The Multitaskingest Rookie in Rap
Wale—that’s Wah-lay—is a massively talented rapper from Washington, D.C., who’s about to take over the world. (Just ask him, he’ll tell you.) But between the cell, the BlackBerry, the Sidekick, the networking, and an endless stream of Tweets, where does this guy find the time to rhyme?
Spend fifteen minutes with Wale and it’s obvious that the era of artists kicking back and eating shrimp while the label gins up hype is dead and gone. At a recent photo shoot, while his publicist flipped through a magazine, Wale used every spare moment to, well, be his own publicist. When he wasn’t updating his Twitter page, he was messaging every deejay in his Rolodex, imploring them to talk up the “leak”—Wale himself carefully orchestrated it—of “Chillin,” his new single featuring Lady Gaga.
Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, now 24, cut his teeth as an 18-year-old by jumping onstage to kick rhymes with D.C.-area go-go bands. A self-released single, “Good Girls,” found its way to Mark Ronson, who signed Wale to his label, which led to a management deal with Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation. Now, finally, his first official album is finished—and Attention Deficit might be the most sonically adventurous major-label hip-hop debut ever. With production from Ronson, Cool & Dre, and even Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio, the upbeat album has tribal go-go drums, throwback horns, walls of sound from Sitek, and a live-band feel developed over countless club dates. And like a young Jay-Z or Kanye, Wale has a crystal-clear, jocular flow—They keep sayin’ “whale” but my name Wah-lay / Hos call me Mr. Never-Wear-the-Same-Thang—that puts him leaps ahead of his freshman competitors.
Yet the best thing about Attention Deficit is that Wale’s still snotnosed, with all the fight and wit of the underdog. On “Triumph,” he raps, I asked Mr. West for a little bit of help / Then realized us new niggas gotta get it ourself. Immediately after his photo shoot, the A.D.D. MC was right back on his phone, haranguing ?uestlove from the Roots. “Can you post something on Twitter?” Wale asked the hip-hop veteran. “Tell ’em my first single is coming out tomorrow. Tell ’em you heard it, and tell ’em it’s crazy.”—will welch