Album Rating System 3 1/2 out of 5 records
Listening to Wale rant and rave about how he doesn’t get the respect he deserves can be exhausting and off-putting. Because of that I’ve never cared to listen to a Wale album. I decided to give him a chance after reading an excerpt from his Billboard interview of him talking about being dissed by Katy Perry and how he should be spoken about in the same vain as Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, after all, when you compare yourself to one of the two best emcees in Hip Hop you have to live up to that comparison.
In his fourth studio album, The Album About Nothing, inspired by the NBC hit sitcom, Seinfeld (the show about nothing), Wale partners with friend and star of the show, Jerry Seinfeld, who serves as a narrator and voice of reason on this accidental concept album. Yes, accidental. I don’t think Wale meant to write a concept album since the album is supposed to be about nothing, and I’m not sold on this being a clever nod to the situational irony in Seinfeld that made the show so popular, but in an ironic twist, TAAN, is an album about everything.
Everything in Wale’s world are the powers-that-be opposing his success and how delusional the entertainment world is. If you think of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop series you can imagine how Hip Hop has created an illusory world where all of your dreams can come true with little work ethic, little talent, yet have an abundance of good looks and swag. This is Wale’s world, the world he’s disgusted with and addicted to simultaneously. This is apparent in The Glass Egg featuring an uncredited Chrisette Michelle, where he raps, “It’s right, it’ like life is like a glass egg/Tryna maintain what come with the fame and keeping your last friends/Yeah, you know that balance of/Cause who on your back or who got your back/I promise the line is this thin…”
Most of the production on TAAN is from producers I’m not familiar with but who laid out some well-produced tracks for Wale. For example, The Girls On Drugs, produced by No Credit, is an acid-laced track that samples Janet Jackson’s, Go Deep and is the perfect illustrator of what the drug-induced, sex-filled nights are in the industry. This is a part of life that he’s all too familiar with. Once the wave of MDMA and lean surfaces Wale’s ability to navigate between the make-believe extravagancy of the Hip Hop world and real life solidifies him as a veteran. Reverting back to the classic boom bap sound, The Success is a track that takes samples from The Andrews Chapel United Methodist Young Adult Choir’s 1985 record, Psalms 121. Other songs worth checking out are The One Time In Houston, The Bloom, The White Shoes and The Need To Know.
Interestingly enough, the song that doesn’t seem to fit on this album is the lead single, The Body featuring Jeremih. It’s understandable that the label would want to push a radio-friendly song but how TAAN is structured, The Body as the last song is a mistake. TAAN could’ve ended with The Matrimony featuring Usher and it would’ve been more befitting of TAAN’s storyline. It’s a better choice because in TAAN Wale confesses, I believe on more than one occasion, that he wants to settle down but has uncertainties, and in The Matrimony he finally comes full circle. Then it ends with The Body where he’s talking about sex with no strings attached. Doesn’t make much sense to me.
Admittedly, the Washington D.C. native has come very far in his career, especially, coming from a town that isn’t known for any top-tier Hip Hop acts. No slight to emcees like Nonchalant, Question Mark Asylum, Fat Trel, or any other D.C. native, it’s just that historically, D.C. has been a tough market for emcees to breakout. Attending Howard University in the late 90’s and early 2000’s I can attest to the fact that D.C. is an acquired taste – this goes for the lay out of the city, go-go music, the people, and their sense of fashion. This is no different in the case of Wale. Like the city he reps, he grows on you and you learn to appreciate his quirks for what they are.
My first experience with Wale wasn’t bad at all. Wale is a niche artist that has the potential to have stronger star power if he just stayed in his lane. His angst to be praised as he thinks he should only shadows his appeal. Respectfully, his comparisons to K. Dot and J. Cole are a reach. Unlike To Pimp A Butterfly and 2014 Forest Hills Drive, TAAN lacks courage. TAAN is a solid piece of work but it’s a formulaic album that doesn’t stay etched in your memory bank. It doesn’t push the limits of what Hip Hop can be, it’s just a good album, and with an album that bears the tagline of one of the greatest sitcoms in American TV history you have to wow people. TAAN also loses perspective, mainly, because Wale talks too much about himself. Instead of sticking with the irony of an industry that looks like an oasis only to find that in reality it is a deserted wasteland of hopes and dreams, it’s an album about how this oasis has left him high and dry and it’s the same recycled story that we’ve been hearing from Wale time and time again.
Download TAAN here https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-album-about-nothing/id972747051
© Copyright Eddie Savoy Bailey III, 2015
Written by: Eddie Bailey of The Savoy Media Group