Maybach Music Group
Maybach Music Group

Ever since his debut album, Attention Deficit, in 2009, Wale has always been hit with equal parts hate and praise. Whether it’s his albums, his free mixtapes or even a guest feature, the criticism comes in heavy for the Maybach Music Group artist. It’s not that he is a bad rapper by any means, but during his seven years in the game, fans are still waiting on him to deliver a classic body of work that sits alongside the greats in the game. Fortunately for him, last year’s The Album About Nothing was a step in the right creative and musical direction.

Since the beginning of time there has been an unwritten goal desired by every MC -- and that is to rule the summer months by claiming its unofficial soundtrack. On Wale’s newest mixtape, it’s easy to see where his guns are pointed and for the most part, he hits the target. Built on more than a few solid tracks, the mixtape brings the right mix of beats and songwriting to hold a listener's attention until the end of August. Even as a completely free release, this could prove to be some of Wale’s most cohesive work.

The biggest issue with the project that might deter listeners from the jump is the tape’s run time -- there are 17 tracks. If Wale wanted to attain ultimate summer success, he would have cut the tape at least in half so that attention spans could be taken full advantage of. Nevertheless, he manages to churn out some summer heaters that have heavy replay value.

The opener “LAX” manages to catch that classic summer vibe including laissez-faire rhymes, a warm twang and an extra melodic assist from Raheem DeVaughn. The track is a suitable opener that gets followed up by the unconventional brag fest “Publishing Checks.” Wale’s sharp pen comes out to play with lines like, “I just say I don't get 'em/I'm a giant that play with jets.” Then there are filler bars that just repeat the word “finessing” over and over again. This type of sporadic rhyming isn’t new for Wale. The good thing here is that he showcases a different approach compared to the hundreds of predictable pocket punching flows heard in the game today.

In true Wale fashion, the mixtape revolves around an overarching theme; this time, it’s about his recent move to Los Angeles (the Sunset in the title referring to Sunset Boulevard in downtown L.A.). Mostly every track starts or ends in a voicemail message left on his phone from a friend or celebrity wishing him well in the city of angels. Amy Schumer, Pete Davidson, Mark Wahlberg and, of course, his close pal Jerry Seinfeld all drop him a line commenting on his coastal switch.

These intros and outros are fascinating to hear if you’re enjoying the tape from front to back but if you’re just trying to hear summer slappers like “It’s Too Late” and “Thought It” on their own, well, then listeners might be tempted to press that skip button. However, the production will keep ears coming back for more and more. The tape features a nice mix of familiar favorites like DJ Mustard and Jake One as well as some unlikely collaborators such as DJ Chose Squat AC Chann3l. All the instrumentation is incredibly on point with not a single beat feeling out of place or lackluster.

Other classic Wale-isms come out in full force on the tape such as his small breaks of spoken word rhyming and of course his obsession with the opposite sex. With the exception of a couple chest puffers, Wale raps directly to the females in his life. Lots of hookup hymns and flirty bars riddle songs like “Day By the Pool” and “Ms Moon” but his most explicitly descriptive lines surface on the tape’s closer “Women In Los Angeles.” His experience with ladies from the West prove to be fickle when he raps, “Probably thinking that a follow make her famous/Shit, I ain't complaining though/Just know that 100K plus ain't for your face and clothes/We know that that tummy tea that you tryna post/Is likely gross but it'll help you pay her nose.” That line, and many more, will undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers with his female counterparts.

Summer on Sunset will help Wale more than it will hinder him. Not only does it stack up nicely against the mixtapes that have dropped in 2016, but it also compares well to his past projects. It is a themed tape that may drag on a little long over the course of 17 songs but the standout songs do more than enough to make up for the length. By delivering projects like this, which manage to find a unique balance between being cohesive and heavy on the replay factor, Wale will quickly find himself escaping the stamp of mediocrity. The real test now for the former XXL Freshman is to transition this summer success into his new LP, S.H.I.N.E., which is set to drop at the end of the year.

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