Wale has an uphill battle to fight; if there’s one thing that the critical thinkers in the Hip-Hop community don’t tolerate, it’s posers. Props to Mr. Folarin for realizing that some damage control is in order, because he fleshes out a more complete image of himself in The Gifted than we’ve seen in a long time.
It’s just too bad that the final product is so incredibly average: what could have been a real summer highlight fails to stand out against some of the other big names to drop this year, the culprit being none other than Wale himself. Solid beats and features can’t salvage a rap album when the rapping is this mediocre.
The album begins with an intro worthy of dissection. In “The Curse Of The Gifted” Wale clearly knows about the slander that gets tossed his way, but instead of barking out a “F*CK THESE HATERS” struggle bar buffet, he takes a pensive rout. “I’m honestly still looking for some type of balance/cause the status got me dire tripping/ Cause I like my bitch, but I love these bitches on my dick/When spitting tell me what you feeling different knowing you’s the bread winner.” These obviously aren’t the most intricate bars – hell, seeing them written on paper makes them look pretty weak – but hearing them leave Wale’s mouth definitely does the listener well.
“LoveHate Thing” follows, and it’s the best track on the album. Thank an incredibly subdued Sam Dew hook and some great production from Tone P, Stokley Williams and Dew, because what makes this track shine so bright is its ambiance. A sort-of love letter penned to the DC metroplex that raised him, there are few pull-worthy lyrics to discuss, so average is that part of the song: “Yeah, my affinity grows as the city gets cold/As you reaching your goals, you gon’ meet you some foes.” The best we can say about Wale in moments like this is that he was a part of a great song, and that he stays out of the way of the real stars of the show.
Moments like this continue. On “Gullible,” Cee-Lo offers a great hook, No Credit serves up a tasty beat, and yeah, Wale’s voice sounds good. But listen to it more than once, and you start to piece together what he’s actually saying, and you realize that the message is very anti-Internet and very conspiracy-happy, and you think “hey, that’s kind of interesting.” And then you get hit by : “What if they said Obama wasn’t a red/He actually got a good ass tan and the swag to appear black/Would you believe that? Impeach that…” And you start to think to yourself, “okay, he’s trying to be super-conscious or whatever.” But garbage lyrics are garbage lyrics, no matter the message they try to send.
This trend is noticeable on a lot of tracks. If you’re the kind who likes to tune out and just enjoy the entire package (nothing wrong if that’s the case, obviously) you’ll probably find a few tracks worth coming back to for multiple listens. But, like “Gullible,” Wale’s microphone deficiencies are going to make it difficult for lyrical junkies to enjoy Gifted.
“Heaven’s Afternoon” is snatched by an energetic and able Meek Mill – who just sounds more invested than the album’s host – and “Rotation” might make it to your next friendly smoke session, but don’t expect your friends to beg to hit the rewind button for lines like “I gotta deodorize all the unsure/ Made millions with Shawn Corey/Chief a lot, shout out Reese and them/Shout out, Gleesh and and Lil Meatchi/And peach Ciroc, can’t see a n*gga writing like an old sharpie/Like a n*gga out the globe, with a nigga throwed…” It just isn’t going to happen.
There just isn’t a song on Gifted that really shows that he’s grown as an emcee, no moment of inspiration where the listener’s eyes grow wide and start thinking “sh*t! He might finally be getting there.” And when there are so many tracks to sift through – the project clocks in at 18 tracks, 10 of which you won’t feel bad about skipping – you just can’t help but walk away from his latest with few intentions of returning.
It’s not necessarily a bad album, but there’s just too much quality music out there to be listening to The Gifted.
Label: Maybach Music, Atlantic | Producers: Wale, AdoTheGod, Cardiak, Corporal, Cheeze Beatz, Deputy, Jake One, Juicy J, Just Blaze, Kelson Camp, Lee Major, Lionel Gray, Mark Henry Beats, MexManny, Sam Dew, Sean C & LV, Stokley Williams, Tiara Thomas, The McKanics, Tone P, Travi$ Scott