Wale Gives Himself His Flowers on 'Folarin II'
Published Oct 25, 2021Wale's greatest artistic gift has always been his ability to make hard work sound effortless. The DMV emcee has a natural knack for riding whatever beat is tossed his way, for immersing his vocals deep into the track, to the point where they sink in like sitting on plush sofa. Seldom, if ever, does the rapper fight the rhythm he's given or pummel it into submission. Instead, he finds the pocket and works with the instrumental. Voice and music become one.
Because of this, we'll suggest, Wale doesn't always get the props he deserves for the content of his rhymes. They wash over you instead of smashing you in the noggin.
So on his new project, the breezy and excellent Folarin II, Wale decides to give himself some flowers. "Never won a Grammy / I'm misunderstood," he spits on "More Love." Sentiments like this aren't delivered with bitterness, though. There is a conversational tone throughout the LP, as if the rap veteran is working out his own thoughts and, at 37, his own place in the game. The hook for that same joint is upbeat: "I love me, baby / You should love you more."
A sequel to his 2012 mixtape Folarin, Wale's latest offering is fun, playful and familiar. Sure, he and co-executive producer Rick Ross recruit some A-list producers (Cool & Dre, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Harry Fraud) and top-notch guests (J. Cole, Jamie Foxx, Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockton), but the album isn't overly ambitious. It's not desperately reaching for the pop charts, which has sometimes been a fault of Wale's in the past.
A wonderful throwback vibe is going on here, as our host freshens up turn-of-the-century hip-hop and R&B samples for the now. Mike Jones's "Still Tippin'" becomes "Down South," a blazing spitfest featuring Maxo Kream and Yella Beezy. Q-Tip's "Vivrant Thing" becomes the dancefloor trifle "Poke It Out," featuring J. Cole (sample lyric: "She got a little butt / So what?"). And Puff Daddy's "I Need a Girl" becomes lead single "Angles," which flexes Wale's clever romanticism: "I put infinity stones on all your fingers."
Wale allows his skills to glide and his chest to puff out on the superb "Tiffany Nikes" and "Light Years" (with Ross). The former is rapid-fire, the latter more calculated. As always, the beat dictates. Perhaps the most compelling conceptual joint is "Fluctuate," which addresses the phoniness in the industry. Here, Wale examines how money has affected his inner circle and calls loyalty the "worst drug" he's used: "You gonna question who you trust when that paper fluctuate."
Ironically, while Wale is clearly disillusioned by the politics of the record industry, with Folarin II, he's given that industry a project worth rallying around. (MMG/Warner)