It’s been a week since Ambition dropped, which I think is enough time to give an album it’s fair-share of spins and proper evaluation. As a Wale fan for a few years now, it was especially for me to do so to remove any possible bias.
Ambition is just that: Ambitious. Wale tries to take on a lot. Some have made the hyperbolic claim that this is a new or different Wale. It’s really not, and that’s important to remember. He raps the same, and anyone who tells you different isn’t listening closely enough. The flow is on point as always.
Especially the first four joints are vintage Wale. Don’t Hold Your Applause, in fact, the album’s intro features a bit of the Pretty Girls beat, and Miami Nights is essentially the same song Wale’s Board of Administration member Black Cobain made a few months back. (That he “jacked” the song doesn’t really matter to me. It’s a good beat and they both rapped well over it. Whatever.) Niggas be rappin’, you know.
Lotus Flower Bomb is a great single and Chain Music is another DC jawn, perfect for Folarin.
On Ambition, the bars are consistent, no doubt, but I’m not sure the sound is. With 11 producers for 15 songs, the production is scattered, to say the least. By contrast, Attention Deficit had seven producers for 14 songs. As a result, Ambition’s strong start is followed by a rocky middle. Six consecutive songs, six different producers, six different features. That just ain’t supposed to happen. There’s no way you’re going to get a steady sound, and that’s the case here.
It starts with a synth-heavy, auto-tune track which features Cudi; then a slick guitar-led jam (which I love and is going to sound great live when he performs with Tre and a live band); then a loopy joint with Ne-Yo that they should have kept; then a dub-step, Diplo produced joint that could very well get some plays in a club but is greatly misplaced in the context of this album; followed by a dark, key-driven MMG joint (which features one of Meek’s best verses to-date); concluding with an ode to the “illest bitch alive” over some spacey keys.
Some of those songs I really like — Sabotage and Ambition, especially — others are decent and two — Slight Work and White Linen — are wack.
He ends strong on the last three tracks with No Days Off (a knockin’ DJ Toomp track — the second of the album — that could have went to Jeezy, but is done much justice by Wale), DC Or Nothing and That Way, which was featured on the MMG compilation album over the summer but had to be included as it’s Wale’s song and a top-10 record on the Billboard’s Rap, and R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
Clearly, on the second time around Wale is trying to reach more people and actually sell some records this time. It’s worked.
Conceptually this is really scaled back. I understand why he did it. Shades, 90210, Diary, Contemplate are some heavy tracks. Hit records, no, but certainly songs with depth, meaning and purpose. We don’t get any of that on Ambition. Instead, there’s this: “I aspire for awesome, that require some flossin’, only way they gon’ listen, find that highly unfortunate,” he says on Legendary. I’m not mad at it. Some are hard-headed — or persistent — and refuse to adjust their music to reach more of the masses. Wale did the opposite. Cats gotta eat, and the goal is to have your music played, right?
Ambition is a different work, with a different, broader target audience in comparison to it’s predecessor Attention Deficit (that title, looking back on it now, is incredibly ironic). Attention was dense, and this is a much easier listen for the casual hip-hop fan, looking for a few cuts to put on their iPod. Where Attention Deficit may have went over people’s heads, or simply just missed with those looking for catchy, hit radio records, Ambition is dumbed down, in a sense. The former is a better body of work, though.
Wale’s sophomore album is no slump, but, it is shaky; there are some really strong sections and some very good individual songs, but the body of work as a whole is not without some skips.