Wale – Ambition [Review]

“I’m going to make a classic album…this album is make or break.”

Wale’s words about this album. As if reppin’ the DMV, being on Maybach Music Group and following up an album that garnered love but much fewer sales wasn’t enough, he’s taken this album as his moment. I gotta respect how serious he is about this album; I wish more artists would feel the same. It’s not about him just trying to put out a big album and make money, he’s clearly on a mission to do something and feels like he’s in a position to do more than just drop an album. His own statements combined with my own anticipation made this one of the albums I had high on my radar…so let’s see if Ambition is a proper title or just something cool to say.

1.  Don’t Hold Your Applause
Produced by Tone P & Chris Barz
One of my favorite things about Wale’s music is his infusion of Go-Go music. I was glad to hear this album kick off with some Go-Go style snare work and a celebratory melody. At his best, Wale spits more uptempo and rides the beat and he does that as well on this track. One of the lines that stands out on this track and album really sum it up well, “Tired of makin’ money, I’m on to makin’ history.” He really put the pressure on for this album and this song is a great way to kick off his goals.

2. Double M Genius
Produced by Lex Luger
Lex Luger isn’t just drums folks, this dude has horns, melodies, transitions…this beat is amazing. I didn’t know Lex knew Go-Go…hell, I wasn’t sure he knew anything outside of dope ass drumwork but he put it down for this one. Wale steps up to the challenge with some slick syllable flippin’ and metaphors to properly dress this up. How many cats you know spit about Ray Liotta, geometry, Kemba Walker, semicolons and Wilona all in the same song. I really dig this song from top to bottom.

3. Miami Nights
Produced by Cool & Dre
One of my concerns with Wale being on MMG was how he’d mesh over the lush production that has become one of the labels hallmarks. To this point, I’m foolish for that concern. Cool & Dre keep up with the celebratory DMV flavor with horns and drums that rival Just Blaze’s work on “Show Me What You Got” while Wale handles it like he always does. The song outlines a party lifestyle in Miami’s streets, clubs, and beach and his focus on making this more than a dream. The frenzied pace and imagery painted lyrically make this a great radio song that also lends itself well to a video treatment.

4. Legendary
Produced by DJ Toomp & Lil’ Lody
Well, the credits say Toomp did this…I read that after I already decided I didn’t like this beat…and later the song. I usually like Toomp tracks but this one is damn near skippable. It’s definitely slower than the previous songs which is bound to happen on any album, so the fault isn’t just in the change in tempo. I think the track also encouraged Wale to be lazy with the writing on the song and even though his intensity isn’t largely affected, it ends up sounding miss-matched and forced. The hook is also pretty lackluster and doesn’t really convey the message he’s trying to convey. Even the scratching at the end of the track sounds like zippers instead of actual vinyl. The other problem is placed where it is, it damn near brings all the momentum of the previous songs to a complete halt.

5. Lotus Flower Bomb
Featring Miguel; Produced by Jerrin Howard
Wale confesses: “I’m speaking TO the ladies on this one” . He goes on to say that rappers are talking AT women on most of these songs, including his verse on “No Hands”. So he reaches back and makes this song in the memory of a chick he knew that wore Flowerbomb Perfume by Vicktor & Rolf. It’s funny that to this day, there are certain fragrances that I still know based on the women that wore them, word to Sand & Sable. Anyway, this is a real chill song that I think most folks would enjoy and after seeing how well Ace Hood’s song for the ladies did, it was no shocker that this was the first official single from the album.

6. Chain Music
Produced by Tone P
It’s hard to drop an album with no dance track….enter “Chain Music.” It’s not that cut n dry though. Wale talks about how when he gets a bit more flashy, the people around him change. More direct, he says that his chain changed them not him. It’s dope to hear how he spits what may sound like a typical garish song about gold, he flips it. This one will get a lot of club spins like another song we’ll get into later.

Peep her gold chain, hoes changed, I didn’t
They say that karats help your vision
But somehow it made them listen
No this ain’t silver, this is my dilemma
Arrogant when I finish
I came from humble beginnings

7. Focused
Featuring Kid Cudi; Produced by Kore

This is the second single from the album and I don’t like this joint at all. It has that techno Euro fingerprint and sounds like a watered down MBDTF leftover track. This is like a “Speedin'” part II lyrically…but man, I really ain’t feelin’ this one at all. SKIP

8. Sabotage
Featuring Lloyd; Produced by Cloudeater
Wale is talking to and at the ladies on this track. The 3 interesting things about this one are the track, Wale’s voice and Lloyd’s singing. The musical background is really well produced complete with strings, horns, and some really crazy drum work near the end. Even Wale has to say “Goddamn drumma”. I could see the Roots providing the backup for this song. Lloyd is singing his heart out on the hook and his voice high pitched smooth voice sounds great next to Wale’s raspy delivery on this. He even jokes at the end “Get me muh’fuckin coughdrops nigga”. If you’ve been in a relationship that is more breaking up and making up than holding hands and loving, this is your jam.

9. White Linen (Coolin’)
Featuring Ne-Yo; Produced by Deputy
I’ve got to admit that I’m impressed with these slower R&B flavored tracks on the most part. The choice of singer for each collabo fits perfectly with each song and this one definitely has that same DNA. Complete the song with some nice wordplay and attitude and this becomes one of my favorite songs on the album.

Bitches tend to love a nigga with the most money
I tell em “honey, I cher, I’m so sunny”
And this is all pro-bono
All-Star weekend floor seats by the coaches
Flying all frequent, reclining on beaches
Half a millie on the road, y’all relyin on features

10. Slight Work
Featuring Big Sean; Produced by Dipo
This is the second song from the album that is a club, strip or regular, DJ’s best friend. Sure, he may be saying something here but after seeing videos like this make the rounds, who gives a damn. This song rolls, save the analysis of a song this time through. Press play, grab some 1’s and let it happen…

11. Ambition
Featuring  Meek Mill & Rick Ross; Produced by T-Minus
I don’t know why he waited so late in the album to add the title track, it’s a really dope song. Dark, dramatic, moody music complimented with Meek Mill, Ross, and Wale painting images of tough times and growing pains. The MMG 3 headed monster showed up well on this song that would be a great way to close the album based on how it sounds.

12. Illest Bitch
Produced by Tha Bizness
I can’t think of many ways to make a dedication song sound off but when the hero of the story is praised as a “bitch”, ill or otherwise, it’s like a backhanded compliment to me. Does what I think matter? Probably not so moving on, Wale transitions from street poet to spoken word artist at the end of this song…and it’s good. I think that even though he throws me off a bit with his choice of words, the idea to sing the praises of Black Women outside of how fat the booty is, is good to hear. He talks about how strong she has to be to raise the kid solo, working hard, being dedicated to home and how rewarding it is to be in love with her. Tha Bizness’ production on this one is fly as hell, per usual, but def not what you’d expect. I’ll let you hear this one, won’t ruin it.

13. No Days Off
Produced by DJ Toomp
Well, Toomp has provided another track that I don’t like. This is the kind of beat everyone makes when they first get Frooty Loops or hands on a keyboard and try to make a beat. I don’t like anything about it at all. This song definitely could have been left off the album. This isn’t just about my personal preference for Wale to spit over more uptempo songs, I don’t like this track for anyone. The synth/keys being played alternate keys like something from a horror movie, but it’s not nearly as interesting. The incessant bell hits sound off the beat and the drum pattern sounds like it wants to be interesting at times, but isn’t committed to that idea any more than it is with just being barely above noticeable in a audio mess. About 1/3 of the way through, Wale’s bars are easily ignored, unfortunately the music isn’t.

14. DC Or Nothing
Produced by Tone P
Wale talks about this son being real AD that making it hard for him to listen to (“I can’t listen to this song too much, cause it’s too much…I put my heart into this song”). That sentiment shows with large thanks being given to Tone P providing ample space for the DMV mascot to speak of his city. With stories that make song sound like turning on the news or flipping through The Post. The most poignant lyrics of this song are “I done seen embalming fluid ruin a nigga’s promise” and “We just soldiers my nigga, don’t know you my nigga, but know you my nigga”.  Here, more than any other song on this album, it’s apparent that Wale doesn’t just see himself as a rapper, but as some sort of leader or inspiration to a people that have been under-represented. This is a great song.

15. That Way
Featuring Jeremih & Rick Ross; Produced by Lex Luger
When this was making the rounds, I liked it, but thought it was a bit boring. When I listened to the album, I was like “hey, that’s a different beat” when in actuality, that Curtis Mayfield has always been in the back of the track. On TV it sounds much flatter than if you have the Dolby rollin (I had to try it to be sure). So it’s with new ears I’ve learned to appreciate and really enjoy this song more than I did initially. Lex Luger is one of my favorite current producers based on the production he’s showcasing on this album.

Bottom Line:
When talking about this album Wale says “I obsess over success, and I haven’t made it yet…I’m going to make a classic album…this album is make or break”. The short answer is that this is a make. It’s not the classic album he was looking for, but in an industry that can no longer base success on album sales alone, Wale will help folks redefine the term. This album is largely enjoyable, extremely relatable, and just as impressive as his first album. For those of you that come and peep the stars then reply, let’s get into the grade. In my review and there are 3 songs that I wish I’d never heard, gut reaction would be to rate or at least expect a low score, but the other songs on the album are much better than average. The mesh of Wale’s flow and the MMG production team is on point. I think Wale’s Ambition may not garner the respect at the register (Does anything not made by Wayne, Ye, or Em anymore?) but those who buy it will not be upset about the purchase. I hope ambition is contagious, cause  lot of cats need to try and catch what Wale is on with this release.

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