Wale’s The Mixtape About Nothing was a breath of fresh air when it came out in 2008. Inspired by the Washington-based rapper’s love of Seinfield, most of the songs featured a sample from the show that would set up the song’s subject matter. The beats were heavily-influenced by the go-go sound of the DC area and used live instruments, giving the tape a distinctive sound, pulling it out of the ocean of bland most mixtapes swim in.
His flow was even more impressive. Most rappers rap over the beat, Wale seems to merge with it, his voice becoming another instrument in the mix. Don’t think he’s weak on the lyrics side of things either, he delivered cutting insight into the state of hip-hop, relationships, race relations and more. Lines from it still randomly swirl around my mind almost two years after I first heard them.
It’s a real shame his actual album, Attention Deficit, was nowhere near as good. It definitely wasn’t a bad album but after the promise his mixtapes hinted at it felt like a starter without a main course. His unique sound was largely absent and his music used to have substance, here he really was talking about nothing on some songs. There were a few great songs like “Shades” and “Diary”, while J. Cole drops by to add yet another dope verse to “Beautiful Bliss” but overall it was a huge disappointment.
More About Nothing is exactly what I wanted from Wale. As soon as the first song was over I knew he was back. He addresses the problems with the album early and then moves on. He’s rapping with a purpose again.
Most of the production on More About Nothing‘s predecessor was handled by Best Kept Secret. Wale has branched out for the sequel, which means it’s a little more disjointed but still manages to regain that distinctive sound. The Seinfield samples also return, again you don’t need to be a fan of the show to appreciate them.
The storytelling that was so prominent on TMAN returns on “The Eyes of the Tiger“, which documents Tiger Wood’s fall from grace from the viewpoint of the man himself. “The Friends N Strangers” explains how fame has changed things with his friends back home, then describes a relationship with an ex that didn’t go to plan. He’s got a talent for making listeners understand and relate to his own problems.
On “The Soup” and “The Guilty Pleasure” he spazzes out with furious flows and hard-hitting punchlines. Then he has songs like “The War”, which is about wanting to be with that one girl. It features Daniel Merriweather on the hook and his powerful vocals, along with Wale’s rhymes and the soothing instrumental make it one of the mixtape’s best tracks. He also experiments with some spoken word poetry with “The Ambitious Girl”. After listening to it any guy would want an ambitious girl like that.
Anyone who was let down by Attention Deficit needs to listen to More About Nothing, your faith in Wale will be restored. If you’ve never heard anything by him before then let this be an introduction. You’ll be back to hear more tales of nothing.