This post is a dedication to the D.C., Maryland native Wale. I’ve followed the dude since his first radio single “Dig Dug, Shake It” and his mixtape 100 Miles and Running (I’m aware this wasn’t his first mixtape). Wale’s first album, “Attention Deficit” barely sold 100,000 records. To put it into everyday terms, his album flopped. I know this hurt the dude because I watched his “First 48” vlog documenting that whole process. But the dude hung in there and put out a moving piece of art two years later with Ambition. If you can get past the heavy drums & snares and sift through to his lyrics, you’ll see that Wale is a changed man. A man destined to change hip-hop, uplift his community and sell more than 66,000 records.
In my opinion, the reason Wale’s album flopped was because he wasn’t mainstream enough, he didn’t do enough marketing, he didn’t have the typical rapper’s look, he didn’t sell-out and talk about basic things like money & broads and he didn’t have enough BDS (broadcast data service, i.e., singles that were played on the Illuminati’s radio waves) plays. The result? No one bought his album. But that didn’t mean his album wasn’t good. It just meant a bunch of dumb asses weren’t paying attention, hence Attention Deficit.
But Wale could have given up there. He could have said “forget it” and moved onto something new. He could have sold out, he could have fallen into alcoholism and become addicted to marijuana. He could have given up on his faith in hip-hop and let the corporate owners of the profession get the best of him. He could have sat back and watched people like Kreayshawn and Soldier Boy represent hip-hop, but he didn’t. Wale had this little ambiguous thing called ambition though.
The definition of ambition is: An earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, power or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment. Without Wale’s willingness to strive for something everyone said he couldn’t do, he wouldn’t be in this position of power now. Now Wale gets to call the shots, producers want him to represent their beats (remember when Kanye dissed the dude?) and he can feel good about it because he never sold himself out. He showed the music industry that intelligence, a little bit of swag and passion can get you where you need to in life.
Now that Wale’s Ambition is destined for success, the same people who said his first album was weak because it didn’t sell enough are saying that he sold out in order to get the amount of downloads and purchases Ambition has now. But making your own lane is not about leaving an asphalt path for the masses to follow, it’s about leaving those clues and breadcrumbs behind for the hungry and ambitious to follow. Then they can eventually learn make their own path for others to follow, just as they once did.
Wale’s ambition was to change the culture of hip-hop back to what it used to be: a young, talented and passionate group of lyricists who spoke about the injustices of life, the triumph through all of life’s trials and the code of the streets; To take hip-hop back from the grips of corporate America. If you don’t believe that’s what rap is about, just listen to Wale’s “DC or Nothing” or “No Days Off” off of the Ambition album. Matter of fact, listen to hip-hop before 2000.
Wale has proven that you don’t need to sell your soul to become influential in anything. Many people today have the mentality of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” In this life, we have so many opportunities to practice our ambition, but pressure from those in power makes us afraid of the criticism and character assassinations that occur when we create our own paths. It’s like this life we live in is about being a follower and getting paid millions to do so. But what about your soul? What about your individuality?
When historians look at the past, followers are reserved a place into the How-It-Shouldn’t-Be-Done Hall of Shame (see Chingy).The hall of fame is only reserved for those who created their own path when the whole world put effort into making sure they would fail. The harder you try, the more ambitious your nature and the more you stay faithful to yourself, the harder the world will try to keep you from your dreams. They feel as though if they can’t live their dreams, why should they allow anyone else to? Well, they try, but those who try don’t have ambition because if they did, they would have turned Wale’s album into dust.
As Wale said, making money is easy, but he’s trying to be legendary. Let’s try and change the world in a meaningful way. Hoarding millions of dollars to yourself might make you feel good for the moment, but who really wants to be a Kardashian (I probably shouldn’t have asked that)?