Wale’s sophomore LP, Ambition, debuted at #2 on the albums chart in November, and the title couldn’t have been more appropriate.
The Washington D.C. rapper reinvented himself in 2011, claiming a new space in the hip-hop stratosphere after a sound, but commercially disappointing, debut two years earlier. Wale’s tireless work ethic, along with a deal from Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group, were the keys to his success and his #10 slot on MTV News’ Hottest MCs in the Game VII list.
After releasing Attention Deficit in 2009, Wale parted ways with Interscope Records and decided to continue on his mixtape grind. In August 2010, he dropped More About Nothing, the second installation of his “Seinfeld”-themed series. And if Wale was putting out feelers for his fanbase, it worked. The mixtape became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, and pulled in 100,000 downloads in a matter of hours. Fans weren’t the only ones paying attention though. Rick Ross, in the midst of constructing his MM Group empire, also took notice.
By February 2011, Wale was officially signed to MMG under the Warner Bros. umbrella. With the release of Maybach Music’s Self Made Vol. 1 compilation last summer, Wale demonstrated his ability to deliver bangers on hits like “600 Benz,” and from there his star only continued to rise.
“Wale really touched on a broad scale, when it comes to an audience, it’s hard to dispute that,” said Yomi Desalu, MTV’s senior director of music and talent programming strategy.
The criteria to be considered a Hottest MC are based on a combination of impact, buzz, sales, lyrics, swag and the intangibles. Mr. Folarin pretty much touched on them all. He performed with the Maybach crew on shows like “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” finally getting his mainstream shine. With the right support system behind him, Wale began to prep his sophomore album, but he teased it with another excellent mixtape, The Eleven One Theory, in August 2011. In addition to proving that he was still a very talented lyricist, singles like “Bait” reinforced the fact that he’d finally found a sound that would appeal to a wider audience.
By the time November 1 rolled around, Wale had built plenty of anticipation for his second album. Thanks in part to Rick Ross — who demonstrated his uncanny talent for branding in 2011 — #Ambition took on a life of its own in the world of social media, with its inspirational undertones. Lead single “Lotus Flower Bomb,” plus the Kid Cudi-assisted “Focused” , “Slight Work” (featuring Big Sean) and, of course, the title track “Ambition” (featuring Meek Mill and Ross) struck just the right balance between Wale’s sometimes-dense rhymes and radio-friendly numbers.
“Lotus Flower Bomb is a #1 record and Wale’s album was very balanced and diverse,” MTV Jams’ Tuma Basa noted.
In the post-release madness, Wale appeared alongside Rick Ross on the cover of Billboard, dropped verses on the Bawse’s Rich Forever mixtape and even recruited Chris Brown to direct the visuals for “Slight Work.” After shaking off the disappointment of his debut album and surviving the dreaded sophomore slump, things are only looking up for Wale.
Tune in to MTV2 on Sunday, February 19, at 10 p.m. ET/PT to catch “MTV2 Presents: Yo! MTV Raps Classic Cuts,” then watch “Hottest MCs in the Game VII” immediately after at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT before capping the night off with “Sucker Free Certified” at 11 p.m. ET/PT.