Wale’s a different kind of rapper. Hailing from Washington, D.C., Wale evades easy categorization, recalling neither the bounce of the Dirty South nor the hardcore sound of either L.A. or NYC. In spite of proximity, he bears no similarities to Virginia Beach’s Clipse nor the Baltimore sex bounce of Spank Rock either. He’s not crack rap. He’s not gangsta. He’s not nerd rap, and he’s not backpack. Rather, Wale (pronounced Wah-LAY) incorporates a touch of his town’s go-go heritage, a quick wit and a surprisingly cohesive and endlessly entertaining Seinfeld theme into his outstanding 2008 freebie, The Mixtape About Nothing.
The Mixtape About Nothing is 80 minutes of hip-hop ear candy, an inspired and aurally ecstatic set of tracks that stand up to the giants in his field, “Wayne, Kanye and Jay-Z” as he name checks in “The Perfect Plan.” Kicking off the mixtape with “The Opening Title Sequence,” Wale makes a surprisingly hot sample bed out of the Seinfeld theme, mimicking Seinfeld’s routine by asking, “what’s the deal with this rap stuff?“, before laying out an early smackdown with his declaration, “since Napster the game’s been flooded by has-beens who never will be/ ringtone rappers.” And from there, he gives one piece of evidence after another to make his case as the best new rapper in the business. There’s his freestyle over “Roc Boys,” in which he humorously thanks his `connects’: “Facebook, MySpace, and don’t forget MapQuest.” There’s his condemnation of material flash over the bongo-laden beats of “The Perfect Plan.” Then there’s his meditation on race in the amazing “The Kramer,” which begins with Michael Richards’ infamous n-word filled rant, and finishes with his apology.
Wale laments “other artists I love get avoided” on “The Vacation from Ourselves,” just after giving props to go-go. Hilariously enough, as the song fades out, an unexpected guest shows up—Julia Louis Dreyfus, who closes the song with the most adorable sounding “muthafuckaaa” you’ll ever hear. In “The Grown-Up,” however, Wale throws down some sober wisdom, plainly rapping “I still got a lot of growing up to do,” which perfectly flows into a sample of Jerry Seinfeld telling George Costanza, “we’re like children…we’re not men!” And after shouting out to some of the locals, Wale offers exactly what the title of “The Bmore Club Slam” promises—a go go/disco 808 banger that deserves numerous repeat spins.
On The Mixtape About Nothing, Wale presents himself as humble and human, but with superhuman skills. He’s funny and he’s clever, and drops rhymes with agility and finesse. And best of all, this lengthy and awesome set is 100 percent free. His first true full-length is set to drop later this year, with contributions from members of TV on the Radio no less (!), making it one of my personal most-anticipated albums of 2009. Meanwhile, The Mixtape About Nothing stands as the most innovative, endlessly listenable and just plain best hip-hop record of 2008.
Kanye West – Can’t Tell Me Nothing Mixtape
Kid Cudi – A Kid Named Cudi
Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.