Wale delivers what fans expect on "The Album About Nothing," returning to his Seinfeld-loving roots.
Seven years after Wale released his blazing Mixtape About Nothing, he’s released The Album About Nothing. His alternative hip hop style has come a long way in the time since; he’s inked a deal with Rick Ross, had a #2 album with Ambition, and a #1 album with The Gifted.
If there’s one thing you can’t knock Wale for, it’s his volume of output. He’s put out an album every other year since 2009, and he’s put out a mixtape every year with the exception of 2013. He’s also been able to balance gangster tracks ("600 Benz") with cuts for the hip hop die-hards ("Running Rebels") and something for the ladies ("That Way"), even on the same album (those all come from Self Made Vol. I). He also just released the Festivus mixtape back in December to hype up the release of this one. There's no denying he's on a mission for credibility, consistency, and fans. Is it working?
With The Album About Nothing, Wale seems to be trying a little less hard to make one for the thugs, one for the hip hop heads, one for the club, one for the backpackers, etc. Although you could still attribute those labels to the album’s tracks, it does appear to be a little bit more cohesive than his past albums. It also appears to be as natural of a progression from The Mixtape About Nothing and More About Nothing as you could expect, given we are five years removed from the latter.
Looking at the album’s credits, few of rap’s most hyped producers are present on the album. There’s a bunch of lesser-known beat-makers who Wale is looking to for beats. DJ Dahi does three. J. Gramm does two. Pro Reese does two as well. Osinachi, Jake One, AyyDot, Reazon, DJ Khalil, and Sonny Digital appear on the credits once each.
The beats are surprisingly cohesive when you take into consideration the fact that different producers created them all, essentially. The album continues to play with that super-slow tempo that everybody from Drake to Earl Sweatshirt has been messing with lately. Wale’s style isn’t inherently "druggy" like a lot of rap’s modern kingpins, and he still puts a couple joints for the ladies on there.
“The Body,” the lead single featuring Jeremih, only appears on the album as the bonus track, but it fits in with the latter half of The Album About Nothing’s tracks. Ever since Ambition, Wale has embraced the poetry-fueled cuts for the ladies, and let’s be perfectly honest, he does a pretty great job of the R&B/hip-hop crossover. Alongside the likes of Jeremih, Miguel, Lloyd, Ne-Yo, and Usher, Wale has found a niche in this style.
Speaking of Usher, the album’s closing track, and the second single of the album, dives into the topic of marriage. It’s anything but a "player’s ball," but listening to Wale embrace his emotions for the females is hardly a new thing. On "The Matrimony," Wale rhymes about his relationship with Solange, and how he felt when she settled down with another man.
"Went from fallin' in love to drunk and fallin' apart
This is hard, tryna find some time to move on
Cause when we lost our baby, I got shady, shit got too dark
Soft, and I thank you baby, you strong
My ex before you married too, you solo, I say so long
Nah, good terms how that ended
But it surely put a dent on how I worry about this business
Off white picket fences, on flights with the children"
“The Need To Know” talks about a more promiscuous side of relationships: the open relationship. The Seinfeld conversation between Elaine and Jerry having a hilariously open conversation about how they should be able to have casual sex.
It’s a perfect glimpse as to what made Seinfeld such a massive success; it’s ability to play on real-life scenarious in the driest way. Many of us have been in a similar situation, but we all know it doesn't (or it can't) quite work out like that…at least not most of the time. The SZA-assisted cut helps to discuss Wale’s experience on "friends with benefits."
However, most of the album isn’t about relationships, emotions, or women. Most of the album is mostly about a variety of topics, just like Wale’s music always has been. There’s a song about race, society, wanting to quit hip hop, drugs, balancing fame and fans, etc.
"The Pessimist," which features J. Cole on the hook, is Wale’s own version of "The Blacker The Berry." The MC’s thesis on the track:
"If a nigga kill a nigga he's another statistic
If his skin's a little different they gon' say it was self defense"
While J. Cole never gives us the bars we want on the track, it’s a solid track that continues to echo a real problem we have in this country. While many rappers continue to disregard racial injustice, Wale offers valid insight in a listenable manner.
As we reach mid-way, we get "The Middle Finger," which is all about self-doubt. Wale seems to struggle with this openly. The MMG rapper doubts his place in the rap industry by saying, “Wanted to quit, rap music sucks/But couldn't run a 4.2, so with you I'm stuck.” He doubts his ability to comment on social issues ("Preachin' and geekin', I kinda think that I'm Malcolm X"), and gets honest about his inner demons. This is all done on a track that boasts a chorus quite similar to something a vintage Kid Cudi might have executed.
"The One Time In Houston" is a nod to the city of sizzurp. The slowed cut and screwed chorus tip the hat to DJ Screw and that whole scene that has inspired so much of modern-day rap. As we veer towards the end, we get some of Wale's finest, no-frills hip-hop cuts since The Mixtape About Nothing-- namely, "The God Smile," "The Success," and "The Glass Egg." No features, no MMG-influenced awkward moments, just good ol' hip-hop.
The album is a fine addition to Wale’s string of Seinfeld-worshipping releases, and one of the better albums the DC MC has turned in. With a little help from his friend, Jerry Seinfeld, he was able to elaborate on a concept that set him on the path to hip-hop fame. It’s cool when you watch dreams come true right before your eyes, right?