Best (Overground) DMV Mixtape

Wale, Folarin
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

At his core, Wale is a DMV hip-hop outsider—born to Nigerian parents and schooled in Maryland, he was a good kid raised on big-budget rap albums from the late ’90s. But he was never high-fashion enough for the jet setters, and packaged into Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group, he’s the least threatening member this side of Omarion. With Folarin, Wale loses the sulking attitude of recent work and opens up about his major-label gaffes, calling himself “a poet that adjusted poorly to cameras.” That line is rapped on the soul-sampling, Jake One–produced “Limitless,” which exemplifies one of many moments on the 21-track tape where Wale finds his pace and utterly destroys. (His spoken-word, for-the-ladies bullshit is relegated to only one song, “Bad.”) On the Rick Ross–assisted “The Show,” Wale’s cool, raspy vocals sound the best that they ever have; he’s come a long way since his 2008 breakthrough, The Mixtape About Nothing. With “Get Me Doe,” Wale’s 2Chainz and Beat Billionaire collabo, he pens Maryland a veritable get-up, stand-up anthem. By the time he calls himself the “voice of the city” on the tape-closing “Never Never Freestyle,” it’s difficult to disagree.