Published Mar 31, 2015Almost seven years ago, a Washington, D.C. emcee named Wale dropped a Seinfeld-inspired project called The Mixtape About Nothing. The emcee emerged as the prime "backpack rapper" out of the area at the time. Fast-forward to 2011, and the rapper dropped his backpack to sign with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group and released two more studio albums, but four years later, he has circled back around to the high hopes of 2008 with his newest release, The Album About Nothing. And it's been a long time coming.
Whereas Wale's previous albums, Ambition and The Gifted, hid behind the flash and fame of MMG, what becomes quickly evident on The Album About Nothing is the refreshing transparency of Wale's internal thoughts and future plans. Wale's confidence shines through; rather than trying to live in his past or live up to his star-studded MMG cohorts, he's sincere and unapologetic here. Opening up with the gospel- and go-go-infused "The Intro About Nothing," Wale pays homage to his city, simultaneously highlighting Jerry Seinfeld's role in the making of this album. Wale embarks on a melodic journey of success on "The Helium Balloon," then quickly follows it with the J. Cole-assisted "The Pessimist," which showcases Wale's diversity as he trades bars in Dreamville. After appearing on the Festivus mixtape, "The Girls On Drugs" wedges itself between EDM and Janet Jackson's fun-loving "Deep."
Employing a strong poetic delivery, Wale uses "The White Shoes" to present a bigger narrative about socio-economic issues, bringing an unexpected but effective depth to the album. SZA provides the graceful vocals on "The Need To Know" to the tune of Musiq Soulchild's "Buddy," as Wale sells heartfelt verses of relationships and love. The DMV spitter also recruits R&B crooner and veteran Usher on "The Matrimony" and "The Body," but while the former is triumphant, the latter treads too closely to The Gifted's "Clappers."
Despite a general cohesiveness, The Album About Nothing doesn't come without its missteps. "The Glass Egg" takes on a cinematic feel with the production from AyyDot, but also fails to cohere with the album's tone. Similarly, despite the concrete drums and gospel choir Jake One provides on "The Success," Wale's delivery feels one beat behind of the dramatic instrumental. Still, these few missteps evince the fact that Wale is finding himself again, treading through the high waters to realize his ambitions. And to that end, The Album About Nothing does more than enough. (Maybach Music Group/Atlantic)