For all those quick to dismiss his talent, let’s consider that Wale has come the farthest of any Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area rapper. Sure, the DMV area hasn’t exactly been a hotbed for rap talent (whether Def Jam-signed Logic can change that is to be determined). But Wale has overcome many odds to allow his music a platform to be heard. From being championed by hip-hop websites early in his career to a stint with Mark Ronson’s Allido/Interscope Records situation to currently being a full-fledged member of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group, a lot of people have wanted to see Wale win. To an extent, he has made good with hit singles including “Lotus Flower Bomb” and even collaborated with Lady Gaga on “Chillin.”
After his first debut album Attention: Deficit all but flopped, Ross and MMG saw unrealized potential in the Nigerian-American emcee, and subsequently his sophomore album Ambition moved several hundred thousand units, bouyed by the aforementioned “Lotus Flower Bomb” and the Lloyd-featured “Sabotage.” That said, with his third full-length album The Gifted, outside of a few notable songs with features, Wale largely disappoints. Simply put, his voice and lyrics just don’t carry as he rambles through his verses, doesn’t offer up much in terms of wordplay, poetics or even punchlines.
With an album title as presumptuous as The Gifted, it’s ironic that the only gifted talents that emerge are from Wale’s guests rather than Wale himself. For instance, both versions of “Bad” – the original with uber-gifted singer/songwriter Tiara Thomas and the remix with Rihanna – are mainly great thanks to the singers. Wale rambles through his own verses, which is something that is more a rule rather than an exception for him throughout. He attempts and miserably fails at changing his voice on “Tired of Dreaming,” featuring Ne-Yo and Rick Ross. The next track, “Rotation,” with Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz, is one of the most boring tracks that either artist has ever appeared on. The album is somewhat salvaged with the infectious “Clappers,” but, once again, it’s Nicki Minaj and Juicy J who come to the forefront at Wale’s expense. Even with a vintage Just Blaze-produced instrumental on “88,” Wale falls short.
Overall, it’s hard to find redeeming value in Wale’s music. It’s not an acquired taste as much as it is just very average. Whether it’s the bland voice, rambling verses, lack of lyricism or personality, Wale is one of – if not the – least talented rappers to emerge on the mainstream. He is saved by surrounding himself with truly gifted individuals, which make for the only bright spots on The Gifted.