Wale devotes his sixth studio album to self-awareness

For years, Wale has voiced frustrations about his struggle to reach acceptance, recognition, and success in the mainstream music industry. On his sixth studio album, “Wow… That’s Crazy,” Wale is more transparent about his thoughts than ever. The album serves as a 15-song trip through the mind of one of hip-hop’s most multifaceted artists.

Despite his talent and impeccable songwriting ability, Wale has had somewhat of a mismanaged, tumultuous career. Since the 2017 release of “Shine,” a lackluster effort that sold only 28,000 copies in its first week and debuted at number 16 on Billboard charts, it seemed as though Wale’s career has been on a downward spiral. “Wow… That’s Crazy” serves as a maxim to anyone who has ever counted out the D.C. wordsmith.

“Sue me, I’m rooting for everybody that’s black,” Wale raps on the aptly titled “Sue Me” – the album’s soulful introduction. On the first verse, he delves into “polygamy problems,” difficulty being faithful, and how spending money is therapeutic.

The second verse speaks directly to people who have critiqued his past moves. “‘Ambition’ my second album, how was you sleeping? / Dropped the album with Seinfeld, they thought I was tweaking.”

Wale is fed up at the way show business treats artists with a lack of respect, as if they’re disposable. He points out how quick people are to forget about past accomplishments, because they’re focused on the present.

An ode to jazz legend Nina Simone puts Wale’s vulnerability on display as he addresses common issues in the black community, as well as his own feelings on “Love Me Nina / Semiautomatic.” Halfway through the song, the beat flawlessly transitions into a mellow but up-tempo, rap-dependent instrumental, which gives way to Wale’s self-analyzing commentary.

He ends by comparing himself to a gun shooting recklessly with no aim – a metaphor for how he’s struggled to focus, or have an ‘aim,’ since becoming famous. “A semi-auto with a novice aim / A lot of thoughts and a lot of pain / My ammunition come from all your hate / My brain a loaded semi, I’m too offended to concentrate.”

Songs like “Debbie” and “Love & Loyalty” serve as upbeat, feel-good records – the latter of which is hard to resist dancing along to.

“Love & Loyalty” is a Latin pop record featuring rising Nigerian singer Mannywellz. The island-infused track showcases Wale’s ability to create sonically daring music as well as produce a unique sound that other American rappers try – and fail – to imitate.

With the help of Kelly Price, Wale details issues he has with alcoholism, self-love, and relationships with women on “Set You Free.” “Everybody want that crazy love / Until they find a crazy one,” Wale preaches on his brutally honest verse, before allowing Price to take listeners to church with a gospel-inspired hook of her own.

Meek Mill, Rick Ross, and Wale connect on wax for the first time since 2016, delivering the speaker-rattling posse cut, “Routine.” A standout track from the project, “Routine” finds the MMG honchos rapping at some of their highest collective energy to date. “BAPE Folarin, no monkey business / Can’t H&M us, no,” Wale spits before Meek poses the question: “How many famous b*****s do I gotta f*** for the love of the culture?”

On strip club anthem “Poledancer,” Megan Thee Stallion teams up with Wale to blend her signature Southern sound with his conscious rap. Wale is one of the only artists in hip-hop who can weave poetic bars and unconventional beats together in a way that’s easy to digest – and Megan is like the icing on “Thee” cake.

However, if you’re not a fan of bass-heavy club bangers, “BGM,” “On Chill,” and “Expectations” are more laid-back, radio-friendly cuts that cater to Wale’s R&B fanbase.

The range and variety of songs on “Wow… That’s Crazy” shouldn’t come as a surprise to the seasoned Wale listener, but to the average hip-hop fan, it’s a shockingly thought-provoking project. Between bangers, slow jams, and Latin bops, there’s something for everyone on the album.

Complete with brilliant lyricism, fiery flows, and stimulating content, the project is difficult to dislike. Wale showed what sets him apart from other rap artists, as his contemporaries could only hope to execute at the same level of versatility and consistency he does.

Wale said it best himself – “Who a decade or better, giving n****s decadent raps?”

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Wale exceeds “Expectations” and breathes life into the rap game.

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