Wale Goes To Therapy And Finds His Smile Again On ‘Shine’ — His Most Optimistic Album Yet

Hip-Hop Editor

Maybach Music Group/Atlantic Records

If you’ve spent any amount of time on Twitter in the past eight or so years, the odds are high you’ve seen one of the following:

A. Wale slander.
B. Wale angrily responding to said slander.
C. Someone wondering why exactly Wale spends so much time angrily responding to slander on Twitter.

There really aren’t any easy answers to that last one. You could say that Wale really, really cares about how his music is received by the public. More accurately, you would say Wale cares a great big ol’ bunch about his music being received well, because he works really hard on it. He tries so very, very hard, and the results, to put it very delicately, have been mixed. Shine is the first time in a long time Wale sounds like he’s really having fun making music, and that’s what makes it his best album yet.

But to explain why Ralph feels so free and loose on this project, it feels like we have to explain why he seems so uptight in the first place, which goes back to him wanting to be taken seriously as a “great rapper.” You can hear it in how he delivers every slightly strained one-liner, drawing out that last syllable, pitching up his voice just the tiniest bit; if he could somehow elbow nudge you through the speaker while winking at you and ad-libbing “Get it?” in between bars, he probably would. We’ve all been there; trying to tell that joke we practiced over and over by ourselves only for the punchline to fall flat in front of a crowd. Even the most seasoned stand-up comic has had a night where they bombed and got heckled — one of the most notorious incidents was the time Michael Richards of Seinfeld fame lost it on a raucous patron and went on a widely-publicized racist rant.

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