Of the many artists I’ve been a fan of and supported throughout the years, no one has brought me more stress than Wale. To be a fan of the D.C. rapper is to witness his many thoughtful yet rambling Instagram ventilations, in-house tensions with other members of the MMG roster and the lists and conversations that he’s often either undervalued in or left out of entirely. Now, 13 years removed from the release of his debut mixtape, Wale’s skills as an MC are anything but diminished, yet the rapper has been plagued with a seemingly endless stream of setbacks and frustrations ever since he first began his ascent.
After the birth of his daughter, Wale seemed to find peace. When he released his latest album Shine in 2017, he supposedly left these frustrations in the rearview mirror, and instead opted to reevaluate his list of accomplishments. Sluggish album sales failed to correspond with the impressive quality of the music, however, and today he is once again an independent artist, having split from Atlantic Records after six years and three albums with the label.
It would appear Wale is now back in a precarious position, but he’s responded in the only way he knows how: with a steady stream of solid music. His first release after leaving the label was the melancholic, yet humorous “All Star Break Up,” and since then he’s unveiled the EP “It’s Complicated” along with two other singles, hungry to prove that his career is far from over. Considering other labels have been quick to reach out about a new deal, he certainly has options, a fact he’s quick to express on his recent song “Staying Power:” “Left Atlantic, bout a minute later/Every record label try and scout me.”
Like many of my favorite artists, Wale’s music has remained in my rotation because of a specific memory tied to the material; in this case, my first hip-hop CD purchase. Before attending a summer camp at USC in 2013, a few months after finishing my sophomore year of high school, I bought a copy of his album The Gifted on iTunes to soundtrack the trip, as I’d been mildly familiar with his catalogue up to that point. As I soon graduated to the university of illegal music sharing, The Gifted was also the last album I would ever buy for myself on iTunes, and still is the only full album stored in my phone’s music library. It’s rare that I start my car and connect my phone to the speakers without first hearing the opening notes of the Tiara Thomas-assisted “Bad,” alphabetically the first song on the tracklist.
Both by choice and by compulsion, The Gifted is still close to my heart, and always makes for a pleasant listen-through when the time calls. Just like Wale has, I’ve often lamented how his status in the music industry isn’t quite as high as his talent suggests it should be, although I was happy to hear him content with his career on “Smile.” It’s a massive assumption to say that that joy has disappeared following his departure from his label, but much of his 2018 output has been somewhat of a return to form for Wale — scathing, determined bars from a man on a mission to prove the doubters wrong.
That exact mindset is what initially made it possible for Wale to make it as far as he has, however, so it’s good to see him able to snap back into the underdog mentality when the situation requires it. There’s still no word on where he’ll choose to sign next — assuming he doesn’t remain independent instead — but I have little doubt that he’ll make the right decision, and continue to put out high-fidelity sounds that I will always appreciate.
A Coachella veteran who previously performed in 2012 and 2015, The Weeknd’s third billed appearance at the festival was nothing short of phenomenal. Accompanied by a massive, fractured head that protruded from the stage, Abel Tesfaye ran through nearly all of the hits from his extensive discography, juxtaposing old and new songs to please all fans in attendance. Holding off on songs from the recently released EP “My Dear Melancholy” until near the end of his set, it was clear he saved his most passionate performance for the end, tearing up while singing “Call Out My Name” in front of a transfixed audience.
Why I’m shaking my head: Rae Sremmurd’s perplexing SR3MM rollout
Rae Sremmurd ft. Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee; Swae Lee ft. Rae Sremmurd; Slim Jxmmi ft. Swae Lee and Rae Sremmurd … first of all, is it even possible to “feature” yourself on your own song? Thus far, each of the six singles released ahead of SR3MM has included a different order and arrangement of the credited artists, yet one fact remains the same: It’s the same two people on the mic. Attempting to clear up the confusion (or just continue the trolling, it’s hard to tell at this point), Swae Lee tweeted a video of himself using a whiteboard demonstration to explain the rationale behind the duo’s various listings, yet failed to accomplish much of anything (or successfully continued the trolling; again, it’s hard to tell). It’s simply the latest sign that we let artists get away with doing too much in the name of their own art; at least the songs have lived up to towering expectations so far.
Why I’m hopeful for the future: Inaugural WakandaCon comes to Chicago this summer
Wakanda forever, truly. In the style of the popular Comic-Con, a Black Panther-inspired WakandaCon will take place this summer in Chicago, honoring “Afro-futurism, Tech, and Black superheroes” over the course of three days, according to the convention’s website. In my 18 years of living in San Diego, I never made it to the Comic-Con that took over our downtown each summer, but there’s a much better chance I’d fly out to Chicago to continue the Black Panther experience in the best way possible.
Kenan Draughone is a junior majoring in journalism. He is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “To Pen a Butterfly,” runs Monday.