Budding Artist: Wale
Wed, 08 Apr 2009 13:54:35
The politicians in D.C. may hold the power to draft laws, but last year’s Presidential election proved that rappers hold serious sway when it comes to mobilizing the youth. Given this, you might expect our nation’s capitol to be a hotbed of hip hop fat cats. It isn’t. In fact, for a city as densely populated with under-resourced urban locales—rap's traditional incubators—D.C. has a surprising lack of homegrown talent. Fortunately one MC stands ready to make good on the citie's promise of cultural and political convergence.
Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, better known by his stage name Wale, has been on his grind in Chocolate City for the past few years, and now seems poised to make the jump onto the national stage that has alluded so many of his peers. The child of Nigerian immigrants began producing and recording music soon after graduating from High School, releasing his first mixtape, Paint a Picture, in 2005. That collection gave rise to his first local hit, the go-go influenced "Dig Dug (Shake It)."
D.C. residents latched onto this fresh interpretation of the area’s signature conga-heavy funk style and blew the song up into the most requested ever by a local artist on regional radio. He soon followed it up with another mixtape, Hate Is The New Love, which yielded another go-go flavored single “Breakdown.”
Wale snagged his first awards recognition in 2006 when he took home the statue for "D.C. Metro Breakthrough Artist of the Year" at WKYS' Go-Go Awards. It was the very next year in 2007 that his sound started to seep out of its early confines, when a copy of his track "Good Girls" made into the hands of producer Mark Ronson.
Impressed by what he heard, Ronson invited Wale to his studio to lay down a verse on an unofficial remix of Lily Allen’s “Smile.”
The two formed a fast friendship and Ronson tapped the rapper to join him on tour in Europe before signing him to a production deal with his imprint Allido Records. They then used Ronson's high profile rolodex to pepper Wale's next mixtape, 100 Miles & Running, with the guest turns from big names like Allen and Amy Winehouse. One of the most buzz-building moments on the collection came from Wale's re-imagining of the Justice electro-smash "D.A.N.C.E." into "W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E."
This quirky collaboration brought him to the attention of the bloggerati at large and set the stage for his 2008 release, The Mixtape About Nothing. Drawing inspiration—and samples—from his favorite television show, Seinfeld, Wale tackled a wide range of subjects in what is undoubtedly his most accomplished release to date. Tracks like "The Kramer" saw him dropping nuanced rhymes about n-word polemics, before turning his attention to love and personal growth on songs like "The Grown Up."
Armed with a deal from Interscope, Wale's now on the precipice of breaking through to the next level of stardom. In an obvious nod to that very desire, he's paired with pop space cadet Lady Gaga for "Chillin," the first single from his upcoming major label debut, Attention: Deficit. It's a deft business move considering her current popularity, and he displays the deftness of wordplay to actually pull it off. Let's hope he maintains that same clever skill when it comes to navigating the bumpy road to major label success.