Mixtape Review-Summer on Sunset by Wale
The tastemakers (a relatively small group of middle aged white dudes) decided a long time ago to wash their hands of Wale. Post-backpacker he embraced more of the uncomfortable/odd/off-putting elements of himself. Going to Maybach Music allowed him to make weird (maybe weird isn’t strong enough) sex jokes and tie his brags into his artistic determination in a way that was more honest but uncomfortable for those who listened to his Mixtape About Nothing and wanted to freeze him in that space.
I only actually started liking Wale after MMG. He seemed to start owning himself in a more realistic way. It always appeared that Attention Deficit Wale wasn’t real but some leftover patched together Rawkus Records take on Gil-Scott Heron. His new mixtape Summer on Sunset showcases everything I love about the evolution of Wale. When a rapper makes a mixtape embracing the west coast sound it usually turns out pretty forgettable. You can sound very silly faking the funk on a faux-Mustard beat doing your version of a YG flow. It helps that this long mixtape has a narrative arc about him moving to LA that fits the sound. Wale manages a busload of different producers over seventeen tracks without selling himself short at all; add to that, the other busload of important guest rappers/singers and it’s a feat that Summer on Sunset doesn’t sound like a compilation. Lyrically the sharpest Wale will always be Ambition but flow and melody-wise it’s hard to expect more than he provides on Summer on Sunset. From the light finger snap cooing flow of Ms. Moon to (my favorite moment of the project) the triumphant sing along Its Too Late produced by Go Griz.
The easiest way to defend Wale as an artist is to say he’s more of an honest commodity than most. On the gorgeous G-funk smash Gangsta Boogie he brings Daz & Kurupt who just DOGG POUND the stuffing out of the song like they came from 1995. Amidst all this Wale keeps his head. He doesn’t make laughable threats, instead lacing a chorus where he admits he’s not gangster at all even rapping “not a gangsta really, never claimed it though, with all that money and fame why they so gangsta for?!” it’s an admission that all these super tough hardcore rappers you think are so authentic are filthy rich with accountants and personal assistants. They are powerful business people with gangster outfits on and you(the audience) can’t tell the difference. Wale incites anger because he’s dressed as he is, smug and successful, but that shouldn’t stop us from acknowledging his talent.
Even when Wale’s content isn’t deep or impressive he has such an impressive mastery over tone and flow that you can just enjoy Day By The Pool on the power of his delivery and the urgency of Squat AC Chann3l & Soufwest’s trampling beat. He’s gotten better at taking ownership over his hooks, and taking his singing seriously. As vapid as his content can seem, real emotion underpins a lot of these stories (see: Drunk & Conceited where he is bragging about dirty sex but so pathetic that he is kicked out by an Uber driver for being annoyingly hammered. It sounds like a brag until you realize it plays as real tragedy.) Summer on Sunset breezes by, full of easy listens bay area ratchet like Thought It featuring Joe Moses and Ty Dolla Sign over DJ Mustard; it is simply a super fun single. Publishing Checks is a darker turn into harder spitting which leaves you wondering if he could carry a full album of those kind of songs (I think he would do quite well). As not-givin-an-F as Publishing Checks is Paparazzi is a beautiful stroll where the melody carries but the lines stand out, real discussion on relationships and celebrity peek through. He even manages to match weird with Cam’ron, which is an impressive feat, by claiming on Bitches Like You to have “the lexicon of about eleven lucky leprechauns,” now try to forget that phrase.
With most mixtapes leading up to albums (working on an album called S.H.I.N.E.) we assume these are left overs. If Summer on Sunset is that album is going to be awesome! If they aren’t and he patched together seventeen songs on the side while working on his album…the result is quite impressive(and the album could be more so). Either way, I can’t tell you that Pitchfork will give him higher than a six on this next album BUT I’m anticipating something I will love.
Stream or download Summer on Sunset below: