Wale’s latest full-length offering, Wow... That’s Crazy, is the seasoned lyricist’s sixth studio album over the past decade. We know little about Wow... That’s Crazy outside of its relationship-centric theme, an approach that isn’t new territory for Wale. From the classic, Stevie Wonder-sampled “Break-Up Song” to the chart-rising, Jeremiah-featured single “On Chill,” the consistent appearance of relationship themes in Wale’s discography has made the D.C. rap star one of hip-hop’s most romantic wordsmiths.
The question is: How will Wale push forward? After years of surviving the industry with poetic acrobatics and radio-ready melodies, Wow... That’s Crazy is yet another opportunity for Wale to show the world why he’s still around and not going anywhere.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. “Sue Me”
“Sue Me” is one hell of a song title. An R&B sample? I can’t grab it on first listen. It’s smooth, the production has a 40 feel. Drake’s producer 40, not E-40. The soulful smoothness reminds me of his It’s Complicated EP. Wale’s delivery is stream-of-consciousness. “Sue me, I’m rooting for everybody that’s black.” This is good. He’s opening up on the second verse. Love the line about showbusiness. You can tell he spends a lot of time in his head, but the ideas don’t come out jumbled. Is this a gospel sample? The choir is raising the intro to the heavens. Wale came back on the gospel breakdown; he’s hot enough to melt steel. One hell of an introduction.
2. “Love & Loyalty” ft. Mannywellz
A change in energy. The drums have swing! The Afropop rhythm with the trap hi-hats are a nice combination. The streets needed this one in May, but I see why it was picked as a single this fall. Effortlessly infectious. Mannywellz on the hook was a great call. His voice is full of warmth. “Love & Loyalty” is fun enough to have been on Shine. Wale’s second verse is sharp. Great energy, such warmth. I’ll revisit.
3. “Cliche” ft. Ari Lennox & Boogie
I like this lineup. The keys are hot chocolate warm. Ari! She sounds great. Wale always grabs the hottest vocalist to deliver on his albums. Wale leads with the first verse. The horseplay line, ha. “I need somebody that hates to party.” The subject matter works in his favor. He’s talking about life as he knows it. “Tired of wasting our time with love.” Boogie! I like this flow he’s using. Boogie is another rapper that talks about love and relationships in a fresh way. “Falling back is progress, it’s all about perspective.” Boogie delivered. I would’ve loved “Cliche” as a single; the record just works. Ari with a gorgeous run to close. Her phone should be ringing to do hooks right now.
4. “Expectations” ft. 6LACK
Interesting build up. It’s slowly unfolding. 6LACK! The production is perfect for his voice. A slow-burning R&B record. 6LACK sounds great. “I been sorting through a lot of shit in my head now.” “Don’t you leave me here for dead now.” Man, that’s a statement. Wale sounds great, too! I’m not in love with the melodic switch-up, but he sounds focused. His voice just got soulful; he’s feeling it. I don’t know if I’ve heard a Wale record quite like “Expectations.” The writing and production are painting a great picture of his struggles. He’s writing with understanding and grace. Insecurity seems to be a recurring theme. I like “Expectations.” Excited to play it again.
Energy! After the weight of “Expectations,” the warmth of “BGM” feels good. It’s like coming out of a cave to a summertime family reunion mid-Cha-Cha slide. Wale has always been an advocate of uplifting blackness, especially black women. “BGM” is his most fun celebration of black women. It’s a few years late to be the soundtrack of black girl magic, but the song is a nice addition to playlists that affirm black women’s greatness.
6. “Love... (Her Fault)” ft. Bryson Tiller
Man, I wonder how many samples had to be cleared for this album? There is a lot of soul in these loops. Bryson sounds good. It’s always nice to see him pop up on major releases. He’s taking the melodic rap approach that has always been his bread and butter. Strong hook. Wale comes in strong, too. The production is a great pairing with his voice. He’s sliding across the beat effortlessly. Wow... That’s Crazy sounds like an album that accomplishes all the strengths of a breakup song as a full-length project. Great storytelling.
7. “On Chill” ft. Jeremih
Wow... That’s Crazy is cohesive and focused. Seven songs in and the introspective writing is holding up. This is a slower Wale project, but the music and lyricism are attention-holding. Jeremih has to be in the conversation of all-time great hook-men. How long has it been since “Birthday Sex?” He has to be nearing 10 years, if not more, of nailing hits. “On Chill” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it works. This song should be the lead single of a Love Jones reboot. Make it happen, Hollywood.
8. “Routine” ft. Rick Ross & Meek Mill
Is this where the album goes trap? Meek sounds like he’s about to rob a bank. He’s coming in with more energy than a Rolling Loud crowd. Meek just opened the door to an entirely different album. Wale arrived. He sounds like he’s been drinking Red Bulls all night. Yeah, this is an MMG record! Following “On Chill” the vibe change-up is a bit odd, but I’m not mad at the arrival of a ground-shaker. Meek and Wale both came with spirited performances. Meek is back, he’s even more charged up. This is energy that could take over the world. “Everything culture.” This is another one that could’ve made for a strong single. Ross! “Raekwon with the Wu deal.” “I don’t fuck with these weirdos.” Ross ate. These three should just do an album already.
9. “Love Me Nina/Semiautomatic”
Ah, man, the momentum just dropped. I was worried about the sequencing of “Routine.” A woman is speaking. I’m trying to place her voice. I don’t know who she is, but I know she is someone wise. Love her words over this loop. Wale came to rap rap. Lyrically, this is my favorite performance thus far. The drums dropped hard. “They playing with me Nina.” Who is this on the hook?!? That’s not Wale. “I’m misunderstood.” The temperament is changing. This is some of Wale’s most introspective rapping. Not what I expected. “Your rhymes legend but your personality complicated.” “I speak how I feel, I feel like a gun.” This is great. These songs are all so thoughtful.
10. “Break My Heart (My Fault)” ft. Lil Durk
Durk! Yeah, it’s interesting how all these features are the first voices that you hear. For those first few seconds, the songs don’t feel like Wale’s record, but the themes all fit into the context of the album. Durk is pouring it out! I like this. Dang, what did the girl at Blue Flame do? Wale was suddenly tagged in. I don’t love the beat, but he sounds great. Their relationship woes are a good contrast. Never thought I’d hear Durk sing “Don’t break my heart, girl.” Ha, the moon lyric. The flows have been good. Wale’s got some records on Wow... That’s Crazy.
Puffy! Talking his shit. Ha, that was a surprise. Wale with a nice bounce. This is going to work at his shows. The fun is a nice change of pace, but it does feel abrupt. More of an interlude than a whole record. Not my favorite, but not bad.
12. “50 In Da Safe” ft. Pink Sweat$
Pink Sweat$! Did the tag say Hit-Boy? I like Pink Sweat$’ voice. He works well here. Melodic Wale. Fame is a big subject on Wow... That’s Crazy. It makes sense, though. Wale can’t talk about his love life without grappling with celebrity. That’s what keeps Wow... That’s Crazy compelling, how all these elements of his life affect relationships. “Confidence be fluctuating.” Man, he said his therapist gets his show money. JAY-Z didn’t tell us that. Enjoyed this record. Will return. The poetic close.
13. “Set You Free” ft. Kelly Price
Another slice of gospel soul. “Picture that, a black man learning to love him, wow, that’s crazy.” Ha, I see what he did there. “Mind racing, too tired to chase a woman.” Wow... That’s Crazy is Wale at his most honest. He found the perfect theme to muse on the mental health issues he’s grappling with. Kelly Price is going to the mountaintop. Sheesh. I know he has two more records, but this was the outro. The song that explains what the album is all about.
14. “Black Bonnie” ft. Jacquees
The way the drop comes in, it’s so well constructed. The slow-burning R&B/soul records are layups for Wale. He’s like a point guard that knows exactly how to kiss it off the glass. Although old, “Black Bonnie” works with the album. It’s a celebration of black women. Amid his musing, he doesn’t forget to honor.
15. “Poledancer” ft. Megan Thee Stallion
Another previously released single. “Poledancer” is fun. A Wale strip club record. The Southern bounce screams Magic City. His flow is easy with a fun delivery. The way Megan comes on this record, a true boss. She just has a presence. That’s what she shares with the late Pimp C, a voice that demands your attention. By far one of my favorite guest verses from Megan.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on Wale's Wow... That’s Crazy
The Wale on Wow... That’s Crazy knows himself well. He knows the production that benefits his lyricism; he knows the features that complement his songwriting. Every sound and voice complements the world he’s creating; a world that is sonically lush and lyrically transparent.
Transparency makes Wow... That’s Crazy one of Wale’s most focused albums. Only the lively “BGM” and the trap-inspired “Routine” break off from Wale’s reflective introspection. Though Wow... That’s Crazy doesn’t tell us anything new about his struggles with fame and mental health, Wale’s confessions sound carefully candid this time around. Confessions straight from one of his therapy sessions.
Wow... That’s Crazy turns self-reflection into easy-listening. Wale is growing old and getting better without losing sight of what has made his art special for the last ten years.
By Yoh, aka Wow, That's Yoh aka @Yoh31