Ever since he opened for Pete Rock’s record release show at the Highline Ballroom in February, hip-hop artist Wale has been on his grind doing things like releasing free mixtapes for download, working on his debut album, and keeping up with the buzz that’s been surrounding him.
Born to Nigerian immigrants, Olubowale Folarin aka Wale (pronounced Wah-Lay), is a 23-year-old phenom that conquered the D.C., Virginia, and Maryland radio scene in 2006 with a myriad of original hits and mix show spins that got heavy rotation in the Mid Atlantic. In 2007, the D.C. native hit the European music festival scene, touring with world famous DJ and producer Mark Ronson. Ronson, who’s been responsible for the success of artists like Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen signed Wale to his label Allido, an imprint of Interscope. Today Wale’s music has gotten over 2 million plays on MySpace and his third and most widely distributed mixtape 100 MILES AND RUNNING has been downloaded over 30,000 times since July.
Wale is not your average hip-hop act. His style is an eclectic mix of dazzling wordplay, D.C. Go-Go, and indie rock. When you take all of that and add electrifying on-stage energy, he’s a musical force to be reckoned with. The best way to describe his lyrical talent is to mix of the wordplay of Jay-Z, the conscientiousness of Black Thought and trend setting garment references of Kanye West. But don’t get it confused; Wale is definitely in a category all on his own with lyrics like “I’m a breath of fresh air, never compared to the label made weird. I don’t sell crack and I don’t shoot cops, I just speak from the heart this is true hip-hop” off his 100 MILES and RUNNING mixtape song “Rediscover Me”. His uniqueness is also displayed on songs like “WALEDANCE” that smatter a Mark Ronson-ified UK club-music influence. Wale could very well be the future of the hip-hop genre along with bringing the D.C. Go-Go sound to the forefront.
Tuesday night, the D.C. native returned to the Highline Ballroom, but this time as the headlining act along with openers Colin Munroe and GOOD Music’s latest signee and Kanye’s new wonderboy, Kid Cudi. Wale got the crowd amped when he jumped into “Breakdown” in the early stages of his set. He smoothed it out when he performed a few songs with more of an R&B twist like “The Grown Up” and bringing out Tawiah for his interpretation of “All I Need”. Wale kept momentum going; he moved the crowd with the heavy feature song “Nike Boots” and a version of “WALEDANCE” that included a Kurt Cobain Nirvana twist, which was bold to do at show with a hip-hop leaning audience but he didn’t lose the crowd for a second.
Stevie Laroy, a native of the Bronx said after the lights went up, “There’s a lot of potential, I see hip-hop going into a new direction. Wale was great and the performance was original. A lot of people don’t know about Go-Go music.”
For an underground hip-hop show, Wale’s performance was full of surprises. Backed by legendary go-go band UCB, renditions of Junkyard Band’s “Sardines,” EU’s “Da Butt,” and their very own “Sexy Lady” got the crowd moving. Then, Chrisette Michelle came out for a snippet to sing the hook to “Rising Up”, a song Wale collaborated with The Roots. Rocafella’s Freeway and Young Chris were brought in to help move the more mainstream hip-hop listening audience. Ryan Leslie, who’s had radio success in the tri-state area, also made an appearance to lay down some R&B chops. Each feature complimented Wale’s unique style quite nicely, which goes to show his versatility as an artist. The packed house was a solid barometer for his buzz, proving why Wale was selected by XXL magazine as one of the top 10 freshmen of hip hop to watch in 2009.
To find out more info and to listen to Wale’s music, visit his MySpace page by clicking here.
Jim Jones and Kid Cudi
Freeway and Young Chris
Pusha T and Chrisette Michele
Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg
Mark Ronson, Rich Kleinman, DJ Jus Ske and Richie Akiva
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