Wale is taking things back to his roots on his upcoming fourth studio LP, The Album About Nothing, returning to the Jerry Seinfeld-influenced tradition of his early mixtapes, The Mixtape About Nothing and More About Nothing. And the best way to rep that tradition was to hold a listening party at Tom's Restaurant in Harlem, the infamous spot on the corner of 112th street that served as the facade to Monk's Coffeeshop from Seinfeld throughout the years. That's what the DC MC did last night in an event attended by industry executives and journalists along with DJ Drama, Hot 97's Ebro and Peter Rosenberg and MMG head honcho Rick Ross.

Wale was quick to call the event a teaser rather than a full listening, as he's still tweaking and sequencing the LP ahead of its planned Mar. 31 release. But he was still bullishly proud of the project, announcing his intention to change the culture with each release and pointing out some of his conversations with Jerry Seinfeld that helped shape the album. (Seinfeld quotes and clips from the show are sprinkled throughout the project.) "Jerry said comedy is just philosophy with sugar on it," Wale recalled before pressing play on the LP. "I think hip-hop is the same thing."

The album itself was a little too muddy to hear, but it's hard to expect pinpoint acoustics while eating a hamburger in a diner on the West Side. But the gist was there, and it seems like Wale isn't holding back on this project, trying not to let his emotions—which so often spill over into Twitter vents or angry phone calls to journalists (Okay, maybe that was just once)—dictate the outcome. "I've been going through how much do I want to make albums after this," the MMG rhymer said. "I'm wiping the slate clean after this... This album is my most personal album. I went through a lot of shit both public and private but I put it all on this album."

The Album About Nothing has no rap features on it; no assists from Ricky Rozay or Meek Mill out of his camp, no pandering to what the clubs or the streets might demand. J. Cole makes an appearance but sings instead of raps (seems like everyone wants to prove they can sing these days, huh?) on "The Pessimist" and Usher appears for "The Matrimony," with each song named after an episode of Seinfeld and telling a chronological story of Wale's rise from slinging sneakers to slinging singles. "The Need To Know" is based on a laid back sample of Musiq Soulchild's "Just Friends" and opens with Jerry and Elaine from the TV show talking about friends with benefits, all weaving into the narrative Wale tells on the track. The hook, backed by an acoustic Spanish guitar, is sung by SZA, who Wale likened to "A young Erykah Badu."

The Album About Nothing sounds bigger, production-wise, than Wale's previous efforts, but a better feel for the album won't surface until it's done and dusted and played in a studio instead of a restaurant. But until then, there's enough to expect Wale to come back hunting for the top of the charts again. Time will tell if he can climb back to the top of that particular mountain by going back to the formula that gave him his first leg up. —Dan Rys

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