Music

Wale: The Gifted

The Gifted proves to be an extraordinary ‘gift’ to any hip-hop collection.


Wale

The Gifted

Label: MMG / Atlantic
US Release Date: 2013-06-25
UK Release Date: 2013-06-24
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"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.

8

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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