Written by: The Bro
Wale Finds His Smile
It’s 2017 and Wale seems happy. This is a somewhat surprising development from DC’s finest, but a welcome one. The last two years have seen him embroiled in beef with a label mate, as well as seemingly endless complaints about lackluster radio support. The drama might have suggested Wale’s next project would be more aggressive and defiant. Yet on his fifth album, Shine, Wale rides the wave from one positive vibe to another. Scarface Rozay & Gotti’s hazy, carefree beat almost seems to serve as metaphor for this new state of mind, while Wale raps “all I want to do is live out my dreams, and fuck what ya’ll think because these are my dreams.”
The party begins in earnest on My Love. Wale sounds at home alongside an infectious afro beat, not to mention some familiar guest features to anyone who has listened to the radio in the last twelve months. It’s the type of track you’d expect to hear blaring out cars. With word that the album will likely sell less than 25,000 copies in its first week, perhaps it’s unlikely that any track will do that this summer. And yet the Wale on this album and in recent interviews seems perfectly at peace with his place in the game.
Production wise the album eschews big name beat makers in favor of a very lush, live sound that fits perfectly with Wale’s sunnier disposition. CC White sounds like a 90 degree day at the park, and Wale keeps the metaphors going with rap staple cocaine/girl word play.
The afrobeat vibe continues on Fine Girl, where Davido and Olamide steal the show with noteworthy appearances. It has to be noted how natural these tracks feel. Wale’s Nigerian roots ring throughout the tracks. The authenticity is quite welcome, especially in an era dominated by so many artists hopping on trends and appropriating sounds from various islands and countries.
If anything hurts the project it could be that much of it seems to blend together. Outside of a couple more downtempo tracks, including the Travis Scott assisted Fish N Grits, overall the album has a pretty consistent bounce, with some tracks working better than others. My PYT sounds rather derivative, and gives flashbacks to DJ Mustard’s 2014 accomplishment of making the same song ten times. Meanwhile, Heaven And Earth feels like a radio reach.
Still, Shine is a fun project that feels like a preview of what’s to come. Wale’s ear for melody and knack for introspective-yet-humorous lyricism has always positioned him well to make good music. He’s missed the mark in the past at times. If Shine is an example of what he can do while unburdened by the pressures of the past, and without his MMG label mates (not to mention the trap bangers of the past), his future is certainly bright.