Nowadays, music from rappers like Drake and T.I. is easy to categorize. Wale, on the other hand, is the opposite, reintroducing himself on his sophomore effort, Ambition, under the Mayback Music Group assembly line, but with a dynamic edge that sets him apart from the above-mentioned pigeonholed competition.
The 27-year old rapper released the album on November 1 under his new employer MMG, which he switched to from Interscope Records earlier this year. The 16-track playlist of Ambition features gritty lyrics centering on the rapper’s ego and his rise to fame and outlook on his accomplishments. The album features collaborating with artists Big Sean, Kid Cudi, Miguel, Meek Millz and Rick Ross, a nice mix of current hip-hop goliaths and fresh up-and-comers.
“Miami Nights” details Wale’s collection of luxury goods over a euphoric riff. Another lyrical barrage discussing the perceived necessities of every rapper can be heard on “Chain Music,” where Wale speaks about his “bling” and how it has attracted women to lust for him. Track after track, the album goes in plenty of directions: a woman with insecurities in “Sabotage,” with Lloyd, a single-mother who deserves his attention in “Illest Bitch” and the seriously steamy “Lotus Flower Bomb,” featuring Miguel, which leaked in October and boosted the pre-release buzz surrounding Ambition.
Probably the most commanding collaboration on the album, “Lotus Flower Bomb,” has a neo-soul hook that caters to female listeners. The debut single is driven by a market plan: women buy music from men who make them feel good about themselves, even if only for one night.
The not as catchy, but nonetheless witty, “Focused,” featuring Cleveland native Kid Cudi, is another standout track. This track plays into the reoccurring theme of ambition and the money, relationships and comfort level that comes with a lifestyle of fame.
Throughout the album, Wale uses poetry and emotional lyricism to reminisce on his former ways of hustling before making it big in the rap game with lines like, “I used to sleep hungry in a bed next to roaches / Now I wake up, play a beat and a burn a couple roaches,” from “No Days Off.”
Though you’d think the common man is past those days, Wale struggles to remain humble, and it shows in what is effectively Ambition’s downfall—Wale’s sometimes tedious and overwhelming arrogance that serves to confine him. While fans and other artists respect his work ethic, he spends the bulk of it reminding you of such, which hurts his otherwise dynamic genre mashing.
In “D.C. or Nothing,” Wale hints at his city’s progressing racial makeup and AIDS rate. The Washington D.C. native doesn’t forget where he came from, as well as loved ones who were unable witness his rise to fame. As an artist, Wale is now demanding attention and garnering recognition for him and other artists who have turned away from a life of crime, allowing for his lyrics bring to bring awareness to the social and economic gaps young males face in predominately African-American communities.
With the release of self-titled “Ambition,” Wale openly stated that he wants to be regarded as one of the best rappers in the game. Appearing on the last verse, following his teammates Meek Millz and Rick Ross, he continues to be ambitious while encouraging fans with it’s “easy to dream a dream, though it’s harder to live it.”
Ambition is not the classic, Grammy-winning album that Wale had claimed it would be, but it shows growth from his debut album and mix tapes, as well as a lot of potential for his future in the game. This album emphasizes his versatility as an artist while showcasing his ability to make mainstream songs, party songs and even soulful songs.