ALBUM REVIEW: The Album About Nothing-Wale

Wale released his fourth album, The Album About Nothing, on March 31, which you KNOW I copped (three physical copies with the different covers plus the digital version from iTunes...no games here). I contemplated long and hard whether or not I was going to review this album. As a huge supporter of his, I knew that this album was going to be different, and I partly just wanted to enjoy him telling his story. As an entertainment blogger, I felt obligated to share my thoughts on the album. I decided to sit with the album this week, and THEN review (I mean, as J. Cole said, "1 listen reviews are fxcking up hip hop."). For lyricists like Cole and Wale, you need to really study their work to truly understand, so I did.

Using a Seinfeld theme, as used in previous mixtapes The Mixtape About Nothing and More About Nothing, Wale incorporates dialogue from the show, as well recorded conversations between him and Jerry Seinfeld himself! The album features production from DJ Dahi, Pro Reese, No Credit, Ayy Dot, and more, as well as vocals from stars like J. Cole, SZA, and Usher. I literally haven't stopped listening since the album's release. Honestly, I was impressed, the most impressed I've ever been by any of his studio albums. The vulnerability and expression is on another level on TAAN, and that is impressing many people, beyond just his fans.

Check out more of my review below!

Olu doesn't hold back at all from the beginning. He goes in on "The Intro About Nothing," explaining the concept of this album. The album goes through a variety of topics, seemingly about nothing, but it's everything at the same time. This project is Wale's self reflection on his personal life and career, with Jerry acting basically as his conscience throughout the album (and seemingly in real life).

On a good portion of the album, Wale opens up on how he feels about where he is in his career. He is getting to the point now where he is beyond irritated from the lack of respect from others for his work and contribution to the hip hop culture. He wants to be allowed to grow, and demands understanding from everyone, including even his fans. "They like, 'You stuck with us, cause you let him fly,' / Swear this life is like a helium balloon, I'm sorry, but I gotta fly," he raps on "The Helium Balloon." He refuses to be held back by anyone from growing in his career, making the music he wants to make, regardless of who may accuse him of selling out since signing to Maybach Music Group. This is in direct response to those fans who say they miss "the old Wale," when, in all actuality, Wale's lyrical content hasn't died one bit. Regardless of what people feel, the rapper knows that he has done pretty well, opening up on his accomplishments on "The Success," and telling haters "fxck you, leave me alone" on "The Middle Finger." He admits on the track too, that he was suffering from depression and taking drugs just to stay awake and work.  He also admits on "The Glass Egg" that it's hard to balance his stardom with the material things along with friends and women. It's hard to know who to trust, especially with people constantly hounding him for opportunities. These songs help to explain why Wale has snapped as much as he has.

Wale's incredible story telling and metaphors shine on the album as well. "The Girls on Drugs" is a prime example. First appearing on Wale's Festivus mixtape late last year, the track made the album, after some serious work for sample clearance of Janet Jackson's song "Go Deep." A continuation of "90210" from Attention Deficit, Wale tells a vivid story of women using drugs to mask pain, insecurities and other issues, specifically within the industry. However, this is a true life story that exists with every day people, as well. "The White Shoes" is another song that connects the shoe culture with vanity in today's society, but serves also as an inspirational track for listeners. In spite of others who may judge, he lets them know that everything will be all right, using the "white shoes" as a symbol of happiness and confidence in oneself.

"The God Smile" is probably my favorite track on the album. It's Wale's proclaimed "Moonz Anthem," where he lays out his plan to continue shining for his home area, the DMV, but also plans to bring others together to make an even bigger impact than if they were to all shine individually. The rapper plans to continue to "illuminate" in the midst of darkness, as does a moon, and he knows that his core fans will be there, no matter what ventures he goes into.

Another stand out track on TAAN is "The Pessimist," featuring J. Cole on the hook, where Wale speaks candidly on black culture, and how, looking around, it admittedly has him feeling hopeless about where we're headed sometimes. We hear his views on issues in the black community, from police killings of innocent blacks, to black on black crime, to situations leading to incarceration and even blacks' mostly negative representation on reality TV. It's one of those tracks that can be a great conversation starter, as well as a catalyst to actual change if people truly pay attention.

Another great track on the album to listen to is is "The Need To Know" featuring SZA. The sultry song, which samples Musiq Soulchild's "Just Friends" on the hook, speaks on a secret friends with benefits situation with Wale and a friend. Everything between them is on a need to know basis, meaning no one needs to know and they can go on about their business. The track is just HELLA SEXY, and, though I personally wouldn't be able to handle this I don't think, it's definitely one of my favorites. I hope he makes a video!

Wale has another sexy track, "The One Time In Houston," a cautionary stripper tale for all those who get caught up in thinking that these girls really love yall, when, in all actuality, they love that loot! The rapper has other tracks specifically for the ladies including single and bonus track "The Body," featuring Jeremih, and the third rendition of "The Ambitious Girl," titled "The Bloom (AG3)," which is a Motown-feel, uplifting song for all the real ambitious girls out there. He compares us (yes, I'm including myself...the song is beautiful!) to flowers on the verge of blooming. We will face our struggles, of course, but Wale encourages us, knowing that we will succeed. Wale also shares his views on marriage on "The Matrimony," admitting that his love life took a back seat to his career, but he does want marriage and a family (honestly, he thought he would have it by now). Featuring vocals from Usher, the song serves as a retrospect for Wale in terms of that lack of balance, and how it had a negative effect on his former relationship. He opens up quickly about some real situations in life, like his breakup with Solange Knowles and a miscarriage with the ex that he mentions before in the Intro, which I'm sure was extremely hard for him to do.

Though the Seinfeld theme is nothing new for Wale, TAAN is the album that I most connect with, and the only album since Attention Deficit that I loved listening to straight through from the beginning (to be honest, there are a few tracks on Ambition and The Gifted that I had to personally warm up to). With TAAN, I play this straight through, or on shuffle, depending on how I feel, and I have some tracks on constant repeat. The album is that smooth. There is no "Clappers" on this album. You won't hear another "No Hands." Just straight story telling with Wale's lyrical content and impeccable wordplay. He's way more vulnerable on this album than others, which makes him really relatable as a person. I think now, and this is just my opinion, that he's getting older and he's thinking more and more about what he wants out of life in general. This album truly reflects his thoughts and feelings, and, as a fan, I loved that he opened up this way. As a music lover, I admire and respect him for letting listeners in on a deeper level. There is no doubt in my mind. On TAAN, he definitely illuminates.

RATING: ★★★★★ (Five stars)

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