May 18, 2015

Editorial Review: The Album About Nothing - @Wale by @RamseySaidWHAT

Alright. I get it. I made a lot of constructive criticism towards Wale and the high expectations for his Album About Nothing (TAAN). I was wrong, and Kyle I apologize you were right.

I don't know what it is but it seems like on the third release on a contract it seems artists show more creative freedom than previous releases. Thus The Album About Nothing sounds like a Wale album circa 2009 rather than post MMG. To me it sounds like a debut album rather than the 4th go round for him. This is his diary and that's no pun on Attention Deficit. There's so much feeling and emotion attached to this project. Let's get to it.

The Intro About Nothing is previously recorded on Outro About Nothing on his previous album, The Gifted. His skit with Jerry Seinfeld is accompanied with cheery chords and a choir. The Helium Balloon is a testament to how well Wale uses metaphor to spill his guts. A few months before the album he broke down the song in an interview on LA's Power 106. He explains that there's nothing he can do to fully please his fans. Say you discover a new artist. You want him to blow up and fly but at the same time you are scared he'll change with the newfound fame so you want him to fly but keep it all to yourself. Like a helium balloon attached to a child's wrists. Talk about symbolism.

Next up is, The White Shoes. He uses his vast sneaker knowledge to create bars within the song. The hook reminds me of Kendrick Lamar's Alright. He reminds us that things will be okay regardless of the struggle. Throughout his struggle he tells himself what's important and to stray from those whose priorities aren't in order. "These n*ggas love white shoes so much they'd be buried in them." Damn. I wouldn't call The White Shoes a sad song but melancholy. The track is a perfect transistion for the next cut, The Pessimist featuring J. Cole. When these two hook up it usually leads to straight fire and almost a competition of bars but unfortunately this time it's just a hook from Cole and bars from Wale. Thus far through the album this is the only Seinfeld skit recorded from the show and not actually Jerry in the booth. The skit is a conversation between Jerry and George speaking on the theme of Hope.

As I previously stated this album is a diary for Wale. As he puts it "I'm in the passenger seat and my fans are driving." I've always had a love hate relationship with Wale and his honesty. He's so open and easily obtained. I don't mean easy to read but he gives us his all unlike anyone else in the mainstream industry. I love it but at the same time I've always felt he doesn't have to respond to everyone and more specifically his haters. With that being said he addresses this issue in his next track, The Middle Finger. "I respect dudes from my double M crew, but I'm just not that dude hanging on to who's who's and such." He respects them and loves his labelmates but he doesn't want to be known as another MMG guy. Then in the hook he addresses his haters again, just not in the way he usually does. It's quite simple actually. "F*ck you leave me alone."

The One Time in Houston starts using a sample of New Edition's If It Isn't Love. Genius. Then a skit between George, Jerry, and Elaine tells the real story. George is struggling in the episode because he tells his girlfriend he loves her and she responds with "Let's get something to eat." I know you Seinfeld fans remember that episode. Funny but it makes a good point of how no one wants the people that want them, they want someone else. That's a different write up on a different blog. The song goes into that Houston trademark chopped and screwed feel and focuses on women who aren't focused on men but making their money. And strippers, did I mention strippers? Phil Ade does a great job on the hook. Track seven is The Girls on Drugs. I didn't quite get it when I first heard it. After watching the visual it all made sense and was a great addition to the album. The God Smile is the turning point of TAAN. The title is self explanatory. He's asking God to shine his light on him so he can put the DMV on his back. This is the best produced track on the album, DJ Dahi did his thing on this one as usual.

The God Smile is followed up by The Need to Know. Featuring SZA, this is arguably the best song on the album. Wale explains that the world don't need to know what goes on between him and his girl. That's a lesson I think all adolescences can learn from. To top it all off the soulful Jersey crooner sings an acoustic sample of Just Friends (Sunny) by Musiq Soulchild. Then Jerry and Elaine discuss an opportunity at being friends with benefits in a comical way. The Success is another beautifully produced track. Jake One samples a gospel favorite Psalm 121. The Glass Egg is also broken down in the interview on Power 106 but might be the only skip on the album. Don't get it twisted, the song serves it's purpose. The metaphor is impeccable and his flow mirrors Groove Theory's Tell Me. That's for the grown folks.

The next track, The Bloom (AG3), is arguably my favorite cut on here. It kinda reminds me of The Power from More About Nothing but not quite if you get me. Stokley Williams assists an upbeat produced record making it perfect for that family barbecue you have planned for the summer. Wale's wordplay in this track is unmatched. He compares his woman with a flower. "Excuse me Mrs. Um.. You don't know me but...Thank you for your flow, but I'm tryna be your sun." "Tell Me bout your roots, and how you've came up, I call you my flower cause you're my boo, K?" He's a wordsmith and his lyrical dexterity can't be matched. "Fresh out of college and they sweat you, now you got degrees."Wale is flat out clever.

The Matrimony featuring Usher was another single we got before the album dropped. Before and after I still enjoy this cut. What I like most is the skit beforehand when Jerry and Wale have a nice conversation or interview before the beat really drops. I think on the album version you miss out. You get the rest in a studio session that you can watch below.

Usher does the rest on the studio version of the album and Wale pleads his case on where he stands with marriage. Touching really, especially when you relate like I do. The Body is the first single that was released for TAAN. Jerimih does a great job on the hook. The track was nice. That's all I have to say about that (Forrest Gump voice*). I'm actually glad he ended the album with the tracks we've already heard beforehand. It forces you to actually sit and listen.

Wale is the love child of R&B, Gospel, and his hometown Go-Go Music. The skits and samples from Seinfeld was perfect and reminds me of the classic Wale style we were used to seeing on the Mixtape series. Wale still delivers with his spoken word and lyrical skill. In December it'll be hard to keep this out of the album of the year argument. Frankly this is my favorite Wale project and he has indeed progressed as an artist and as a man. Keep up the good work. You can Stream The Album About Nothing below.

Jonathan C. Ramsey
Jonathan C. Ramsey

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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