“Triumph” (produced by Dave Sitek)
The song kicks off with an electronic 8-bit melody, with regal Ronson-style horn blasts mingling with bassoon notes. On the track, Wale is a name-checking machine, making references to Bernie Mac (”I mack like Bernie, she swallow everything like Curly”), Dizzee Rascal, Lily Allen and Slumdog Millionaire.
“Pretty Girls” featuring Gucci Mane (produced by BKS)
This one’s a feel good tune, featuring thwacking, gargantuan drums and a chorus from Wincee aka Wink, lead singer of the D.C. go-go group Backyard Band. “Pretty Girls” lives up to its name, with Wale taking the first and third verses and Gucci taking the second. A choice line from the track: “Boss in my Hugo, floss like my tooth hurt,” [lyric update] one of the many tongue-twisters that Wale spits on the jam.
“Mirrors” featuring Bun B (produced by Mark Ronson)
The beat on “Mirrors” (which they played twice) pummels along with thick, rich drums, accented by a sinister guitar lick and lone bass line. Soon, Ronson throws in a splash of blaxploitation guitar wicka-wahs as Wale and Bun B repeat the chorus, “Mirror mirror on the wall / Who the realest of them all / They ain’t hard, swear to God / These niggas ain’t real at all.” On Bun’s verse, he even adds in a dash of humor, rapping, “You need to go away like the rain song,” while Wale spits, “‘09 gold diggers, walkin’ with a different path.” Ronson stated that Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald sings backup vocals on the track, stating that the singer and Wale grew up near each other. This one has single written all over it.
“Contemplate” (produced by Syence)
This song was one of the darker tracks played during the listening session, boasting a synth-peppered beat that launches into an epic, swinging anthem and a chorus featuring a girl that sounds an awful lot like Rihanna. On the track, Wale contemplates his status in the rap game, referencing River Phoenix, Courtney Love and Heath Ledger and asking himself, “Am I doing this for them, or for me?”
“90210″ (produced by Mark Ronson)
Those in attendance seemed to enjoy this more than the other tracks. Wale raps over a twinkling electro-tinged beat, reflecting on girls that lead their lives with the sole purpose of becoming celebrities, only to be thrown into a world of bulimia and cocaine addiction. Choice lines include “She’s so pretentious, but no potential,” “She throw up whatever she eat, she leave the bathroom with a nosebleed” and “Regular girl, celebrity dreams.” “Kanye did it really well with ‘All Falls Down’,” explained Ronson. “But nobody’s really done it from the Perez Hilton angle.”
“World Tour” featuring Jazmine Sullivan (produced by Cool & Dre)
Before playing the track, Ronson explained that he was about to head over to the UK to play a string of festivals, and decided to take Wale along for the ride because he’d never really been that far out of D.C. “He didn’t know what he was in for,” he said. “And he was this 21-year-old who was just worried about fucking up his unreleased Nikes. This is probably my favorite song, just because the story’s amazing.”
“World Tour” pays homage to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Award Tour,” jacking the chorus but changing around a few lines, with Wale rapping, “Hustlin’ each and every ghetto with the mic in my hand / London, Tokyo / We gon’ take you all around the globe.” Jazmine is relegated to singing “Ohh ohh” at the end of each chorus, where Wale takes his time looking back on the struggle he’s gone through to get where he’s at. He even references his mother, rhyming, “She prayed on me passin’ the bar / But now, I’m passin’ out bars” over a high octane, busy drum palette.
“TV in the Radio” featuring K’naan (produced by Dave Sitek)
No, you didn’t read the title of the track incorrectly. Over a discordant bass line with clashing horns, Wale doles out lines like “Everybody’s on me like the ‘A Milli’ beat” and “Fat bitch every time, Roseanne bars.” K’naan sings on the chorus, asking, “How the hell’d they fit TV in the Radio?” before getting his chance to shine on his own verse.
“Diary” featuring Marsha Ambrosius (produced by The Sleepwalkers)
This was sort of a fairy tale-esque kind of track, swinging in 6/8 time with plucking strings that recall Jazmine Sullivan’s “Lions, Tigers and Bears.” On the track, Wale rhymes about a girl that doesn’t feel like she lives up to her worth, breaking it down at the end with a spoken word segment where he states, “Her mind’s in the clouds, she writes it all in her diary.”
“Beautiful Bliss” featuring Melanie Fiona and J. Cole (produced by Green Lantern and Mark Ronson
This was one of the strongest and most soulful records played during the session. Melanie takes the reigns on the chorus as she belts out a powerful tune about it being a “beautiful day,” while J. Cole takes a turn rapping about having dinner with Jay-Z, spitting, “I was hoping that he pass the baton / But instead he passed the Patron.”
“OG” (produced by Sean C and LV)
Ronson explained that Travis Barker played the drums on this one, while the Dap Kings, the horn team that played on Amy Winehouse’s breakout album Back to Black, handle the brass section on the track. The drums were surprisingly prominent on this one with the horns softly blowing back and forth between two chords. The song pounds along, finishing up with the ringing of a bell.
“Prescription” (produced by BKS)
This is the last song on the album and, in our opinion, the cleverest. On the track, Wale brilliantly ties in the ADD references into his lyrics, likening himself to a prescription that can sooth the listener. Over a suave ’70s style beat accented by wispy flutes, Wale doles out rhymes like “The first one’s free, the next time I’ll be billin’ ya,” “Language, I provide like a Percocet” and “I put Adderall in lines” before finishing it off with a spoken word outro.