After "Festivus" I'm Ready To Love Wale Again

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Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon; The flames of Love extinguished, and fully past and gone: Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold, that loving Breast of thine; That thou canst never once reflect. On Old long syne

You drunkenly sing it on New Year's, most likely mumbling incoherently due to alcohol and the fact that nobody actually knows all the lyrics, but have you actually stopped to think about Auld Lang Syne?

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! and surely I’ll buy mine! And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for days of long ago

Maybe it's all the booze in my system as the clock strikes 12, but I love this song; it gets me all sentimental-like. What I always take away is that while the years pass by quicker and quicker each year, take a damn second to stop and think about all the people who have shaped you and made you who you are; whether they are still in your life or not. For most it's likely exs, friends and family, but for me, of course, it's rappers. In my time on this earth, there are many rappers who have came and went, but I keep thinking back to one special rapper who had a profound impact on me years ago. Well, in the spirit of Auld Lang Syne and with a little help from a Christmas Eve project, I'm ready to reignite my relationship with this emcee. 

It's 2015 and I'm ready to love Wale again.

To understand just what this means and why it is worthy of my 1000 words, you have to understand my long, complex and tumultuous relationship with the one they call Wale Folarin.

Many Auld Lang Syne renditions ago, there was a time when Wale was far and away my favorite rapper. Wale? Really? Believe it or not there was a time when he was truly magical. More than a fast flow or funny line, there was a spark in him. His passion, heart, and creativity drew me in and he became one of the first rappers I truly rooted for; he felt like a human being I knew. At a time when I was more into genres outside of rap, Wale effectively bridged the gap. He was hip-hop, sure, but what always drew me in was his originality and the inclusion of other kinds of sounds. Wale always rapped over a sample that made you say "oh shit, he's rapping over that?!" but by the end you didn't care what the sample was but what he was saying and how he was saying it. When it wasn't "W.A.L.E.F.R.I.E.N.D.S" or Lily Allen remixes, Wale was turning me on to go-go; essential listening for anyone who has ever lived in the DMV. For a white kid from Montgomery County, go-go is sort of a mythical creature, and even though I know much more about it now, Wale is one of my only sources for go-go splashed hip-hop.

He was a hometown guy, flipped Justice and liked Nike's and sports; basically he was me if I was cool and could rap. He was one of the first rappers I found and followed before he "blew up" and it was really cool to see. As my passion for Wale's music grew so did my love of hip-hop. When I found a Wale and 9th Wonder tape it moved me, and Wale introduced me to the beauty of 45 King with "Strings." To put it simply, Wale was one of the first rappers I felt was my own. While he helped ignite my love for hip-hop it also caused me to change - hip-hop will do that to a person - and like all old acquaintances we started to diverge. The deeper I got into soul samples, the deeper he got into being a shallow, bland, Rick Ross puppet.

And it hurt me to my core.

When an artist "sells out" it's devastating, and when it's someone you are close to (in your head), it hurts that much more. Wale went from a passionate, exuberant emcee who was different from anyone I have ever heard to another clone. Instead of cool, vibrant samples it was trap beats. Instead of obscure sports references it was "Clappers." I used to blast Mixtape About Nothing with reckless abandon, but I only played The Gifted once...maybe twice. The music wasn't terrible, but when you see someone you know can do better it's frustrating; now I know what every teacher I ever had felt like. It wasn't just the music either, the Complex calls, the wrestling feuds, the fights with announcers.

I was done.

I turned in my Wale fan club card.

I thought I had lost Wale.

And then, years later, like some sort of Hallmark movie...a Christmas miracle! Wale shows up at my door during the holidays, new mixtape in hand, and all is forgiven.

Man, this Festivus project! I wasn't really expecting much, the only reason I downloaded the tape was because I had nothing better to do at my parents house, waiting for Santa to come, but I was floored. Sure the first few songs are a little suspect (lookin' at you, Fat Trel), but within the first minute of "Girls on Drugs," I was sold. I heard a Wale I haven't heard in a long time. The lively sample, the fast flow, the lavish, fun vibe; it was all there. For the first time in a long time Wale made me smile. It didn't stop there. "Tonight (Suite 331)" is a go-go beat! Okay, so it's not the most go-go track in existence, but I thought may days hearing Wale over bouncing, leaning percussion were long gone. Even "The Deep End" has a little go-go, plus a insane verse from Pusha T. Friendship Heights is five minutes from my house and now there is a song about it featuring Chance The Rapper? For those who live in New York or L.A , hearing hometown locations isn't that cool, but for me it's so rare; it's another reason why I loved Wale from the start. Just after name dropping Friendship Heights, Wale delivers "Chess," which is arguably the most compelling, deep track of the tape; here is that heart, dabbed with some social commentary that I had thought was crushed by the weight of Rick Ross.

In short Festivus is the first Wale project in a long, long time that I've had in rotation. When I woke up New Year's Day at 8 AM - I can never sleep after drinking - I immediately reached for Festivus. As I cleaned, the stench of stale Bud Light and broken dreams were stifled by Wale's "Spaceship (Freestyle)." The tape, that freestyle, the soulful sample; it got me through that day. I haven't connected with a Wale project the way I have with Festivus in a long time. Wale has been nonexistent in my life, and here, a week after, I already have a distinct memory associated with this album the same way I have 'em with his classics. Festivus helped to remind me what got me hooked on Wale in the first place. If feel that same excitement I did back in the day. I'm not saying the album is perfect, (again, looking at you Trel) but, dammit, I've had real fun listening. For him to connect with me like I used to, despite all the shit we have been through, makes me excited for the future. I may regret this come March when the album drops and its another MMG clone, but right now I'm ready to love Wale again.

It's been too long, Wale...

Auld Lang Syne, indeed...

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Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.

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