Wale - More About Nothing
Record Label: Self-Released
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Back in 2008, Wale released his Seinfeld-themed mixtape The Mixtape About Nothing, and immediately caught the attention of more mainstream oriented hip-hop enthusiasts. It was a reminder that an artist could step back from the crowded hip-hop scene, take a serious look at themselves, and provide an introspective answer without coming off as pretentious. His newest mixtape, More About Nothing, continues the rapper's love affair with the late 90s sitcom. Seinfeld quotes set the stage as intros for most of the songs on the album, but usually just serve as humorous distractions between tracks. But, more importantly, Wale continues to take a good hard look at his life and the way he portrays himself.
The album opens beautifully with “The Problem” where Wale introduces himself to listeners over a soft piano intro. Some of the most introspective lyrics come from this spoken word beginning. Although he's a master lyricist, Wale admits he's not always the best at putting his feelings into words. He also gives a shout out to those who keep supporting him saying, “I'm gonna put my faith in y'all when I don't understand me.” Wale comes off as equal parts confident and humble, an endearing image that remained imprinted in my mind throughout the whole album. His calm demeanor in the intro soon gives way to the actual song, a long verse of frustration driven by a pounding beat that I couldn't help but empathize with. The dichotomy in song structure furthers the dual-nature of Wale's lyrics on More About Nothing. Wale knows he's great, but the scene is hard to break into with confidence alone.
A couple tracks later we're hit with “The Soup” which is, of course, prefaced with the famous Soup Nazi scene from Seinfeld. Wale's frustration with the state of hip-hop continues. Unlike other artists, he seems almost reluctant to accept fame (“What you thought was a prize is what I see as a blinder”) and tries hard to remain true to his roots (“They ask me why I never wear chains, but if you brought up how I'm brought up, then you probably feel the same”). Wale makes it clear that, although he's never sold a ton of albums, he's still making a mark on the hip-hop scene. He still feels like the sixth man at Interscope, but the recognition he has received has made a huge impact in his life. He finishes the second verse promising that he will keep rapping about what he feels is important, no matter how unacceptable it may seem to others. In terms of production, this song is fast and fun. Best Kept Secret did an amazing job mixing the sound of guitars and drums with scratches to make something that fits Wale's flow perfectly.
Many tracks on More About Nothing are incredibly personal. “The Friends N Strangers” deals with social situations and how even friends can see you differently from how you see yourself. It's become apparent that Wale has lost friends back home because of his career choice, and he contemplates whether this was the best direction for his life or not. Wale warns that friends are sometimes just a few steps away from being enemies. “The Eyes of the Tiger” open with two separate Tiger Woods soundclips from the cheating fiasco he was involved in. One is a phone message detailing how he tried to hide his infidelity, while the second is from the press conference he did in apology. The beat is heavy and intense, conveying an almost paranoid background to the lyrics. Wale's lyrics are sympathetic to Tiger and seem to be from the golfer's perspective as he tries to cope with the media turning their back on him.
More About Nothing hits its peak with “The Black N Gold.” With extensive sampling from Sam Sparro's single of the same name, this track does a fantastic job of showcasing Wale's impeccable rhythm over the simplistic beats of DJ Omega. This song is a jumping, flowing river of smooth lyrics with a catchy chorus. Wale's confidence returns in this track as he brushes worries off his shoulder, reminding himself that he's one of the best around. He disagrees with the notion that hip-hop is dead, and does a great job of refuting that oft-repeated phrase. Although he does believe the scene has become too Hollywood in nature, he thinks it's heading in the right direction overall.
Unfortunately, More About Nothing does include a few lemons with the gems. As the mixtape progresses towards the end, the songs seem to become slower and uninspired. Two in particular, “The Ambitious Girl” and “The Motivation (Be Right)” are just outright boring. A savior appears in “The Cloud” a song stripped down to the basics. Featuring the vocal talents of Tiara Thomas, Wale speaks on his love for weed over an acoustic guitar melody. While the lyric content is entirely based on a tired subject, the rest of the track shows that Wale is unafraid to tackle techniques that are slightly unconventional to the genre as a whole.
Wale puts forth an interesting image in More About Nothing. He is constantly flirting with extremes in his lyrical content. Is he upset that he isn't as popular in the scene as other bigger names, or his he happy with the niche he occupies? He seems frustrated in his album sales and questions his choices at times, but is almost always unwavering in his confidence. Listening to this mixtape, it's easy to become caught up in his fears and grievances. Wale is an incredibly endearing figure while treading the line between cocky and sincere. More About Nothing is very personal at times, continuing Wale's trend of opening himself up for all to see. Whether you love him or hate him, you can't say he isn't an inspiration, and I can't wait to see the mark he leaves on hip-hop history.