this must be the place....goin strong , yeah baby!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's the deal with these ringtones?

Download it for free on the Fool's Gold blog

On the Seinfeld themed Mixtape About Nothing, mixed by Fool’s Gold labelhead Nick Catchdubs, Washington, D.C.’s Wale drips with self-awareness. Samples from the television show are used throughout the mixtape, but never gratuitously, they set a surprisingly appropriate backdrop for Wale’s rapid-fire non-sequitur vocal style.

The production is handled nearly entirely by another D.C. native, Best Kept Secret. The influence of go-go music is found on most of the tracks, with rattling clavs and auxiliary percussion peppering soul-sample heavy hip-hop. The sources are shamelessly recognizable, from Stevie Wonder to Earth, Wind, and Fire, but the identifiable nature of the samples works well with the Seinfeld theme, creating an accessible backdrop for one of rap’s most quick-witted flows.

Wale’s cadence sounds like a mix of Kanye West and Black Thought, taking some of the best features of each and sounding twice as relevant as either of them. On “The Freestyle” he stretches his muscles over Jay-Z’s “Roc Boys” beat, twisting internal rhymes around an impressive string of double entendres and homonyms.

The most impressive thing about the record is how well the Seinfeld theme complements Wale’s themes of self-awareness. He lampoons the music industry without sounding like a pompous indie-rapper. On “The Perfect Plan”, featuring a sampled Jerry and George on the hook, Wale raps about the state of hip-hop’s fanbase. Instead of taking the normal indie-rapper stance on the decline of hip-hop’s content, Wale gives insightful commentary on necessary artistic adaptations caused by the declining importance of record-release Tuesdays and internet marketing.

“The Kramer” is the album’s most serious point, opening with the infamous sample of Kramer’s 2006 racist outburst in a Hollywood Comedy Club. Analyzing the dichotomy of the words “nigger” and “nigga”, Wale starts from an industry standpoint, then moves to the viewpoint of a white fan, and finally to a black fan confronted with the use of the lyric by his white peers. The verses are notably insightful, with apt comparisons to the use of the word “bitch” and a seldom-voiced commentary on the self deprecating nature of the words. While Wale’s final opinion on the slang is as unclear as his feelings on the Kramer incident (he includes Kramer’s apology on the song’s outro), his flow is poised, careful, and never verges on preaching.

Mark Ronson, who featured Wale on Lily Allen’s “Smile” remix and later signed the rapper to his label Allido Records, produces two tracks on the record with the help of DJ Eli Escobar. Ronson’s stamp is noticeable, “The Remake of the Remake” sounds like it could have been a track on Amy Winehouse’s last album. His collaboration with Eli on “The Chicago Falcons Remix”, also featuring the Budos Band, is the fastest and most dance friendly track, the high-pitched go-go percussion swapped for triplet hand claps and pounding kick drums. Baltimore Club producer Scottie B also lends Wale a beat, but it falls flat next to the album’s more detailed and dynamic tracks and lives up to it’s generic title “The Bmore Club Slam”.

Lyrically Wale never missteps. From thematic references like “I get signed-feld with these rhyme skills” to more typical hip-hop punch-lines, it’s astonishing how on point he sounds, especially next to guests Lil’ Wayne, Bun B, and Pusha T on “The Feature Heavy Song” and “The Cliché Lil’ Wayne Feature (It’s the Remix Baby!)”. Although his first verse on the Lil’ Wayne feature falls flat next to Weezy’s, he ends on a strong note, with the line “everybody knows me like the Contra code for extra men”.

Remarkably focused, Mixtape about Nothing, is a refreshing listen. Wale’s flow is relentless, clever, conscious, and nerdy, without succumbing to the pitfalls of any of these labels. The Seinfeld theme never overwhelms the production style, serving as clever understated thematic guidance. Wale’s love and understanding of the show comesacross as clearly as his vocal delivery. He just may be the best rapper alive without a proper record, even when he decides to rap about nothing.

1 comment:

  1. but does it have the seinfeld bass riffs?