Despite a mostly favorable reception to his debut album, Attention Deficit, lowly sales and an inability to see eye to eye with Interscope led to Wale parting ways with the label. Going back to what he knew best, Wale hit the Internet hard with new material and parlayed that into a new recording home at Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group. With his size nine Foamposites planted firmly in the South Beach sands, Wale is ready to move onto the next stage of his career with his latest album Ambition, what he hopes will be his sophomore slump buster.
Wale still carries a chip on his shoulder from his last retail outing and spends the first quarter of the album trying to melt the vocal booth down. Mr. Folarin spares no one’s feelings with the verbal pyrotechnics on “Double M Genius,” tap dancing over the baseline while justifying his lyrical thug. Finding time to both call his debut album awful and pat his self on the back for securing another record deal after being dropped, Wale isn’t lacking for confidence one bit. More of the same applies to Ambition’s opening track “Don’t Hold Your Applause,” where Wale’s ego gets the best of him while coming pretty close to admonishing his fans into giving him adoration. A bevy of clever couplets interspersed through his verses notwithstanding, Wale doesn’t offer up many reasons other than mentioning he was named GQ “Man of the Year” alongside Drake and Kid CuDi.
On the DJ Toomp produced “Legendary” Wale fast states his aspirations to go down as one the best to ever do it on the mic. Much like “Don’t Hold Your Applause,” “Legendary” disappoints as Wale expects these accolades to be handed out to him instead of earning them solely on the basis of his music. It isn’t until six songs in when “Chain Music” arrives where he adds some bop to his flow over a heavily percussive track that suits his intentions. The same can be said for “DC or Nothing,” which shares a common bond with “Chain Music” in producer Tone P. Over the spicy rock-tinged beat, Wale dials back his hyperactive flow down to what sounds more like a spoken word piece and delivers words of encouragement to his hometown, infusing his witty and insightful bars with a sense of purpose.
With plenty of radio attempts at his disposal, Ambition’s index begs the question on why some of them weren’t left on the cutting room floor. “Lotus Flower Bomb,” along with the inclusion of Self Made Vol. 1 carryover “That Way” (featuring Jeremih and Rick Ross) eclipse other R&B laden tracks “Sabotage” with Lloyd and the Ne-Yo assisted-“White Linen” (Coolin’).” If there was one aspect aligning with Rick Ross should have provided Wale with is help with the sound of album. Not saying the D.C. loyalist necessarily had to adopt the South Beach Mafioso lifestyle (take the jazzy “Miami Nights” for example), but one thing Rick Ross knows how to do is pick beats and make an album flow.
Out of the 15 songs, 11 different producers provide backdrops for Wale. Outside of the contributions by regulars, Mark Henry and Tone P, nothing sounds like it was specifically crafted for Wale, leaving him at the mercy of whatever’s given to him. See the title track where Wale links up with Meek Mill and Rick Ross to expound on the virtues of hustling and grinding. On the downside, it could have easily been entitled “My Will” thanks to chord progressions that sound pretty familiar to Lil’ Wayne’s “She Will,” which producer T-Minus also concocted.
Wale’s biggest challenge has been defining who he is as a rapper and as the screen fades on Ambition, the matter remains unresolved. He possesses the drive and skill to do big things, but all too frequently he can’t combine his unique traits, leaving listeners unsure of what they’ll hear from song to song. Ambition cements the fact Wale can create good music to satisfy different fan bases, but if he really wants to succeed and reach his lofty goals, he needs to pinpoint his lane and create great music.
Label: Maybach Music Group/Warner Bros. | Producers: Diplo, DJ Toomp, Lex Luger, Tha Bizness, Tone P, Mark Henry, T-Minus, Lil Lody, Chris Barz, Jerrin Howard, Kore, Cloudeater, Deputy, EnDuhStreatZ, Dre King