Last week, Wale revealed the artwork + tracklist for his 5th album, SHINE. While many rejoiced, retweeted and liked, I marveled at the fact this will be Wale’s 5th album, his 15th body of work if you want to include solo mixtapes. Every year, for more than a decade now, the often misunderstood poet at heart has supplied us with a diverse discography. From genre-bending songs such as “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.” to thought-provoking analyses of our culture such as “Shades” & “The White Shoes,” to records like “Nike Boots” & “Chain Music,” classic songs with deeper meanings that people miss the point on.
As an ode to his 5th album releasing on 5/5, each week until the album release, we will form a countdown of Top 5 Wale projects, verses, songs, and features. Once again, this will be Wale’s 15th project including mixtapes; therefore A LOT of heat was left off the lists, including some of my personal favorites. Bare with me:
5. Eleven One Eleven Theory
I think The Eleven One Eleven Theory mixtape is often overlooked because of the later success of his forthcoming album, Ambition. On tracks like “Barry Sanders” and “Varsity Blues,” Wale sets the bar for sports content & metaphors like, “With this recording, I’m as sick as Jordan before Game 6/Jazz talkin’, I bet I pick and roll with your bitch/You got some paper for me? Hit me on the Hornacek.” Eleven One Eleven Theory also spawned two of Wale’s singles for his next project in “Bait” & “Chain Music.”
After the lukewarm rollout of his debut album Attention Deficit, Folarin had something to prove on his next project. Wale’s highest selling album to date, Ambition, rested on the frequency of hunger, passion and the sheer will to be heard among the best. Wale, for sure, silenced any naysayers with one of his biggest hits, “Lotus Flower Bomb.” Although Wale flaunts his advanced rap mechanics so effortlessly on songs like “Slight Work” & “Legendary,” the highlight of the album is without question the self-titled track, Ambition.
3. More About Nothing Mixtape
The follow up to the classic, Mixtape About Nothing, More About Nothing was a project not too far from its predecessor. Let’s make this clear first: Folarin is a true MC at heart. His blessing & sometimes the burden of caring too much is usually looked at from an eyes-wide-shut perspective. Wale uses this project to address various current issues of the time such as Tiger Woods and misunderstandings with Kid Cudi. New artists like Fat Trel, Tiara Thomas, Black Cobain blessed this project. Wale even includes a swift Sniper Jones interlude. Similar to Wale’s previous work, this project was a real snapshot of this time in the Washington D.C. area.
2. The Mixtape About Nothing
On The Mixtape About Nothing, Wale finds his lane on the album-length mixtape that solidified his place as the premier lyrical, quick witted, thinking MC that we all craved for in the mainstream age of southern-influenced one hit, one dance wonders. Wale uses his genuine love for Seinfeld, and all its Seinfeld-ish irony, as a mirror to the culture we often blindly relish in. From speaking on self-hate on “The Kramer” to tracks like “The Hype” & “The Artistic Integrity,” Folarin fills the lane flawlessly by addressing the balance of an artist’s morals and values up against the status quo. “They love my hip hop, fuck your Soundscan!”
1. 100 Miles & Running’
Most Wale fans would say The Mixtape About Nothing was the project that developed Wale’s trajectory, but I firmly believe 100 Miles & Running is that project. This mixtape shaped the careers of everyone involved with the project. With flawless production from Judah, Mark Ronson, Osinachi and BKS, Wale provides a lyrical onslaught throughout the 20-track mixtape. With tracks like “Camp Lo,” “Work,” “Daytona Squared.”
(the song that Logic says inspired his rap career) and the classic genre-blending “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.”, Wale showed us ten years ago why he’s arguably one of the best lyricists of this time. In 2007, Folarin emerged as the leader of the culture for D.C., and 100 Miles & Running was his sword & shield.