Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Wale - Ambition

Washington born MC Wale has had an interesting year. Removed from the Interscope roster after poor sales of debut Attention Deficit, the rapper was offered a second chance in the form of a place on Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group label. The compilation album of the same name found Wale rhyming with fellow XXL Freshmen alumni Meek Mill and Pill, as well as Ross himself. Though the LP was generally well received, Wale was criticised for seemingly changing his content and flow to fit in with his new label mates. 6 months later, the MC returns with his first MMG solo release: Ambition.

The first notable feature of the tracklist is the lack of MMG support. Meek Mill appears once, while Rick Ross guests twice. In theory, this allows Wale to stretch his wings, affording him an opportunity to experiment. The first four tracks, however, find the rapper stuck in familiar territory. 
Album opener 'Don't Hold Your Applause' finds a laid back Wale taking the MMG trademark boastful approach to his wordplay: "Tired of making money/ I'm more than making history/ Fuck how they feel I keep it realer than a documentary". 'Double M Genius' and 'Miami Nights' take on a similar theme, but it is the sombre 'Legendary' that properly kicks off the album as the MC wearily dissects the price of fame: "Fuck fame/ Fuck money/ Fuck anything anyone can take from me/ It aint hard/ To make money/ We young niggas just tryna' be legendary".

The LP has a prominent R&B streak running through the track list. The best of these are the Miguel assisted 'Lotus Flower' and 'Sabotage', featuring Lloyd. The former is an exercise in smooth seduction, while the latter is a smart examination of destructive relationship behaviours. 'White Linen', with Neyo on the hook, fares less well, the song tipping the balance of the album over to blatant attempts to expand the female fan base. The rapper starts 'Illest Bitch' by proclaiming that "I was going to write you a poem today/ But fuck it, I was feeling myself...". He should have stuck with the poem.

The stronger tracks on the album are where Wale takes himself out of his comfort zone. 'Focused' utilises the left-field  stylings of Kid Cudi to great effect over a synth heavy, spaced out beat. Similarly experimental is the Diplo produced 'Slight Work'. Sirens wail in and out of a looping drum beat as Wale and Big Sean showcase their quick time flows. Title track 'Ambition' is a subdued, poignant collaboration between MMG stalwarts Mill and Ross, the song demonstrating that there is more to the group than money, bitches and cars.

Track by Track:

1."Don't Hold Your Applause" (6/10)   

2."Double M Genius"  (7/10) 

3."Miami Nights"  (6/10) 

4."Legendary"  (7/10) 

5."Lotus Flower Bomb"  (7/10)

6."Chain Music"  (6/10)

7."Focused" (8/10) 

8."Sabotage" (7/10)

9."White Linen (Coolin')" (5/10) 

10."Slight Work" (9/10) 

11."Ambition" (7/10)

12."Illest Bitch"  (5/10) 

13."No Days Off"  (5/10) 

14."DC or Nothing" (6/10)

15."That Way" (6/10)

The Verdict:

When listening to Ambition, it is hard to shake the feeling that Wale is out of his comfort zone on his new label. The album lacks the consciousness, emotion and razor sharp wordplay found in both the mixtapes that brought him to national attention and his debut effort Attention Deficit. Signing with MMG has become both a blessing and a curse.


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