“They gon’ love you a little different when you at the top,” Wale prudently asserts on “LoveHate Thing”. True dat. The lyric plays cleverly within his third album, The Gifted, as well as wisely within real life. Perhaps it’s Wale’s ‘trill’ approach to his rhymes that establishes him as one of the present day’s most gifted rappers. Flowing with utmost agility and moxie, he never settles for meaningless lyrics. Wale always conveys an artistic, intellectualist mindset that is equally accessible. The Gifted is incredibly consistent and exemplarily executed like previous albums, never compromising quality.
Wale works best with lush, soulful production work. A consistent trend throughout the album, opener “The Curse of the Gifted” matches Wale with his ideal backdrop. Eliminating the ‘suckers’ filled with hate and envy, Wale keeps “...that circle small and never let no squares in there…” On the catchy, summative hook, Wale accepts the truism that ‘haters gonna hate’, but asserts they will respect his “hustle”. “LoveHate Thing” proceeds in similar vein. Wale described the song via tweet as “...passive aggressive hate from those closest to u.” Anchored down by a Marvin Gaye sample, Wale delivers sharp one-liners eschewing detractors including “...my affinity grows, as the city gets cold / as you reaching your goals, you gon’ meet you some foes.” Two tracks in, Wale is on autopilot.
On the consistent “Sunshine”, Wale places “the spotlight on my fans”, thanking them for their support of his music. Optimistic about the future, Wale adapts a ‘best is yet to come’ attitude. While Wale may not have reached his ‘best’ yet, “Heaven’s Afternoon” is pretty great, where his Maybach Music Group compadre Meek Mill drops a verse. ‘Milly’ bites, but Wale holds things down: “We ain’t supposed to never have nothing… see the grown in my rhymes / see my focus on them.” “Golden Salvation” finds the MC brilliantly playing on words, specifically the ubiquitous Jesus piece: “Jesus piece, Jesus piece, Jesus piece / but don’t nobody want know Jesus peace….” The supporting music serves as a ‘tone poem’, evoking a churchy, gospel-sensible timbre to accentuate Wale’s ode.
From Jesus pieces, Wale moves to “Vanity”, with the help of a Tears For Fears’ “Mad World”. “Gullible” is an accusatory tour de force where Wale asserts “TV killed the radio / and then the internet slit the television throat.” Ouch! Cee-Lo Green brilliantly complements Wale on a soulful hook. “Bricks” discusses the topic of dealing drugs. Similar in sound to “Ambition” (from 2011 effort Ambition), “Bricks” messaging is masterfully foreshadowed by Wale’s intro: “Turn a brick to a stone but you think we don’t have a soul / as a kid need to grow, the powder’s weight in gold.” The notion of an easy ‘come up’ is criticized by Wale and Lyfe Jennings, who asserts “Mama told me if I made my bed then I gotta lay down…”
Wale switches things up, thinking with ‘the love below’ on “Clappers”. Here, ‘Mr. intellectual’ refrains from socioeconomic matters enthusiastically proclaiming “Shawty got a big ol’ butt!” He matches his contrast with less thoughtful company on this club banger with Juicy J (“Make that ass clap, I don’t care about cellulite”) and Nicki Minaj (“Shout out to that cellulite”). Things are deeper on “Bad”, featured in both remix and original forms with Rihanna and Tiara Thomas guesting respectively. Essentially, the female role within the song can provide physical pleasure, but not the emotional facets of a committed relationship. Love continues to dominate Wale’s mind on the romantic “Tired of Dreaming”, featuring Ne-Yo and Rick Ross. Rick Ross definitely surprises, referring to his lover’s beauty as “blinding”.
Love somehow transforms into blunts on “Rotation”, featuring 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa. Unsurprisingly, the ever-predictable Wiz Khalifa is “hella faded”. “Simple Man” is more intelligible, with Wale confirming he’s just a normal dude. A normal dude with money of course, who definitely loves Jordan sneakers, referencing multiple pairs on “88”. “Black Heroes” is a solid penultimate cut, while the “Bad” (Tiara Thomas) closes exceptionally.
All in all, Wale truly is ‘gifted’. Three albums in, Wale continues to impress with this prodigious rhymes and the ability assemble an album that is both consistent, intellectually stimulating, and enjoyable. Hey, he even makes a booty anthem like “Clapper” sound more refined than it really should be, regardless whether his partners in crime raunch it up. With no big time faux pas to be found,The Gifted is an extraordinary ‘gift’ to any hip-hop collection.
// Notes from the Road
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