Tag Archives: DMV

Ranked Discography: Wale (album) edition


Ranked Discography: Wale (album) edition

by Dan-O

I saw Wale live in Boston in 2008 as the opener in a Rock The Bells concert that changed my wife’s relationship to hip hop forever. He did his song Nike Boots and explained the meaning of it before he performed it. The crowd was doing the festival opener thing, ‘It’s a long show and I don’t know this dude so I’m stocking up on drinks/food’. I was looking around as he performed saying “Why don’t they know how great this song is?!” Wale didn’t get sour or go half steam he was still great but that was the first time I thought…the crowd is taking him for granted. It’s become a recurring theme.

He dropped a new album on 10/11/2019 called Wow…That’s Crazy and it is EASILY the second best album he’s ever made. Doing a career breakdown of the DMV god is not easy since he is a pop rap heavyweight as well as a mixtape hall of famer. For now, I would like to give an updated ranking of his proper albums.

  1. Ambition (released 11/01/2011)-One of the five most authentically urgent hip hop albums I’ve heard in the last twenty years. By authentic it needs to be said that Wale is not a fake tough guy. Ambition is about focus, being locked in and refusing failure but he doesn’t pretend murder or drug deal in order to do it. As he says in Double M Genius “The remedy is get your hustle on.” Wow…That’s Crazy is about finding comfort within yourself and ,on the other end of that, joy. Ambition is gritted teeth and tense muscles bubbling over with the burning passion to be the literal best. Miami Nights is still a fun song about living luxurious and Lotus Flower Bomb is every inch the radio hit you remember but every other song flexes a relentless drive for achievement. My favorite lyrical achievement of his career is every word of the song Legendary. “It’s something to be great. It’s nothing to be famous.” “My only fear is mediocrity.” It is a song (and by extent an album) of flow pushed to the limit, bars that honestly admit he has growth to do and seeks nothing else but to do it. “This is anti-Mark McGwire: it takes patience for power.” It would take a lot for Wale to push beyond Ambition but the wildest thing about Wale is you can never find his ceiling, so it could happen.
  2. Wow…That’s Crazy(released 10/11/2019)-I love this album as much as I hate the title. It distills all of the important themes of Wale’s albums and presents them thoughtfully while having fun. On his first album he had songs like Shades about beautiful black women on Wow…That’s Crazy he makes BGM and turns his love into an anthem. He still says devastating things like “Showbusiness will never love you the way you love it (Sue Me).” Which point to the frustration we know he’s been through but he navigates the content with a confident looseness and dexterity. The features are bonkers from Bryson Tiller, Kelly Price, Ari Lennox, Boogie, Meek Mill, Jacquees, Megan Thee Stallion, 6lack, Jeremih. It is the greatest collection of R & B features on a 2019 rap album bar none. The album is about letting go of the anxiety related to perception of him. That balloon on the cover has crazy written on it and he’s watching float away. Not that he’s finally found a way to feel fulfilled as  a fly, mentally ill, smacktalker but he’s closer than he’s ever been and his craft is on another level.
  3. The Album About Nothing(released 03/25/2015)-Wale is a brilliant dude. Like every one of those I’ve known his thoughts easily scatter. It’s no accident his top three albums all express a definite composed theme. They can be considered concept albums if you want. It’s a track for his train of thought to ride on that pulls together all the threads of what he wants to discuss and Seinfeld is a wonderful mechanism for that (Best SZA feature of her career on The Need To Know).
  4. The Gifted(released 06/25/2013)-Pitchfork gave this a 5.1, Spin a 6. We were all confused. We heard The Dap-Kings mentioned and thought live instrumentation would give birth to a catchy loving soul-rap album. If you let go of all that and listen on the albums own terms it’s very good. Wale smashes a top notch Just Blaze beat on 88. Drops a mean trap paced collab with Wiz and 2 Chainz (Rotation). As a Wale album it’s very well organized and hits that nice range from pop hits (Bad remix or regular with Rihanna or Tiara Thomas) to nasty rap club jam (Clappers with Nicki Minaj & Juicy J). We all thought he was going to do a John Legend with The Roots type thing but that wouldn’t have made any sense for his skill set.
  5. Shine(released 04/28/2017)-I was very down on Shine when it came out. Upon relisten…some good stuff on there. Scarface Rozay Gotti is hardcore headnod music, Mathematics is ill, Running Back with Wayne is fire. The problem: the music isn’t unified enough within structure that allows it to become a single story. Fashion Week and Fish N Grits just don’t belong on the same album together.
  6. Attention Deficit(released 11/07/2009)-This one holds a special place for some people and I want to respect that. This is not who Wale was meant to be. Attention Deficit is who the underground ,he had trafficked in to that point, wanted him to be. Too many jazzy boom bap beats that just aren’t enough. Wale was meant for pop rap chart stardom. The backpack sound of Mama Told Me or Contemplate is not what he isn’t his canvas. He stretched into trap, African musical influences, MMG luxury rap, R & B and it jarred the audience that loves this album. Every artists dream is to break through their high points so that their best work is their new work. Wale’s growth has come in Savage strides that are not always easy to keep up with (See The Gifted). If Attention Deficit is your favorite because of where you were in your life when you heard it- hold that and enjoy it. If we are being clinical- he outgrew this one.


My wife found out I had been living in Wale’s discography to research this piece and remarked “I didn’t know you liked Wale…like THAT.” Before he dropped Wow…That’s Crazy I may not have known how dedicated to his development I’ve been over the past eleven years. I really believe the longer his career goes the more history will vindicate him. He’s shown a clear desire to sharpen his skills through hard work and his skills are profound at this point.

Phil Ade-R.O.S.E.(Result of Society’s Evil) Mixtape Review

Phil Ade-R.O.S.E.(Result of Society’s Evil) Mixtape Review

by Dan-O

Between R.O.S.E. and Young Moe’s Humble Hustle 2 (https://freemusicempire.com/2013/06/15/young-moe-humble-hustle-2-mixtape-review/)the DMV(Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) have a definite 2013 sound forming. Just because R.O.S.E. has a Kendrick Lamar style cover doesn’t mean all of its content exists in that off tempo Top Dawg zone. Songs like 2am (featuring Bun-B) and Nas Told Me jam the heck out. Not to mention the fabulously foul capitalist anthem Money with a game changing base line from producer 6ix and a simple snide fantastic chorus from Phil Ade.

On the production side Sunny Norway is behind the boards for nine out of the seventeen tracks, giving a warm needed backdrop on songs like City Lights or a more urgent darker soundscape like the one present on One Time or Big Mistake.

The guests do a pretty impressive job; Bun B is solid as always, Rockie Fresh has had a very good year that continues with his guest verse on Get Back. The case could be made that nothing about R.O.S.E. is that quotable, verses while well put together are full of what you would expect. It’s part introspection, part come up and as dope as songs like The Dreamer and Under Achiever are they don’t have rewindable lyrical moments. Good news-not everything needs rewindable lyrical moments. Good music is music you can listen too over and over and most of R.O.S.E. is good music. The biggest negative about the project is the song Every Bag which features an annoying hook about buying hot chicks…you guessed it….every bag. To be fair this song is for a different demographic, I understand that.

The complaints are minimal. I have to commend Phil Ade, Sunny Norway, and Teddy Roxpin for crafting an extremely cohesive project. All the tracks swim from one to the next in a natural way. This synergistic quality is what makes Every Bag stick out so much, so in a way its a credit to the work that it feels so foreign. Nothing feels like a single, this is an album and as free albums go VERY worth your time. The versatility of the DMV is the ability to do stuff that feels Trap-ish(like Money) but switch gears naturally to a song about love/sex(Xscape) or family. The best DMV rap finds a way to be earnest even in its least genuine moments and this is definitely a Phil Ade trait.

At the end of the second to last track, Disappointed, 2pac explains the rose from concrete metaphor in another of the spellbinding interviews he used to give(did anyone in hip hop history give better interviews?). You see the next track named Roses and picture it immediately as a down tempo introspection but that’s not what happens. What you get is a Sunny Norway piano with freakish urgency and an autotuned chorus that seems part trashy and part drunk talk honest. Even when Phil Ade does subtle he does it bigger and crazier than you pictured it. He chooses to end his opus jamming out, which I can always appreciate.

stream or download R.O.S.E. below:


Young Moe-Humble Hustle 2 mixtape review

Young Moe-Humble Hustle 2 mixtape review

by Dan-O

Free Music Empire contributor D.L. aptly characterized the goals of Humble Hustle 1 in the last sentence of his review from April of last year (https://freemusicempire.com/2012/04/16/young-moe-humble-hustle-2012/), “Here is a bizarro gangster Trap Rap mixtape that fills in the gaps left by caricature, and shows a real person’s struggle and strife in a very conflicted, shady world.” While Humble Hustle is all about filling in those gaps and articulating that struggle, Humble Hustle 2 revolves around taking that struggle to cinematic heights while maintaining the pre-existing levels of heartfelt realism at the core of the listening experience.

Its nineteen tracks long culminating in the most engaging outro of the year. Within it he goes from talking about how he grew up using candles cause the light bills weren’t paid and living hungry to showing his Egyptian side by rapping in a different language (Arabic?), speaking about the importance of planning and wanting to be a good father; all of it taking place over a thumping cooing masterpiece by Basshead Music Group. The reason I highlight the outro is how often is it a throw away? Most of the time it’s a rambling post it note tacked onto the work, or if it is rapping its a few bars and a wave goodbye, this is a real song and its dope.

Careful craftsmanship smoothes out every contour of Humble Hustle 2. Rich Lou alley oops the duo of Fat Trel and Young Moe a twinkling cinematic gem of a beat on Million Dollar Dreams and it does not go to waste. No one works better with Trel, Moe is all grizzled determination and scratchy voice as he spits “waking up with nothing make you dream about a lot of sh#t, you need your proper sense if you’ll be making every dollar flip,” while Trel croaks a joyously confident chorus about bricks of gold and million dollar clothes. Young Moe can spit Trap squared, so paranoid world-weary and driven that it seems multiplied in its potency. He can also switch gears and leave tire marks all over what you expected to hear.

The intro track is a post-cloud rap cloud beat by JRB that Young Moe digests with skilled bravado, talking about snitching, police, haters, and the basics. The first real track on the tape and the one that follows the intro nearly got me quivery lipped on the first listen. A Letter 2 Amarie is a slow powerfully authentic song to his son not filled with platitudes but warm facts. He holds him while he does the dirty dishes, driving for hours just to see him for thirty minutes. He wants to be alive for his son and wants his son to assume greater responsibilities, the way he broaches being around for his son in contrast to his father is jarring in its sincerity, to quote “but to leave you I can’t imagine, so I’m guessing I love you more than he loved me.” It’s really special and not the only example of Young Moe showing gifted levels of introspection and empathy.

This is not a perfect musical experience by any means. I could certainly do without Bus Driver, where Moe sells female listeners on an extraordinarily short term sexual paradise, but that song isn’t meant for me anyway. The special moments are undeniable in the sense that no other new emcee can replicate the sympathetic hardcore he brings to the table. Listen to how personal Freeway gets in his impressive verse on Dreamin’ and know that’s just what happens when you are on a track with Young Moe. You step up your levels. I Don’t Trust A Smile is a perfect example of the level Moe is on. Basshead Music Group use strings and strong drums to set the stage for Moe who laces a tremendous four minute warning about sexual relationships. This is not a don’t trust women song, all characters fail and the results are felt “Mama told her farewell, now she use a jacket as a pillow in the stairwell.” The way he says it, the image of the jacket as a pillow is exactly what makes the Humble Hustle series amongst the very best series of mixtapes. Young Moe is creating characters and feeling their mistakes, feeling their soreness and giving it to us. When he achieves he does the same, those powers of projection are carried over 100% from the original to the sequel and the beats are better. So it’s a massive win.

stream or download Humble Hustle 2 below: