Wale - 100 Miles & Running

Posted January 30, 2008
Tags: Wale,

Where you from? In hip-hop almost nothing matters more. Hip-hop fans don’t just rep their...

100 Miles & Running Album Review

Where you from? In hip-hop almost nothing matters more. Hip-hop fans don’t just rep their city, they shout out their block. But on a national scale hip-hop fans only have a few options they can pledge their allegiance to: New York and Los Angeles have been hip-hop meccas for decades, and the last five years has seen Atlanta, Houston and Chicago take their place alongside the major players, but the vast majority of you don’t live in those places. I happen to know for a fact there’s incredible music coming out of Seattle, and Phoenix, and Knoxville, and Milwaukee, and wherever you live. But when’s the last time you heard a rapper from Kansas City on the radio? Come on people, I got love for the South and the East Coast, but not every great MC can be from Brooklyn and College Park.

No city has been more chronically overlooked than Washington D.C. I can’t name a single rapper from our nation’s capital, which is absolutely insane considering it’s enormous and 60 percent black (good looks U.S. Census Bureau). How could it be that not one nationally renowned MC comes from a place referred to as “Chocolate City.” Fortunately one man is determined to make sure D.C.’s known for more than just the White House, and his name is Wale (that’s “wall-a,” not “wall-e”). Wale’s been burning up the local scene with his blend of go-go music and hip-hop, burning hot enough to catch the attention of taste-maker Mark Ronson and his crew, and to show and prove he can hang with the big boys he’s released his new mixtape 100 Miles and Running. Can Wale put D.C. on the map?

I’d be lying if I said I knew anything about go-go music, but apparently it’s the preferred musical style of well over a million people in the Washington D.C. area. Part funk, part marching band, all energy, the marriage between go-go and hip-hop is a natural union, and Wale’s presiding over the ceremony. Breakdown takes the kind of percussive drumming that would sound at home in Brazil, adds some serious bass, and tops it off with Wale’s sweltering verses. If this is any indication of the kinetic power of go-go then clubs from coast to coast should be dripping sweat when Breakdown comes on (if DJs are brave enough to play it). The banging drums and staccato bass hits of Ice Cream Man is another anthem sure to get D.C. moving: in fact I think I just figured out the root of Virginia-native Pharrell’s percussion-heavy beats. Wale’s “rap with a go-go attachment” style may be out of the ordinary, but luckily DJBooth listeners aren’t afraid to put fresh sounds into their headphones – unlike mainstream radio programmers.

It’d be a serious injustice to speak about 100 Miles and Running strictly in terms of bridging the musical gap between D.C. and America; it just so happens he’s a seriously talented MC. Wale’s carefully measured and syllabically dense rhymes will immediately conjure comparisons to the Chi-town trinity (Common, Kanye and Lupe), and the connections become apparent on Wale’s cover of Common’s The People. As Kanye’s organ production spins in the background Wale lays down line after line of verbal intelligence: “the black/the soul/embodiment of both/Garvey influenced flow/will take you back home.” You get the feeling the source of Wale’s rhymes is bottomless, I don’t know if he’ll ever run out of rhymes, and no track exemplifies this like quite like Please Listen. Wale spins over three minutes of stream-of-consciousness wordplay, from “abuse paper, run through it till the inks out “ to “like Ashanti/hip-hop’s bounty/hunter.” But while Wale’s barrage of lines should be enough to satisfy the most hardcore backpackers, at times his flow borders on superfluous. Like a story-teller who describes the setting so intricately you forget the plot, Wale takes so many lyrical detours, as interesting as they can be, it’s hard to feel like you’ve arrived at your intended destination (a problem he shares with Weezy, who he’s collaborated with to dramatic effect). Wale’s raps aren’t enough to get him into any “greatest rapper alive’ conversation, but he’s closer to cracking that elusive and mysterious list than anyone outside of D.C. might realize. The finish line’s still a long way off, but Wale’s already gone 100 miles and he doesn’t show any sign of slowing. He is, finally, D.C.’s great hip-hop hope.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted January 30, 2008
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