Album: Wow… That’s Crazy
Record Label(s): Warner Records
Recommended Tracks: Track 4-Expectations (feat. 6LACK) and Track 13-Set You Free (feat. Kelly Price)
Wale is a seasoned vet of the rap and contemporary R&B scene at this point, and the self proclaimed ambassador for the D.C. metropolitan area sound. Although Wale has never had a smash hit, he has consistently succeeded on Billboard charts, and has had more staying power than many of the lyricism driven rap acts of the late 2000s. He was once the center of a multiple label bidding war, and has worked closely with artists from all over the pop music sphere, such as Mark Ronson, Pharrell Williams, and Rick Ross. While not the most compelling or earthshaking presence within the oversaturated archetype of the conscious rapper, Wale breaks this mold in ways that demonstrate why he was such a hot commodity within the rap world at some point. Wale definitely has an impressive stylistic range. His albums meander through sounds and ideas with enough competency, confidence, and composure that you can’t help but believe Wale most sonic settings. He is like a virtuosic actor, springing from a song reminiscent of bling rap bangers of yesteryear, into a heady rumination with a soulfully metronomic gospel swelling and descending in the background, then into an Afrobeat driven pop track with no agenda other than danceability. This capacity to transcend genre boundaries within pop is no doubt exciting, however it was around Wale’s last album The Album About Nothing that the faults in his chameleonism started to show. The album focuses on relationship and is an unabashed homage to Seinfeld, as you could likely interpret from the title. Nothing on the album is necessarily bad, it’s just that the tracks don’t feel particularly inspired or innovating. Wale’s mockingbird style songwriting starts to peek through a little bit, with certain tracks feeling like Wale donning the sounds of his contemporaries, or just lacking an impassioned effort at innovation within trite sonic palettes and lyrical subjects. Unfortunately, Wow… That’s Crazy falls into many of the same pitfalls. For example, on BGM, Wale attempts to make a very “Nice For What”-esque ladies anthem, except his attempt highlights many of his flaws as an artist, such as his inability to create compelling hooks, his pandering and faux-motivational refrains, all of it just feels like a very canned and disingenuous attempt at a song concept that’s been such much more tactfully approached in the past. So yes, Wale has the ability to inhabit a multitude of genres, however within those genres he often lacks the charisma and the creative gusto to pull of interesting songs. Because of that, I’d give this album a 2 / 5. It’s not an unenjoyable record overall, however listening to Wale wear sounds like costumes without much of a genuine attempt at investigating new territory \does become a monotonous process of.
Two standout tracks I found enjoyable were Expectations (feat. 6LACK) and Set You Free (feat. Kelly Price). Expectations is one of the best feature pairings on the album, with a synthy bouncing beat that perfectly adorns 6LACK’s melancholic vocals. Unfortunately 6LACK sneaks an overused Rondo reference into his already lyrically uninspired verse, which doesn’t help the faceless homogeny Wale is fighting in his tracklist. However, Wale’s second verse about the relationship between comfort and vanity is a genuinely enjoyable take on a well explored phenomenon within rap. Is it corny to an extent? Absolutely, but I do think as far as Wale’s motivationally geared verses this goes over the best. Set You Free is also a more lyrically driven track, however because of the subject matter and the openness that Wale displays it’s a big standout for me within the tracklist. Wale talks about his struggle with mental health, and instead of going the route of Logic or some other emcees that have explored this topic, this is not an anthem. This is an honest and personal approach that I wish Wale employed on more tracks, because this is certainly a bright spot in the album
This album doesn’t necessarily deserve to be penalized for anything it’s doing. Aside from a few stray moments and BGM, nothing really annoyed me in the way woke motivational rappers often can. I think for this album it’s shortcomings come within the things it doesn’t do. In a rap world where features in mainstream rap are as eclectic as ever, Wale uses Jeremih, Rick Ross, Bryson Tiller, etc.. At a time where guys like J Cole and Kendrick are spilling their hearts out on wax, Wale only slightly treads away from attempting to give sage patronizing relationship advice. It may be harsh, but I do think in many ways rap and R&B have innovated past voices like Wale. Just being a rapper that sings sometimes and isn’t one dimensional genre-wise isn’t compelling enough when the rap is at the forefront of pop and is being expanded and tested in so many different and interesting directions. However, if you’re looking for something that will remind you of a simpler time in the rap world, or like rap and want to see if some of his takes on different sounds are more compelling to you, I’d definitely give this album a listen. If you like Wale, I’d recommend GoldLink, Big K.R.I.T, or Miguel.