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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Local rapper about to blow up - big time
written by
Alfredo Flores
On Tap magazine
DC has been the launching point for some of music’s finest artists, including jazz legend Duke Ellington, folk’s Mary Chapin Carpenter, soul master Marvin Gaye, electronica duo Thievery Corporation, punk rockers Fugazi, R&B crooner John Legend, and The Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown. But arguably a true hip hop star has yet to emerge. All that may be changing this year with the debut major label album from Largo, Maryland-raised Wale. It’s produced by Grammy-winning and hit making machine Mark Ronson, and has been generating tons of buzz. “Entertainment Weekly” named Wale one of eight people to watch in 2008, and his aptly-titled single, “Breakout,” was featured in Madden NFL ‘09, the video game that has served as a launching pad for many artists. “In D.C., the dominant urban sound is Go-Go, so hip hop has to compete against Go-Go,” said Wale (pronounced Wahl-ay). “Imagine if there was some other genre of urban music trying to come out of Atlanta right now, think about what they’d be up against in terms of getting shine amidst all the artists making hip hop music down there. It’d be impossible. I think for years the D.C. hip hop scene has been fragmented, but I see everyone starting to come together in hopes of putting D.C. on the map.” Indeed. It would be hard to imagine the ATL without its Outkast, T.I. and Lil Jon, but even harder to imagine that the only D.C. rap single that’s gotten national airplay in a generation was about clearing one’s throat (1996’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool). While many have tried, few have managed to make much headway, but there’s a certain aura that surrounds every move Wale makes, from his swagger and cocksureness during his electrifying live shows to the tough guy goatee that contrasts with his nice guy babyface looks. Wale combines his magnetic persona with obscure rhymes about pop culture (Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus dropped a skit on “The Mixtape About Nothing”); sports metaphors (he was a standout high school tailback and played football at Robert Morris College and Virginia State University); inventive wordplay (“I’m a *!@# word surgeon, scalp and sponge, this work, dance,” he boasts in “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.”); video games; fly clothing; and anything that pops into his inventive mind. Born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin in Washington, Wale is the youngest of two sons of Nigerian immigrants. He bounced around seven high schools in D.C. and Maryland, and dropped out of college in 2004 to pursue music full-time. In 2006 Wale’s “Dig Dug (Shake It),” went on to receive national airplay like DJ Kool did more than a dozen years earlier. The 24-year-old has gone on to work with the likes of Lil Wayne and Travis Barker, and his big break came in early 2007 when his manager, Daniel Weisman, handed über producer Ronson the track “Good Girls.” Ronson — the Grammy award winning producer behind Jay-Z, Sean Paul, Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse and Maroon 5 — began playing the song on his East Village Radio show, and an inseparable combination was formed. Later that year Wale joined Ronson on a United Kingdom promotional tour of the producer’s “Versions” CD, and soon afterwards offered Wale a production deal on his Allido Records. Weeks later, Wale’s “Ice Cream Girl” was featured on HBO’s Entourage. “There’s a lot of great music and ideas,” said Wale. “I’m trying to find a balance somewhere between my mixtape ‘100 Miles & Running’ and ‘The Mixtape About Nothing;’ content that’s . . . fun but not too empty.” His music reflects his upbringing in D.C., funky and catchy songs featuring heavy percussion beats — and Nigerian Afropop — but all delivered by Wale’s smooth and free-flowing rhymes, a staple of both Go-Go music (“Dig Dug” and “Ice Cream”) . When asked about musical influences he had growing up, Wale’s choices were all over the map. “(African singers) Fela (Kuti) and Bunny Mack, Go-Go, Jodeci and Camp Lo is pretty much who I am musically, and toss in some Jay-Z, Roots and ‘80s music for balance, too,” he said. “But yeah, Go-Go music was huge for me. Until I was 14, I thought Go-Go was a national thing. I had no idea it didn’t exist outside of D.C.” His love for his hometown is never more evident than in the song “Nike Boots” — his footwear of choice “representing the DMV” (District, Maryland and Virginia), and giving shout-outs to various neighborhoods and suburbs — PG, MoCo, Riverdale, Temple Hills, Landover, Cap Heights — rarely mentioned in song. The video spans out from the monuments to the Barry Farms basketball court, and shows Wale performing to enthusiastic crowds at a street festival at Howard University and then at the posh Love Nightclub. “Nike Boots are a D.C. fashion staple, it’s not just folklore,” Wale said. “I talked to the guy who designed the original (Nike) Goadome (boots) and he said that the mid-Atlantic (D.C. and Baltimore) were the first areas to really embrace the Nike Boot. If you listen to the lyrics of “Nike Boots,” I talk about the shoe as a metaphor for D.C.” Just like in the song “Nike Boots,” Wale is indeed “flyer than the rest of them.” For more information, visit Wale’s Web site:

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