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4 November, 2011@6:00 pm

The crossover LP has been the death knell for many-a-rapper career’s – i.e. Big Daddy Kane’s Taste of Chocolate, Mic Geronimo’s Vendetta, or Q-Tip’s Amplified (and we liked that last one). Fact of the matter is, when artists choose to go against the sound that their original fanbase was built upon, the core feels betrayed, and in turn, abandons them forever. Very rarely are second chances given (i.e. Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Links 2); in most cases, the backpack pass is revoked for good. The flip-side to that coin is when said selling-out artist actually blows the fuck up. This, of course, is a much more rare occurrence, but if Jay-Z could successfully make the leap from hood to Hollywood, then of course every other rapper believes that they can do it too.

In the case of Wale, we’ve seen him slowly build a following through a series of well-thought out conceptual mixtapes, as well as on his debut LP, Attention Deficit. In the last year, we’ve seen him make the leap to MMG, headed up by backpack enemy #1, Rick Ross. So how does someone like Wale, who’s usually mentioned in the same breath as Lupe Fiasco or Talib Kweli, fare when he “goes commercial” on his second LP, Ambition?

Let’s start by saying the Wale has always strived for mainstream acceptance; just look at the collaborators on his last LP, which include Lady Gaga, Gucci Mane, Pharrell, and Jazmine Sullivan. Despite this, Attention Deficit had heart, and was a strong debut for Wale, both musically and lyrically, (yet not commercially). Unfortunately, the same can not be said for Ambition.

Ambition attempts to remain in familiar territory at the start, with a couple of Kanye-Touch-The-Sky-esque, celebratory tracks like “Don’t Hold Your Applause”, “Miami Nights”, and “Double M Genius”. The bluesy slur of the DJ Toomp produced “Legendary” will create track-envy for many rappers to freestyle over, while the 80′s rawness of “Slight Work” (prod. Diplo) is pure gold. Unfortunately, the long-awaited, no-beef collabo with Kid Cudi just doesn’t deliver.

That pretty much covers the “good half” of the album, which leaves us with the questionable direction the rest of the LP takes, in the form of R&B tracks and slow jams. The ridiculously soft “Lotus Flower Bomb” (feat. Miguel) is plain embarrassing for soon-to-be-ex-fans of Wale, while “Sabotage” (feat. Lloyd) borderlines on adult-contemporary jazz. It continues with the jiggy-joint, “White Linen (Coolin)” (feat Ne-Yo), while the syrupy “Illest Bitch” lacks an R&B hook, but maintains the genre’s supple, effeminate tendencies.

The album’s strongest track is the MMG posse cut, “Ambition” (feat. Rick Ross and Meek Mill), and is perhaps the only moment on the album that comes off honestly. Unfortunately, this track is buried in the album’s hard-to-stomach second half, and many fans may have given up by that point.

Ambition is yet another case where the a beloved artist alters their style in an attempt to reach a “wider audience”, and fails. The sad fact is, Wale won’t see this as a failure. With a rumored 150,000 copies being sold the first week, in comparison to his last album’s 28,000 copy debut, this is seen as a success, even if only in the short-term. So, while many champagne bottles will pop and many groupies will help suck it down, the only one that lost here is the underground. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Folarin.

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7 Responses to "Wale – "Ambition" – @@@ (Review)"
  • Ionic says:

    Reviewers are funny man, they never realize that their review is just their opinion, no more, no less.

    Everyone has different tastes so for ANY reviewer to THINK he or she represents the ears for all of mankind or all of an artist fanbase is plain silly.

    Some fans will like this one, some will think it’s ok and some won’t like it at all. It’s part of being and artist, you may be a fan of a particular actor but you might not like every movie their in. That doesn’t mean you stop liking that actor though.

    So for reviewers to think Wale is going to lose fans over this album is silly as well. And if any fans stop supporting an artist for one album you probably aren’t really into that artist as much as you think you are.

    I say that because unless you truly don’t like every song on this album it’s a worthy purchase, especially if your from The DMV and want to continue to see other artist from our area get out into the mainstream.

    I also find the “SOFT” comments interesting. Is Wale a gangster rapper? No, so unless you mean “SOFT” as not being “Back Packy Lyrical” on every song I don’t get it. He did his thing for ladies a little bit on this album and believe me I’m usually the 1st to skip those type of songs but I’m cool with these joints.

    Jay has it right, if you want a MIXTAPE listen to a MIXTAPE, THIS IS AN ALBUM! There’s a lot of business involved with these labels, now more so than ever, I’m not saying he did anything he didn’t want to but we all know your answering to more than yourself when you turn these albums in and expect a record company to put money behind you and all that jazz.

    I find it interesting you didn’t mention “D.C. Or Nothing” in your review, I think it’s a powerful joint with great social commentary, shout out to my man Tone-P (from The DMV) who produced it and “Don’t Hold Your Applause” & Chain Music”.

    Your review also missed THE PRODUCTION, how did you feel about it? Shout out to Mark Henry another producer from The DMV who put in work as well.

    This is a FEEL GOOD album but I understand if you were expecting to get a grimmy mixtape album you may feel slighted.

    I guess that’s the penalty for being “AMBITIOUS”….8

  • DMV says:

    This album was pretty good to me. You can tell how hard Wale works and how much talent he brings to the game. This was a great effort and will definitely bring him the mainstream success that he deserves. Definitely glad that a genuine emcee is selling.

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