"Who is Wale again? I'm not quite sure if I've heard his music before." It's Thursday night and I am walking out of the 9000 building parking ramp headed towards the busy Sunset boulevard intersection. My companion for the evening is inquiring about the artist we are about to go see at the already sold out Key Club. An artist whom has both a big buzz and a big line outside the venue we are approaching. "He's from DC" I say with a fading tone, "Sort of has a gogo meets hipster style to him, but not too hipster, more underground than hipster..." I too am left with a blank definition of the performer. Struggling to explain who Wale is poses a challenge, as I know of him but am not familiar with him. It's stumping the two of us that this well heard of MC has such an unheard catalog. Maybe I've just been out of the loop, but there hasn't been any Wale tune to cross my musical radar. I couldn't name a song of his from his own project, yet here I was about to join the masses in seeing him perform. Was I caught up in the hype? No, I've had Wale on the radar for a little more than a year now, my friends out east in the District being the first to hip me to him. "Yo, this dude Wale is killing it out here in DC!" And over this past year, I have seen great promo and press follow the guy. A Nike boots song here, a kid kudi feature there...but still, I couldn't spit a verse or even drop a catchy hook title for my personal assurance. I returned back to my companion and reminded her that this was going to all be new to me.
As we approached the Key Club, it was indeed packed with well dressed and L.A.'s best, broke and bourgeoisie, industry and hinder-me clientele. The line was long so we stood outside to politic for a bit amongst the hungry. Amidst the hugs and daps, what up's and call me's, a thought ran across my mind that maybe I wasn't the only one out of the loop. I decided to test my theory. I went up to an industry associate friend who we will call Fred and asked Fred if he could name me Three Wale songs. Now I consider Fred to be a pretty hip guy, he happens to work for a pretty prominent record label, does work with tons of artists and clothing lines, and like my self, knows what's hot in these streets. To Fred's credit he got two songs. By the time we had gone inside, got situated, and found a good vantage point to watch the show, I had run my little quiz by a few more friends. It seemed I was apart of a greater majority who were familiar yet unfamiliar with Wale and his music, but all had heard great things about the MC. Where we sat, next to me sat two very out of place looking young kids. Both of the kids were White and bore the underage X's on their hands and too me, without sounding to shallow or racist, did not seem to fit the demographic Interscope had in mind for Wale fans. I asked them both why they liked Wale, and I got an answer that seemed scripted yet from the heart. "It's because he speaks from the heart, he's relevant for my generation without being too status quo. I like what he has to say in his rhymes. Ever since a friend put me on to him I've been a big fan." Wow, talk about a diamond in the coal. The one sincere answer I get about this artist nobody can tell me about is from a shaggy haired 17 year old who looks like he would be more at home at a Phish concert than at a Wale show. I was impressed.
Later on, as Wale's set was about 20 minutes in, I looked over at the well spoken teen and saw him taking a nap...
Wale's set turned out to be really dope. He was backed by an eight piece band, represented DC and GoGo to the fullest, and even brought out some Cali love to the table with guest appearances by Warren G and Bishop Lamont. He also included a guest appearance by Sweden rap sensation Adam Tensta to perform a few tracks. If you are unfamiliar with GoGo music then please, Wiki the genre. It's a staple to DC life. One of my favorite parts of the set was when Wale took the time to run down the history of GoGo music with the Los Angeles crowd. Starting with The Junkyard Band and taking it to Spike Lee's film, "School Daze", the crowd was extremely receptive to the Mambo Sauce (refer: GoGo Wiki) and raw energy that Wale stirred up! Wale gave the audience a lot of love and a lot of heart, and every aspect of the set was well put together. As I was leaving, I couldn't help but think about what it is that generates the hype machine. That's a whole other piece but I do know that sometimes, like last night, being caught up in the hype isn't always a bad thing.A. Landon www.loudvine.com