They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and for most hip-hop artists that is true, but it seems as though Wale is getting an opportunity to do just that. After dropping more than a handful of mixtapes and a debut album that was “negatively” received by some, the 27 year old Washington D.C. native releases his sophomore LP entitled Ambition. Olubowale which is the rappers birth name, inked a deal with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group in 2011, has seen an enormous revival amongst most fans. He has always been seen as an up and coming emcee with tremendous talent, but has not fully reached commercial success, as other relatively new rappers. His guest verse on one of 2010’s hottest songs “No Hands” has made his second album highly anticipated, and may in fact be a reintroduction to the world. However, the fans and critics want to know has Mr. No Days Off really been hard at work or has he just been living in the fictional limelight?
Lyrics – 8
For me as a listener, Wale has always been about one thing… his words. However, sadly to me it’s as though Wale has taken a step back as far as his progression. There are a lot more irrelevant lines and bravado raps than I am accustomed to hearing in a Wale project. That’s not to say that the entire album is fluff, it just means I was a lot happier with the “old” Ralph Folarin. I know that a lot of people will buy into him more this time around, but that’s just not the case for me. I did find solitude with some of the lines on the album, and I really enjoy all the spoken word raps and a lot of the inspirational lyrics that he manages to produce such as… I pray whenever I’m seen in my city I forever resemble Braille, May your trees be loud, and your queens be proud, May you see your dreams allowed, before you see them from a cloud, May your glass never, reach half-empty, may your enemies find the inner-piece before it ever get to beef … Although, it is nice to know Wale has a variety of styles and topics that seem to come natural as he spits … Sober thoughts keep me anxious, moet gon’ keep me calmer, Poetry keep her honest, these readings Stevie could draw up, Don’t see this deeper than music, don’t hear it but feel the author… I’m happy to say that although I feel he took a step back with his lyrical prowess, Wale is still a very potent emcee. When you think of new comers, Wale is definitely one of the first that comes to mind, and this project helps reinforce his case.
Production – 7.5
I don’t know what to say about the production on the album, I want to enjoy the project in its entirety, but unfortunately I can’t. I ran through the LP hoping to hear songs with banging drums and traditional hip-hop sounds, with tough beats that Wale sounds great on, and a few eccentric ones that would give the album depth. However, even with producers like Tone P, Mark Henry, DJ Toomp and Tha Bizness, the album still manages to lack dominance musically. I feel very hit or miss on the majority of the album; some of the beats gave me exactly what I wanted while others left me wanting more of the previous tracks. The great thing about the album is that when the snares and horns didn’t suck, Wale never got outshined. I wish the album had tougher and hard knocking tracks instead of the soft female oriented efforts. I do understand that females are a major part of life and culture in hip-hop, but it seemed overboard on this album. I know it’s a picky thing to complain about, but with the amount of great albums put out this year it’s hard not to nitpick. Perhaps I got spoiled with all the 9th Wonder beats and Best Kept Secret beats that made me a fan of Wale in the first place. If you like the album, then you probably liked the production, because of the Jazz feel and I did like that in several of the tracks, but sadly it didn’t make me say wow.
Songs – 8
The obvious thing to say here is… why the hell was “Tats on my Arms” not on the album, over the likes of “Chain Music” and even the Jeremih assisted “That Way” which were previously released? Either way I didn’t like the amount of forced R&B efforts with the likes of Ne-Yo, Lloyd and Miguel. Luckily for Wale, “Lotus Flower Bomb” which featured Miguel is a guaranteed radio hit which could potentially be a chart topper. For me the best song on the album is the MMG assisted title track “Ambition.” Meek Mill and Rick Ross spit two great verses on top of a beat that made me wish the entire album sounded more like. Songs like “Legendary” and “DC or Nothing” give off a very “old” Wale feel that is reminiscent of his previous projects. Surprisingly I enjoyed songs like “Focused” featuring Kid Cudi and “Illest Bitch,” which I felt played to Wale’s strengths in both songs respectfully. Although, songs like “Double M Genius” and especially the horrendous “Slight Work” featuring Big Sean came across very weak, and didn’t sit well with me. Overall I felt that there were songs on the project for everyone, however I just didn’t find enough songs that satisfied my likings. It’s hard for me to say, but I skipped over a majority of the songs on most times I listened to the album.
Conclusion – 7.8
I’m very conflicted with this album; I enjoyed it, but I didn’t at the same time. It almost seemed as if the project was a little forced, and that was very apparent on a lot of the songs with features. I didn’t like some of the production and I wish the lyrics were a bit better. Having said that, there are a lot of bright spots throughout the album, which will give Wale the commercial success he deserves. I became a fan of Wale because of projects like 100 Miles and Running and Back to the Features; this album is nothing like Attention Deficit which I was disappointed with. However, just because I didn’t necessarily love the project it doesn’t mean I won’t play a hand full of tracks. The project didn’t make me a diehard fan and it didn’t make me want to delete my Wale catalog, it did however make me realize that a solid hip-hop album is hard to come by. Sophomore efforts are usually a letdown, but Wale managed to do a great job of showcasing his skills to ensure him a spot in the rap game for awhile longer.
Review by Edgar Gomez for Defsounds.com