Wale – The Album About Nothing
Maybach Music Group: 2015
Seven years after Wale broke through into public consciousness with his brilliant Mixtape About Nothing, the rapper still has yet to escape the shadow from his most celebrated work. It’s easy to see why, since the acclaim from that tape escalated Wale to “Next Big Thing” status. A Seinfeld-themed mixtape lasting an hour-and-change in length had potential to crash and burn, but Wale constructed it near-perfectly. Wale blended introspective and pop sensibilities with ease, bouncing all over his (at-the-time) trademark go-go production selection. Wale rapped about whatever he wanted, whether it was girls, shoes, his ambitions, or even racial politics. Fans and critics ate it up as The Mixtape About Nothing garnered “Best of 2008” honors from several publications and Wale appeared on the cover of XXL as a member of their 2009 freshman class.
Since then, Wale has struggled to reach the same heights as The Mixtape About Nothing. His follow-up albums and mixtapes just never quite managed to hit audiences the way his early work did. He had a few minor hits, but never reached the commercial heights of peers like J. Cole and B.o.B. He collaborated with “harder” rappers such as Waka Flocka Flame and Rick Ross, but never felt like he was in place in that crowd. Wale struggled with his lukewarm reception, even notoriously threatening Complex’s offices when they didn’t name 2013’s The Gifted as one of their top albums of the year.
But there was always Seinfeld. His 2010 follow-up to The Mixtape About Nothing, More About Nothing still remains as Wale’s closest effort of living up to his potential. He even began a friendship with Jerry Seinfeld himself. Seinfeld appeared on The Gifted’s “Outro About Nothing,” and Wale said Jerry would join him in the studio to help record his next album, The Album About Nothing. Wale was going to return to his roots on this album. The attempts at pop-rap stardom would end, and Wale would return to his sitcom-influenced roots.
Yet here we are. Wale’s most anticipated album of his career has dropped, and it is also the rapper’s most disappointing album. The album might be titled The Album About Nothing and feature Jerry Seinfeld to guide us through the album, but Wale is the farthest he’s been from his roots here. Seinfeld is here to give Wale life advice rather than tell jokes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but his contributions seem completely trivial in the end. Seinfeld talks for a minute about something that ties in with the song, Wale raps, and nothing really ties everything together. It doesn’t seem like Jerry was brought on board to create a cohesive album, but rather only so Wale could give his album the About Nothing name and get his old fans that gave up on him to check out his new material. It’s a cheap and ineffective maneuver.
Wale’s greatest strengths when he released The Mixtape About Nothing was his flow, his charm and the variety of his subject matter. These are notably absent from this record. Wale never really spazzes on his beats like he used to, and it seems like Wale is taking himself way too seriously for a sitcom-themed album. The only track he sounds like he’s even close to having fun is “The Girls On Drugs,” which he already featured on a previous project (December’s Festivus mixtape). This might be because of the general lack of interesting subject matter Wale raps about. Instead of switching from topic-to-topic, he primarily raps about relationships and the hardships that come with fame. These themes work over an entire project when somebody like Drake covers them, but Wale is at his best when he doesn’t stay in one zone for too long.
For an album influenced by stand-up comedy and sitcoms, The Album About Nothing is a nearly joyless experience. From a quality standpoint, the album is more like Bee Movie than one of the greatest sitcoms in history. The record’s 14 tracks usually drag on too long (only three songs clock in at less than 4 minutes in length), with only R&B singers (and J. Cole) on hook duty and Seinfeld to break up Wale’s mostly-average raps. Wale may have been master of his domain in 2008, but now he’s a shell of his former self.2 out of 5
You can purchase Wale’s The Album About Nothing on iTunes.