Wale packs a lot into each verse. On top of his signature up-and-down flow, the Washington, D.C., native builds complex metaphors and similes within each 16 he spits.
On his third solo LP, fans should already expect a lyrical onslaught of complex ideas that you just can't absorb on the first listen. But those who dive into Wale's The Gifted on Tuesday (June 25) should find that the Maybach Music standout has elevated his musicality to match his lyrical dedication.
On 2011's Ambition, Wale's first LP under Rick Ross' MMG umbrella, Folarin discovered an array of new sounds like the trap-based kit that drove "Chain Music" and the danceable bleeps and bloops of "Slight Work." But when he dabbled with soulful selections like "Lotus Flower Bomb" and "Sabotage," it was clear that the lyrical dynamo found his niche musically. That's not to suggest that The Gifted is solely compromised of the "#newblacksoul" that Wale has be promoting lately, but it is driven by it.
On "LoveHate Thing," the nimble spitter weaves in an out of a Marvin Gaye-inspired production as he battles with his bittersweet relationship with his hometown. He continues the sonic trend on the next few tracks. With "Sunshine," he gets optimistic, and on "Heaven's Afternoon," he teams with his MMG running mate Meek Mill. Together, they celebrate their fame and fortune while still being mindful of the less fortunate. The song's third verse provides a definite highlight as the two MCs seamlessly trade rhymes back and forth. "Hey Wallace," Meek calls out before Wale answers: "Yup, what's the problem?"
The LP houses a number of guests. Meek, Rick Ross, Yo Gotti, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna all show up, but at the end of the 16-track ride, there is no doubt that it's Wale who is at the wheel. While Nicki may steal the show on "Clappers," credit Wale with offering the Young Money rap queen with the perfect go-go laced sound bed to drop clever and seductive lyrics about her backside. Similarly, Rihanna is brought into Wale's world on the remix to the album's single "Bad."
The Gifted isn't perfect by any stretch. The Ne-Yo and Rick Ross-assisted "Tired of Dreaming" borrows a vibe from Seal's 1994 hit "Kiss From a Rose," but doesn't quite stand up to the musical bar set early in the LP's sequencing. Still, even during the album's low points, Wale remains on top of his game. On "Golden Salvation," he personifies a 24-karat Jesus piece and on "88" he draws parallels between basketball great Michael Jordan and his own rapping skills. "Now we at the top, MJ '88 and I ain't never comin' down," he promises.