Wale – The Gifted album review

Somehow after the dismal release of Attention Deficit Wale found a way to become a legitimate name in hip-hop under the guidance of Maybach Music Group. He adopted ignorant rap into his repertoire after he realized fake deep and half-assed poetry was barely working, and with the release of his third LP The Gifted, he still tries to shake all the disappointment his debut caused and switches it up on us yet again with what he calls on the album’s first song, “The Curse of The Gifted,” ‘new black soul shit’—a more groovy take on what he tells us is a story about the price of fame.

Now cue The Gifted. Wale tries to take us on a journey of the woes of being rich through the album’s 16 tracks. He chronicles the girls, the shine, the haters, the grind, the haters, the cash, but most importantly, the haters. Tracks like “Heaven’s Afternoon” are laced with Wale’s desire to relieve the days where he started from the bottom, so much so that he may have created invisible haters to give the track its sting. Meek Mill effortlessly and accidentally outshines him on his own track and makes lyrics like “When I was dead broke I would still tell myself I’mma still be the shit/Told my P.O if she locked me up, I would do the time, come home, and still be this rich” make Wale’s words sound like unlived memories.

Not to say that Wale rapping about how the brokest guy in his crew is still a millionaire can’t be as powerful a narrative to demonstrate his trajectory in life. What sucks is his delivery, which makes his story fall short. How is this a curse of the gifted? In what ways, Wale, have you been gifted? He never tells.

When it comes to production Wale pulls out all the stops. Stokley Williams of Mint Condition fame brings the smooth and sultry element to songs like “LoveHate Thing” and Sam Dew makes it a great song and great radio cut. Just Blaze makes his mark and gives you something to feel on “88” as his signature high hats crash against the drum kicks and a piano solo resonates in the background.

The Gifted’s biggest hit lies at the bottom of the track listing. Listeners are most familiar with the album because of “Bad,” but you have to skip 15 songs to get to it. It’s petty of Wale to cheat himself because he couldn’t put the rumored beef between he and newcomer Tiara Thomas behind him—even if it was for the quality of the album, and he does himself and his listeners a disservice. His remix with Rihanna (which nonsensically comes 6 songs before the original) is a pitiful attempt at revenge, and even Rihanna tries to emulate Tiara Thomas’ crackling breathy vocals—an embarrassing attempt for an artist of her magnitude.

The cacophony of Wale’s deafening, brash, staccato flow coupled with smooth, soulful production deems The Gifted an uneasy listen. The songs are not bad ones. In fact, the problem isn’t that the songs don’t sound good enough, it’s that Wale’s voice and forgettable lyrics don’t sound good enough on top of them. And that’s what leaves The Gifted teetering on the border of mediocrity. But MMG has taught him a little bit. Wale has definitely picked up Ross’ talent for good beat picking, but apparently still needs coaching on how to spit lukewarm lyrics over tight beats and still make his audience believe that what they’re hearing is hot.

MMG – MMG Presents Self Made Vol. 2 album review

In recent years, music collectives have been put in the forefront of the music industry with groups like YMCMB, Good Music, OFWGKTA, ASAP Mob, and Raider Klvn taking over the hip hop industry. In 2008, Maybach Music Group is Rick Ross’s addition to this trend, leading artists like Meek Mill, Wale, Gunplay, Stalley and more recently R&B crooner Omarion. Displaying their talents on Self Made Vol. 1, the first album shot Meek Mill into stardom, gaining him success on singles “Tupac Back” and “Ima Boss”. Now the hip hop collective is back with another volume to their Self Made series, rightfully titled MMG Presents: Self Made Vol. 2.

“Power Circle” features the entire Maybach Music Group sans Omarion, and is heavy on quality lyrical content, which may surprise people who are only familiar with Maybach Music Group through their tracks that constantly talk about drug dealing and women. The six minute track gives everyone a chance to shine, but the real standout on this track isn’t even a part of MMG. When Kendrick Lamar closes out the track, you almost forget about all of the other verses that were featured.

The singles from Self Made Vol. 2 aren’t too much to write home about with the Rico Love produced “Actin’ Up” acting as a high energy club banger and “Bag of Money” being a hip hop ballad of sorts featuring the auto tuned squelch of T Pain.

Everyone has their place in the Maybach Music Group, with each artist on the label bringing something different to the table. Stalley brings the lyrical content with the haunting track “Fountain of Youth” being an ode to his struggle coming up. Wale’s excels in delivery, with hard hitting one liners and changing up his flow within the middle of a track to keep it fresh, as seen as the party anthem “I Be Puttin’ On” featuring Wiz Khalifa, French Montana and Roscoe Dash. There was some speculation and criticism when Rick Ross announced his decision to sign Omarion to MMG, but it is evident why this is a good choice on “This Thing is Ours”, with his R&B vocals adding a polished sound to the normally hard sound of MMG’s music.

Gunplay brings pure street with no chaser to the MMG group, warning “I’m a shark out the tank, I don’t bark I just bite/Keep the K all day, don’t walk up on me I’ll pull that knife” on “Black on Black”. Self Made Vol. 2 was definitely a step up from the previous effort, this time focusing more on content than flashy tracks to keep people’s attention. Fans of MMG, will appreciate this work while new fans might be gained for those who questioned MMG’s skills.