Arts Desk

Wale Watch: Wale Flocka Flame


Waka Flocka Flame f/ Wale & Roscoe Dash – "No Hands"
Fat Trel f/ Wale – "E St. Flow"

Two semirecent Wale tracks that have slipped through the blog cracks might indicate a new direction for D.C.'s GREAT RAP HOPE: "No Hands," a fairly generic collab with reigning Atlanta stars Waka Flocka Flame and Roscoe Dash about throwing money and girls taking off their pants and stuff; and "E St. Flow" with Fat Trel, a money/clothes/dope/hoes-minded rapper from Northeast whom Wale has been working closely with as of late. (The track dropped in January but we're talking about it now, dammit.)

Both songs are sonically and thematically more aligned with currently popular street rap than the blog-friendly turf Wale usually works (hence, slipping through blog cracks, no doubt). This is reflective of the same clique confusion that has haunted him his entire career. Is he a hood star or suburban sneaker spokesperson? Is he a local hero or an international jet-setter? Is he going to make songs with Gucci Mane or Lady Gaga? He almost never rationalizes the two sides, it's always one direction or the other. ndecision surrounding these questions is a big part of the reason his debut album, well, sucked. And it's hard to say how much of this is a product of Wale's own personal confusion and how much a push and pull from the powers that be. "Chillin" is more likely to get Interscope some much needed 360 revenue from car commercials than "No Hands" would be.

But identity crisis aside, Wale seems to be thriving in the company of these goons. His greatest skill has always been his presence more than writing or ideas. He knows ride a beat when he wants to, he works strong cadences and pronounces every word with a perfect clarity. (A product of his environment to be certain – ever try rapping over polyrhythmic timbales?) Stripping his content down to something so basic and forgettable as girls shaking on the floor forces the listener to focus on these strengths. On "No Hands" he borrows Waka's usually sloppy flow but turns it totally rigid and technical. These are hard records and Wale kills both in ways that he hasn't in a minute. He just seems more equipped to be a purely functional shit talking rapper than a brow beating purist or a balladeer or a shoe salesman or a pop star. Too bad Jimmy Iovine will never let him be so unidimensional, so we're instead stuck with just these brief moments of excellence. Unless/until he gets dropped.

Fat Trel's entire tape has been on Datpiff for a couple months and features entirely too much autotune but is otherwise pretty solid. Waka Flocka Flame is your little brother's favorite rapper if your little brother is an aspiring drug dealer. Roscoe Dash is your little brother's favorite rapper if your little brother prefers dancing to slanging.

More Music: "E St. Flow (Chopped & Screwed)"; Fiend f/ Wale – This My Summer

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