AllHipHop.com Alternatives  

Wale Oyejide: To the East Blackwards

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When he was known as ‘Science Fiction’, AllHipHop.com embraced his project Walls Don’t Exist as one of the top-shelf albums of 2003. We’ve watched our boy do a stellar EP, work with DOOM and Jay Dee, and come back try to do it real big in ’04.

If you caught the latest review, One Day, Everything Changed is sizing up to be another top album for the experimental Hip-Hop crowd this year. While Wale’s debut had a looming tone, this one is highly more political and relative of the journey in growth that Wale’s made. Check it out as Wale and AllHipHop.com Alternatives reflect on the music, the culture, and the state of the union in the States. For those without hope, just remember…it can all change.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: In the creation of the last album, you were living in California. I know you moved back to Atlanta, what affect did that have on the music?

Wale: Pretty much, all of [the album was made here]. This was actually a quick record. It was one of those things that once I started working on; I was feverishly at it until it was done. I’m not so much sure that it was sure it was a change of scenery, than just a change of lifestyle. Just to move back with the crew of Shaman Works and DOOM being down here, it’s great to be back. It’s energy.

AHHA: Walls Don’t Exist was not a particularly happy album. Granted, it had its uplifting moments. But it was dark and moody. This is a much happier album. What do you attribute that to?

Wale: I think, in a way, One Day Everything Changed generally speaks on a lot of issues. Like me being a foreigner, but coming to this country at a pivotal time. I was a teenager when I moved out here. I feel like as much as I’m a Nigerian, I’m an American. Different things happened out here as far as music, and shaping who you are. So for me, it was kind of a way to explain my musical influences out there [from Nigeria]. So it starts with an Afro-Beat feel, and gradually progresses to a more Westernized Soul type of deal, to a straight Hip-Hop feel to it.

AHHA: This album definitely cites the Soul genres more than the Rock influences, or even Jazz influences on the last. How has your own listening diet progressed?

Wale: I think it’s pretty obvious. With Walls Don’t Exist, I was big into my Jazz phase at the time. It had samples from everything from Coltrane to Wes Montgomery to straight-up Jazz, and grainy stuff like your Radiohead and Coldplay samples and stuff like that. This album, I was [listening] to more 70’s stuff, more Afro-Beat, a lot of Sly Stone. That was a major influence. At the same time, dead prez, Badu, and Common, were obviously [there].

AHHA: Politically, this is a very relevant album. Your stance on war and national pride seem to shine through. I’m guessing you have a very firm and strong view on the whole deal…

Wale: I’m not into preaching or beating your opinions into somebody else’s head or whatever. I was watching the news yesterday and there was talk of wanting to delay the elections because terrorists might strike on Election Day, out of nowhere. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard as of late, and there’s plenty of ridiculous things I’ve heard. So it’s like, people in power are doing anything and everything to maintain their chokehold that they have. For me, it’s not even really about demonizing a George Bush or any one person, because I don’t know what goes on in Kerry’s household or whatever. But for me, it’s just about wanting things to be better.

AHHA: One track that really speaks on this in your album is ‘Riot & Revolt’, but in comes in a real general sense. It applies to all things like this – anywhere, anytime. I feel like great music political does that. I don’t know if my grandkids will understand a Paris, but they might be able to relate to yours.

Wale: That was kind of the plan. It’s not so much picking on any one particular figure, because this is the type of thing that’s been going on for decades, centuries, and unfortunately – it’s not gonna stop anytime soon. It’s just a matter of the guard changing, and making things better for yourself and your children. For me, coming from Nigeria, the government is pretty notorious for being corrupt and just taking things out of the hands of the people. But that’s everywhere now. This can happen on your block. Just ‘cause you see it on the news, doesn’t make you safe. I would just like people to be more aware.

AHHA: Again, as a ‘foreigner’, do you feel vulnerable to criticize the government. I mean, Cheaney’s wife says I’m not a patriot, and I was born here. What about you? How do you take that vicious criticism into consideration?

Wale: If you go to Nigeria and talk to natives, you’ll find, like in a lot of developing countries, that the people – while their situation might seem bleak, and they have no facilities, a lot of people are strangely, really happy. They have troubles and they deal with what they have to deal with. But then they go and they party every Friday night like it’s all good. For me, I think that traveling a lot that people overseas have a real broadened view, and a more positive outlook to life in general. Realize, you just have to keep pushing. They know that things’ll change eventually, and you gotta have faith and keep moving and working. At the end of the day, the government sucks, but you gotta feed your family. America is comfortable. Things are easier. Not to say ‘Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems’, but you get a different set of problems.

AHHA: When I last interviewed you, your following in Africa was yet to be determined. We have a lot of visitors in Africa, and I’m curious to see how it blossomed as well as if it motivated your direction on the new album?

Wale: It’s interesting. I got a lot of global response. But not too much from the African scene, but that’s one thing I made a deliberate effort to do with this record. I wanted to make a record for kids like me – people who might be here, but be from elsewhere. It’s cool to have 50 Cent, The Roots, whatever. But if you’re a foreigner, you want your heroes to be like you. There really wasn’t anybody who spoke like I did or looked like I did, when I was younger.

AHHA: How has your technique changed in the last year?

Wale: I do a lot less sampling now. I played a lot of live keys; live guitars on the album. The live Afro-Beat sound wasn’t something I could get too much of from [sampling] records. I find it a lot more comfortable to have an equal amount of live and sampling. I started singing on everything just to make the live show more interesting.

AHHA: Why the name-change? You really risked losing your foundation following.

Wale: The main reason is it’s a completely different sound. I thought that ‘Science Fiction’ was too nerdy, honestly. I’m a grown ass man, and I can’t be callin’ myself, Science Fiction. It’s a hard thing to say. This record is more about me and my heritage, so it’s important to present a full picture from my name, an African name, and so on.

AHHA: You and DOOM have something special. I’m a fan of his going back to KMD and I still would argue that his finest verse ever was on your last EP. This album has another ill follow-up. Can you describe the type of chemistry you two have together, and how it is to be a younger dude producing a hall of fame legend?

Wale: He’s in the middle ground of the underground and the mainstream. This guy’s on NPR, doing songs with Comedy Central and Cartoon Network, whatever. As far as he and I, it’s interesting, because he’s very much an enigma to everyone. I think he’s a master of the stage, because he’s been around, he’s been there. It’s just dope to be privileged enough to work with him. Because he works with a lot of people, but we seem to have this chemistry and things we do come out really well.

AHHA: ‘This is Dedicated To’ seems like a continuation of your last collaboration. Is that the case?

Wale: I never thought of it that way. But I can definitely see what you’re saying. It definitely touches on the same things.

AHHA.com: The major other collaboration is Jay Dee. Producers and MC’s love his work. I thought again, he did nicely on your record. But I’ve never been able to understand the hype. Can you give me, as a producer, an explanation to why he’s so great, and great to work with?

Wale: People say the same thing about Madlib, or even DOOM. It’s a hit or miss type thing. For me, Dilla is ahead of its time. The stuff he’s doing as of late, people don’t appreciate because it’s more electronic, techno-ish Hip-Hop. A lot of cats didn’t feel Slum Village when it first came out. When I first heard [them], I didn’t know. Flash forward five years later – Volume 2 stands up, arguably, as one of the best Hip-Hop records in a long, long time. He stands out as an individual. Working with Dilla, people always expect him to be talkin’ about women and his truck. That’s Jay Dee! He came across hungry, which I hadn’t heard as of late.

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