempo, overdue reunion with friend turned foe turned friend Kid Cudi.

The rowdy drums and heavy bass of Rozay’s own offerings and the MMG compilation Self Made, Vol. 1 aren’t here, but it feels like The Bawse’s sense of proper beat selection looms over the musicality of the album, rife with live-sounding instrumentation.

Wale does diverge from the pep on the harder “Chain Music” and “Ambition,” a smooth, rolling opus featuring Ross and Meek Mill. On the dark, determined “Legendary,” he promises his “only fear is mediocrity,” and proves throughout that such middling will never be an issue lyrically. The part-time ESPN analyst proves he’s still the captain of sports references, kicking, “I’ma let the chips fall/Niggas is Kemba Walker, tryna see me pitfall,” on “Double M Genius,” a crafty reference to when Walker, a recent college basketball star, caused a Pittsburgh player to hit the hardwood with a quick deke.

Always a thinker, the former XXL Freshman still forms endearing and uplifting unpackings of Black femininity (“Illest Bitch Alive”), but he does so with a revamped approach. Similarly, he’s still deeply rooted in the nation’s capital, and on “DC or Nothin,” he questions the dichotomy of his home city (“Politicians fuckin’ hookers/Why you mad at my ganja?”) in a fresh way. Yet even with more hunger and cohesion than on his debut, there’s less vulnerability here. The project misses some of the trickier, more internally and socially exploratory concepts of which he’s proven capable time and again.

But then this is indicative of the different space within which Wale now finds himself. The sonic mood of Ambition reflects its title and author and proves, on the whole, far warmer than his debut. On the title track, he raps, “They gon’ love me for my ambition/Easy to dream a dream, though it’s harder to live it.” Wale seems to be living his on this sophomore album. —Adam Fleischer

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  • jonny bizness

    Dope album Wale came correct this time around. It’s been on repeat since last weekend. Ambition and Legendary stand out 2 me it will be intresting to see how much he sells cos i’m thinking 150k first week.

  • Pugz

    Amazing album. Could maybe take over J. Cole for my favorite album of the year. Wale is definitely in my top 5 and the beat selection was on par, top-notch lyrics, but my favorite aspect was the nasty Wale flow that always impresses me. I hope this, Take Care, Cole World, and Live From the Underground (next year) can all please me for some time to come. I know I’m already anticipating Wale’s next project. Great review, I thought lyrics could possibly get an “XXL” not because he’s a story teller or the next Tupac but his style and lyricism works for him, and keeps the song interesting without having to go too deep emotionally in every single song or tell a story with every lyric.

  • A.C. Says 10%

    dope album indeed!! going through it now and its sounding ”g”……got a nice feel to it. hopefuly it sells decently cause he deserves it for putting out something as quality as this…..this coming from a guy who couldn’t stand wale when his debut dropped.

  • jfl11

    On point review, good job. sounds like Wale came into his own on this album, nice to see him find a home with MMG.

  • DollaXO

    Honestly, the album was sub-par average…It was another J cole album, a couple good songs, and the rest are just garbage or average.

    Im a fan of his shit, but real talk, too many rappers are coming out with half assed albums, and it makes me sick.

    Still, Pick it up if your a fan.

    • 215BC

      Thank you, dude. I thought I was taking crazy pills.

  • B.Signs

    This album is damn smooth,well done Wale,i hope its as succesful as J.Cole’s..these are two of my favourite in the game right now,Cole has some interesting concepts in almost each and every song he has done and he always does justice to them,Wale is cut from the same cloth too,what a relief from all that Lil Wayne garbage.

  • King Richard Aka Da God Of Rap

    finally a solid thorough review,dnt no bout a xxl overall but less has got more,lyrically & delivery 1 of da top n da game rite now but doesn’t radio quality hitz so far & wnt do j cole #’s or 150,maybe 75 if he lucky & please listen 2 a super lyrical memphis mc wen u get a chance & dnt complain about hip hop being dead if u ain’t gon support da new rappers dats actually good….http://www.youtube.com/user/Darealkingrichard?feature=mhee

  • King Richard Aka Da God Of Rap

    & please listen 2 a super lyrical memphis mc wen u get a chance & dnt complain about hip hop being dead if u ain’t gon support da new rappers dats actually good….http://www.youtube.com/user/Darealkingrichard?feature=mhee

  • walefan2012

    This album is a smash hit. If your not a Wale fan then its kinda hard to judge his music. He has this gritty, hungry, tryna get to the top type of flow. Go back and do your homework @DollaXO…and yes this is a headshot

  • radium

    wow, xxl! you continue to leave me dumbfounded with your reviews and no evidence of any discernible rating system or scale whatsoever. long story short, this album is a clusterfuck. for an album that’s supposed to center around being “focused”, it sure was all-over-the-fucking-place. the lyrics on the album are definitely at the forefront here, but that’s still not saying a whole lot. and how has no one mentioned that the song “ambition” has almost the same exact beat as wayne/drake’s “she will”? someone isn’t paying attention.

    • topshotta22

      Nigga you talking without any evidence. You say the album is clusterfuck but don’t give any examples. Tighten up MOE!

    • anthony

      I heard the same thing when I first heard Ambition. It does have a very similar beat, but I think that Ambition’s beat is better, and the song is most definitely better.

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  • http://www.theboardadministration.com Santrise

    Very Solid Review.

  • Emmanuel G

    this album deserves a XXL. Poetry to the finest, my brother Wale did a great job. Meek Mill better be ready

  • sah313

    XXL gives every thing an XL

    • voyce

      LOL word

  • Pacer

    Great album. Great flow. Good subject matter.

    I’ve really enjoyed it & literally alternating between this & Freedie Gibbs Cold DAy in HEll right now..

  • Azhar

    Been a fan, but this cd didn’t live up to the hype after MMG self made or 11/1/11 theory mixtape. I thought the mixtape was much better and more on point with who Wale is as an artist. Don’t get me wrong the cd is good but it’s standing on his lyrics, where as he was the standout lyrically on Self Made the beat along with his wordplay was crazy… He continued this with his mixtape, I know it was heavy on samples and sports talk and spittin game, but that’s what made me a fan since Attention Deficit and Goadome Nikes before that. I think the album is too smooth and Jazzy, it sometimes lacks that knock and rhythm, that Go Go that he usually brings and I’m a Philly dude that would enjoy listening to him spit over them Go Go beats. The joint with Big Sean I mean Seriously WTF is that…. He linked up with Ross and I thought his beats with his flow would be a perfect combo… while its a good CD, I will continue to bang his mixtape more than this cd. Too many artist nowadays are making better mixtapes than actually label releases… Even J Cole did the same thing but he didn’t as much as Wale did….. But I’m still a fan

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  • McRay

    This album is much better than I expected.I haven’t expected more before it’s released cuz Rick Ross left a bad impression on me..but this shit’s really good tho Wale hasn’t reached his top.But it makes me always look forward to his next album.In fact, I dont like the beats,they are just average even sound like RNB – -,but Wale’s flow is so dope,so smooth

  • SPURSFAN1080

    off top, i will always be a fan of wale’s work…just not this one…i’ve been tellin friends/coworkers/whoeva this was gonna be a pass..ill give em another week or 2 for them to wake up…1 bad move (allido) to another (maybach)..t to late to jump on the jamla wagon Vic….

  • UltimasPrime

    I have to agree with those who said that this album is not some great work of art by Wale. If not for the fact that he is so damn talented with the lyrics i would have given up on this album altogether.

    and what the hell is up with “illest bitch alive”? really Wale! wtf happened in Miami that this song actually got produced. Wale’s previous work is superior to this album.