(AllHipHop Reviews) For Wale, every album feels like an attempt to right the ship that is his career. He gets a lot of hate for an artist of his caliber, some deserved and some not. But we’re seeing a different side of the DMV native on his fifth studio album, SHINE, and it may ultimately be a turning point in his career and life.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of this album is “fun.” Strong lyricists like Wale are often put into a box and expected to make thoughtful music, which can hurt the overall quality of the music. But with summer right around the corner, a combination of dope bars and good, upbeat music is exactly what we needed, and Wale delivered.
Wale said SHINE stands for “Still Here Ignoring Negative Energy,” a fitting moniker for this project. He could have used it as an opportunity to address his haters and prove himself, but he chose to ignore all of that and make good music for fans to enjoy.
That’s not to say this album is all happy. On “Thank God,” the opening track, Wale croons, “I tell my enemies, I really pray that you don’t fall. . . so they can watch me ball.” Clearly it’s not all water under the bridge, but he doesn’t expend his energy shielding himself from them like on past albums.
I usually don’t mess with singles, but SHINE had some pretty strong offerings. Even though “MY PYT” wasn’t exactly my style, “Running Back” had a unique sound to it and Wayne and Wale both did their thing over nice production. And shout out to G-Eazy who’s been growing on me since I heard him on “Purple Brick Road.” His verse on “Fashion Week” lived up to my expectations, for sure.
“Smile” was by far the best track. It embodied the theme of ignoring negativity that was present throughout the album, and it had two of the best verses. Wale drops knowledge on racism in America and manages to squeeze in a reference to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, while also providing the smooth, uplifting hook. Fellow DMV rapper Phil Adé makes waves with a nice verse, with one particularly dope line where he calls America “the land of free to an extent” for minorities. As one last nod to SHINE’s theme of positivity, the song’s outro features Wale’s daughter, Zyla Moon, who is undoubtedly partially responsible for Wale’s new perspective.
As far as complaints go, I don’t really have anything bad to say about this album. If you don’t mess with the sound, you’re not going to like it, but anyone looking for good, fun music is going to enjoy SHINE. The only thing I would add is one potent, lyrically focused track with no features — something just for the core fans.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Wale throughout his career, but with a new upbeat sound and a different perspective on haters, SHINE is a step in the right direction.