It was two years ago when GQ Magazine named Wale, Kid Cudi, and Drake their “Men of the Year.” Dubbed the “Gangster Killers of the Year,” the trio was lauded for their unique brand of Hip-Hop, which appealed to the mainstream. GQ wrote: “Have you been listening to hip-hop this year? If not, we’ve got good news: The gangster persona is finally dead, and these are the kids who killed it. One song at a time, they built a new era in which duct-taped kilos, exotic firearms, and freaky girls are out and real life is the focus.”
And yet, Drake went on to promote plenty of a*s-shaking with Young Money on songs like, “Bedrock,” and Lil Wayne’s “She Will,” and Wale…well, Wale was on “No Hands,” where he decided to cleverly rhyme “motherf*cker” with “motherf*cker.” The likely truth is that a White publication can’t pronounce the death of the gangsters, because gangsters don’t die, they just multiply.
Hip-Hop is an ever-fluid genre, and D.C. native Wale is a rapper who has proven that. Signed originally to Mark Ronson’s Allido Records, then Interscope, and now Maybach Music Group (MMG), every step has been a step forward for Mr. Folarin.
Now, with the release of his second album and highly-anticipated reintroduction, Ambition, Wale is with a label that isn’t trying to label him or categorize him. Ambition was crafted with the help of MMG A&R, Dallas Martin, and recorded primarily in Atlanta – a fact that added to the flavor, which is largely different from Attention Deficit.
Ambition features production by Toomp, Diplo, and Lex Luger, to name a few. The album also features appearances by Miguel on the popular, “Lotus Flower Bomb,” Kid Cudi, MMG signee Meek Mill, and even “The Bawse” Rick Ross himself, stops by twice. A tour-tired, Wale spoke to AllHipHop.com about Ambition, sex appeal, and his thoughts about the direction that Hip-Hop is headed in:
AllHipHop.com: So, how are you?
Wale: I’m good. Just working, touring, stressing, getting ready for the album.
AllHipHop.com: How did you shape Ambition?
Wale: I just went where my heart told me to go. [yawns] Excuse me. We recorded a lot of music, there were certain emotions that I had certain days where I knew I was gonna write certain songs, and we just put it all together, the best ones, and it just kind of shapes itself out. When you are around your people, and you got that energy, you kind of know what’s going where.
AllHipHop.com: I know you recorded a lot of the album here in Atlanta. It seems like every time I turned around, I was running into you somewhere. Did that influence you in any way?
Wale: The energy is good in Atlanta. It has really good energy, so yeah, maybe indirectly.
AllHipHop.com: How did you come to choose the title? I hate that question. It seems cliché, but there is always a good answer. How did you choose Ambition?
Wale: I mean, it’s just the way I’ve been living my life for the past two years now. I’ve been putting it all on me. Putting all my energy back into my project, putting it back into myself, and not waiting on nobody to do it for me. That’s what I did as soon as I left my last situation.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve been in a couple different label situations. Do you feel like you progressed at every step?
Wale: Yeah. I definitely feel like I progressed. I feel like I’m connecting with the urban culture, you know, significantly more than I was two years ago. A career is all about progression. As long as you’re progressing, you winning.
AllHipHop.com: That’s an interesting statement, to say that you feel like you are connecting more with urban culture more than on your last album. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?
Wale: It’s just, I didn’t know who I was being marketed to. I was just making my songs, submitting them to the label, and thinking it was all going to work like that. [yawns] I was kind of being serviced to the Top 40 crowd the first time around. Now it’s like, the people that are at my shows now, are the people that I’ve always been talking to.
AllHipHop.com: I guess the new album and the new label situation is marketing to those same people?
Wale: It’s just allowing me to speak freely. And allowing my words to be heard by the same people who check in with DJ Khaled to see what’s going on, or the Ross fans. I’m talking to them, and it almost feels like I’m a new artist to them because the label that I was on before. This allows me to fuse them with the people who have been supporting me for the last four, five years.
AllHipHop.com: So do you feel like Ambition is a new direction from Attention Deficit?
Wale: Naw, it’s the same direction. It’s just that the muzzle’s off. I’m doing it my way, as opposed to trying to appease an office. [yawns , interviewer laughs] that wouldn’t understand that you want to put a poem with a rap song; that wouldn’t understand that you want to use a live band or something.
AllHipHop.com: Or make a song about Islam?
Wale: Exactly. It’s different now. It’s just different. I’m making my music. I’m not changing my style up.
AllHipHop.com: You’re very much known for your lyricism. Do you think that that’s something that is being infused a lot more into Hip-Hop?
Wale: Um, yeah. It’s in a different direction, and the direction that it’s in is perfect for lyricists…rhymers, people that really love the sport of lyrics.
AllHipHop.com: That being said, what do you think is missing from Hip-Hop?
Wale: Nothing… I mean, the knowledge is almost there. It’s really hard for me to say because I’m a player in the game. Rather than somebody that’s up in the stands watching. I think that’s up the fans. That’s a fan question.
AllHipHop.com: Getting back to the album, I have a 15-year-old daughter who wears out “That Way.”
AllHipHop.com: How does it feel to have songs like that, and know that it crosses age ranges and genders? Do you think about that when you’re writing?
Wale: Absolutely. I mean, I kind of slept on it. I just make sure that I talk to the people. For some people, it might go over their head. I think if you are connecting with the people, they are looking to understand what you’re talking about. It’s a process, too. It has a lot to do with the production. It’s just a vibe, too. It has a lot to do with the production and the confidence behind your words. I think a 3-year-old could like “That Way” and not know what it’s about. It’s just a vibe, and that’s the beauty of music right there.
AllHipHop.com: Thinking about that, I was reading the interview that you guys did in XXL, and Meek Mill and Pill were saying that you have this special way with the ladies. Do you think that’s true?
Wale: I don’t think so. They just be saying that. They were probably just teasing me.
AllHipHop.com: I mean, you are kinda popular with the ladies. Do you think you are reaching that sex symbol status?
Wale: Naw, man…I’m too fat to be a sex symbol. I got a gut. Maybe if I get back in the gym. I was in the gym all the time when I did “The Cloud” video. I’m just me, man. I’m just happy to be here. I’m happy the women are enjoying the words that I’m saying.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think about women…in the Hip-Hop industry? There aren’t a lot of female rappers in it, but a lot of records are still being made for women. What’s the role? What’s the place for women in the genre right now, in your opinion?
Wale: Um…I don’t know. It’s an ever-so-evolving genre. You never know. There may not be that many women in this motherf*cka, but the one that’s in it is the baddest motherf*cka in the game, male or female. So, that’s a lot to be proud of. There was a time we had all these women, we had a lot of women, Foxy, Kim, but we never had anybody on a 100% rap album do that.
So, props to Nicki or whatever, she’s definitely having an impact very similar to Lauryn Hill. Obviously, the music is 100 percent completely different, but she is definitely having a Lauryn Hill impact. She very well may win four Grammys. I admire her, everything, her movement, everything. She is just killing the sh*t. It’s something to her hustle and to the evolution of the game and how far women have come in the game. It may not be that many, but she’s the baddest. She’s up there with the Jay-Zs and the Kanyes, as far as how hot she is.
AllHipHop.com: Superstar status.
AllHipHop.com: So, I just wanna ask you a couple more questions. I’m not gonna hold you; I know you’re tired. I wanna talk about J. Cole and that first week that he had. I know you worked with him on Ambition. How did you feel about that? Do you feel that pressure a little bit, or no?
Wale: Naw… I can’t compete with Cole, man. But, I feel like we excited for each other. And I’m excited for the fans. You know how many people really love our music? Just for them to have those two albums. I remember what it felt like being 14, 15 years old and like, “Yo. I got the new Nas, I got the new Jay, I got the new Big.” It was a vibe.
That’s what it is now. I don’t know who I am to the kids, but I’m somebody they f*ck with… and Cole somebody they f*ck with, Wiz somebody the f*ck with, Drizzy somebody they f*ck with, Sean somebody they f*ck with… so, it’s an exciting time. Let them enjoy it. Let them have their moment so they can be like, ‘Remember 2011? Big Sean dropped, and Cole, and Wale, and Drizzy…’ It’s their time now; this is their run. This is our generation’s time, and we started that. It’s good, I think. You got all young guys with successful albums out. I’m excited for the fans. I’m excited for the culture.
Ambition is in stores now. For more information on Wale, visit: www.walemusic.com. Follow him on Twitter @Wale.
Biba Adams is a Senior Contributing Writer for AllHipHop.com (and a huge Wale fan). Follow her @BibatheDiva.