After two years, and a pretty dismal follow up to the album that made the rest of the world (read that as the Internet) pay attention to the Nigerian emcee with a dual passport, Wale accompanied ‘The Album About Nothing’ with ‘Shine’, an album which has met with equal parts enthusiasm and disappointment, if you’re to believe the things that the review engines have turned out.
Opening with the Cool & Dre produced ‘Thank God’ and leaving you sure that at certain points he’s making cute faces at his daughter, likely to the straight faced embarrassment of the sound engineer as he lays down the album’s intro, most skeptical Nigerians can probably read the undertone of the religious Nigerian in there when the hook says “Thank God we don’t do what we used to do no more..”, in the following line Wale speaks of praying his enemies don’t fall, and those who heard him promise that this was going to be an album about looking forward and being happier and rising above negativity (which is what the acronym of the album’s title actually stands for: ‘Still Here Ignoring Negative Energy’) shake their heads. For the rest of us though? Great to have him back!
Running Back does exactly what I’d thought it would – makes an interesting rhythm to perform the ‘ugh, we got too much money to dance’ dance step in the club to. You know the one; the dude stands there with his boys on just about any elevation that guarantees he’s being seen and proceeds to rub his knock knees together, one raised arm dangling above and in front of his head while he clutches his Henny at waist level with the other hand, clearly shooting an imaginary music video in the same space you couldn’t fit two anorexic sardines into. Wale kept up with Wayne however, which is either a sign of how far up he’s come as an emcee or just how bad drugs are for the young people. Jam though.
Rozay, Scarface, Gotti was a tipped hat to some of the influences in Wale’s music. His relationship with Rick Ross is well documented, but most old heads will experience some nostalgia at the mention of Scarface (if you just thought, or worse – said; ‘Say hello to my lil friend’ you’re a fraud, but you’re still better than the other 90% that didn’t register anything when Scarface was mentioned)
A few reviews have claimed that Wale has been trying to find a Caribbean tune to rival Drake’s success with ‘One Dance’ and missed the mark with the WizKid, Dua Lipa and Major Laser featured ‘More Love’. These are the same people who debunk global warming as a hoax and think WWE/WWF matches are real fights. Few songs bearing that African flavor have anything on this one, and if Wale gets no credit at all for the rest of the year, let’s remember that he made this. Why this isn’t on rotation on more radio stations is beyond me, but so is the fact that Desiigner’s ‘Timmy Turner’ was described by an actual live human being on radio as one of the great classics of our time.
Fashion Week – One of my favorites on the album. I’d forgotten how catchy a Wale verse can be when he relaxes into it. I heard this compared to ‘Slight Work’, but personally, it’s more reminiscent of ‘Chain Music’ but only for the pace the verses keep. Two words though: G-Eazy! Someone had better dog-ear this page, we’re all going to hear a lot more from this act going forward. That beat!
Colombia Heights – Despite his reference at the end of this song to some of the worlds greatest soccer players and insisting ‘that’s how easy I kick it’, Wale won’t be remembered as the center point of this song. Before J-Balvin came along and crooned the corners smooth, ‘Colombia Heights’ sounded like you’re supposed to like it, but you couldn’t really find a straight enough stretch to listen and commit to. And the bars in Spanish? The words refused to go into my ears with any kind of grace whatsoever.
CC White – Its 3:45am on Sunday morning and you know for a fact the girl in the blue dress is the one. You’ve been making eyes at each the all night and you’ve sent so many drinks to her table that the waiters have started to take your order by eye contact only. She’s starting to show that restlessness that says she’s leaving the club soon and you cant, I mean, you just can’t NOT see her again. This is the moment when you saunter your drunken ass over in your white but on down shirt that shows your gym arms in the best light. Your beer belly? What belly? And this is when you want to bellow out the chorus to Wale’s ‘CC White’ to her with your boys singing backup. This is when you tell her how you FEEL! Later, it turns out she and her equally gorgeous girlfriend are together in the exact way you were hoping you and her would be, and they really had fun with those drinks, but their two man Uber is here and they really have to go. And the dress was gold all along. But yeah, this is that hook..just don’t rap the first verse at her. Ever. Props to Wale for making such great use of Maxwell’s ‘Till The Cops Come Knocking’, and throwing some old school deejay scratches on there too.
MATHEMATICS – Proof that despite his best intentions, even a poet like Wale isn’t beyond trying to make a nice little trap song. Thing is, ending every bar with a thoughtful ‘mm’ makes the entire song sound like its being performed at an unpopular open mic night by the guy with a toothache and every intention of getting through his 75th open ,I. Performance in a row, no matter what. And this just so he can tell his peeps he killed it even while he was in pain. Not a favorite song of mine.
FISH n GRITS ft Travis Scott – Following the same path as ‘Mathematics’, only with some of that off key singsong BS that Future blighted rap music with thrown in.
Fine Girl – ft Davido & Olamide: This should have been the most stellar thing on the album. The chemistry should have been great, the talent was definitely there. Somehow though, ‘Fine Girl’ belonged to Wale and Davido’s verses. Not sure why anyone would bring a versatile heavyweight like Olamide on a record to make tongue-in-cheek remarks about booty…oh well. That New Edition sample worked, I just wish the lineup had as well.
Heaven On Earth ft Chris Brown: This is bound to be a bigger hit for the teen generation, but that’s not to say that it’s a lame song. Chris Brown churned out a perfectly Chris Brown hook which could be about any girl in the world (but could also be about designer drugs, waterfalls or sports cars) but perfectly able to make each one special, and Wale threw on that verse you know he wrote as a poem for someone from his childhood who likely said no. I won’t play that too much, that much sugar is bad for my teeth.
MY PYT ft Sam Sneak – The Lady Gaga laced ‘Chillin’ might have been the first time pop culture and Wale got on the same frequency, but the first time I took serious notice of him was for ‘My Sweetie’, which lifted a Bunny Mack sample and turned it into pure magic. On ‘My PYT’, the homage to Marvin Gaye was difficult to stomach. The verses floated between being encouraging, emancipating, uplifting and being about a fat ass. A little like what I imagine dating a married pastor must feel like.
DNA – It wouldn’t be a Wale album without that poetic drop down in the middle of a song would it? You’ll find some of that tucked into ‘DNA’, if you can stop yourself from laughing aloud at the prospect of ‘good d**k and advice’. I wasnt nodding my head when this song started, I was by the time it wrapped up. Nice!
Smile ft Phil Adé & Zyla Moon: On the final track of the album, Wale digs up Graham Central Stations ‘The Jam’ and turns it to an irresistible head bopper with a tightknit verse from Maryland USA’s Phil Adé. You’ve got to listen to the end to figure out that the Zyla Moon feature is literally baby sounds from Wale’s little girl. Cute, and brings you back to the reason the album was supposed to be about positivity even as he goes tackling the political atmosphere in the US as an orange haired man with a Twitter habit occupies the Oval Office. This may not be his finest work ever, but Shine is an album I’ll be listening to a few more times at the very least.