After bubbling in hip-hop’s underground for several years with many buzz-worthy songs and mixtapes, Wale proves he’s more than just a one-dimensional sneaker MC on his major label debut, Attention Deficit.
The Washington, D.C.-based rapper (he won’t let you forget where he’s from in his music), who is managed by Jay-Z’s newly established Roc Nation, successfully melds the go-go influence of his early work with electropop, soul and funk. The go-go-based “Pretty Girls” melds percussive rhythms with sparse synths, as Wale and typically subpar Alabama rapper Gucci Mane craft a sunny summertime anthem about the opposite sex.
David Sitek, guitarist and producer for experimental indie rock group TV On The Radio, proves to be a worthy (albeit bizarre) collaborator for Wale, providing two of the album’s best cuts: The celebratory opening track “Triumph,” and the appropriately titled “TV In The Radio.” The latter pits Wale, who is Nigerian-American, with Somali-Canadian rapper K’Naan over a backdrop of robotic digital drums and a funky trombone riff.
Wale shows some of his deepest lyrics at the album’s mid-section. “90210” is the cautionary tale of regular girls with Hollywood aspirations falling into the trap of eating disorders and drug-abuse, set to 808 kick drums and vintage video game bleeps. Meanwhile the soulful Chrisette Michele-assisted “Shades” tackles Wale’s own issues with race vis-a-vis dark versus light-skinned African-Americans.
Wale’s foray into club music is mixed: First single “Chillin” is a catchy take on “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” with some help from Lady Gaga, but the Neptunes-produced “Let It Loose” is sloppy, accounting for the only real misstep on Attention Deficit.
Whether alone (the excellent album closing “Prescription”) or with some help (the head-nodding “Mirrors” with Bun B), Wale proves on his debut that he is a multifaceted songwriter and performer who can make seemingly unrelated musical styles coexist through the often narrow lens of hip-hop.