Despite topping the iTunes charts last year with his second album Ambition, Wale (pronounced "Wah-ley") has struggled to filter into mainstream media.
Producer Mark Ronson signed the rapper in 2007, commenting “'Everything I heard from this kid, I just loved” and offering him a supporting slot on his UK tour. Renowned for his witty lyricism and clever wordplay, the rapper was respected on the mixtape circuit, but his debut album Attention Deficit was a commercial failure in the US.
Hailing from Washington DC, he was widely recognized for his potential in hip hop to put the capital on the map, and has since collaborated with artists such as with Rihanna and Pharrell. Although Ambition was criticised for the air of arrogance, it’s the rapper’s confident swagger that defines his stage presence.
His solid fanbase was out in force at Scala last night. Opening with 'The Problem', it was his second song 'Legendary' that got the crowd chanting lyrics and holding out camera phones in unison. After the first few numbers, including the more delicate 'Beautiful Bliss' from the first album, he commented: “There are two ways to do a concert. Sit on stage or touch with the people for real. With Wale a concert isn’t a concert, it’s an experience. Y’all want a concert or a party?” During the rapturous response he pulled a fan up on stage who remained dancing while Wale worked his way through the adoring crowd.
Singer Trey was on stage throughout and demonstrated his talents on one “for the ladies” - 'Sabotage'. Although 'Bad Girls Club' with J. Cole doesn’t feature on the new album it was a big hit with the audience, as was '90210'. The greatest response from the crowd came for 'Chillin', Wale’s 2009 collaboration with Lady Gaga.
Wale must’ve missed Jay Z’s (rumoured) memo about not using the word “bitches” in 'Chain Music' - one of the more shallow offerings from the recent album. But songs such as 'DC or Nothing' cement his talent for making clever observations about society, including one about the politician charged with soliciting a prostitute in the capital.
Some might argue that Wale’s ego has somewhat surpassed his success, but he is undoubtedly driven and has upped his game as promised. He's even reported to have sold his home to put money into the project.
Wale said in 2007: "There's a time for everything and my time is coming. DC's time is coming. A new region will come to the forefront of hip-hop." You can’t disparage the rapper’s ambition, nor his talents.