Say what you will about Wale Folarin; he claims that he can take whatever you dish out. In fact the greater Washington DC native is hoping that you do your best to take him down. There appears to be a fire in Wale's belly this year that can’t be calmed and naysayers seem to only increase its intensity.
A little more than four years ago, Wale dropped the critically acclaimed mixtape 100 Miles & Running with Nick Catchdubs. According to a recent conversation with HipHopDX at an Atlanta listening event, he is trying to get people to listen and understand that he’s still that same Wale - just now with an improved label situation and a 600 Mercedes Benz.
In this pinnacle year for Wale, the emcee is getting known not only for his lyrical abilities, but also an arrogant demeanor at times - something Wale's recently justified. Since jumping the Interscope ship and landing in Rozay’s Maybach, Wale is back on his grind to show and prove to the doubtful that he’s well-aware of what he’s doing. His stellar performance on this spring’s Maybach Music Group compilation Self-Made was a taste of what he has in store for his second studio album due in November, entitled, - what else? - Ambition. DX had a moment to catch up with Wale to talk about the LP, his dedication to culture, and lazy listeners.
HipHopDX: How far along are you on Ambition?
Wale: It been done. I just keep chopping the records.
Wale: I’m putting out 10 new songs when I get up to a million follower on Twitter - [songs not from] the album. And I got a lot of freestyles, some classic shit, not playing no more. It’s been too… I feel like I’m one of the best, you know? And I wanna give my fans a reason to brag now like, "Yo, this is what I like Wale the most." A lot of niggas is nice, I’m just tryin' to take it up a notch like, we is working. I’m working vigorously. I’m mentally getting right. Working out, getting physically right. Reading more, I’m back to the old me. The vigor that I had with 100 Miles & Running is like, all over the album, it’s the best music I’ve ever made in my life and I mean that.
DX: You’ve been doing this for a while now. But it seems your city is still pretty much on your shoulders. What kind of pressure you feel coming out of DC nowadays?
Wale: I love it. I love it. I want everybody to watch this time. If you’ve ever heard my name, whatever, everybody, please, you don’t have to do it ever again in my career but watch this time.
DX: Man, Wale, DC natives even say it’s a city full of haters.
Wale: We get nothing but love back home. I just like to play around. It’s just like, on Twitter, everybody is all like, "Why Wale…" I love it, I just like everybody to talk. I’m not stupid. We sold out two shows on New Years Eve in like, 15 minutes.
DX: Why do you think it is that you’re the one rapper out of DC that “made it”?
Wale: God’s work. It’s all God’s work man.
DX: What was the culture like for you out there around the time you started writing?
Wale: There’s a lot of talented guys out of DC man. We work with a lot of ‘em, like Black Cobain and Fatz Da Big Fella, Boobie, Garvey, the OG Big Wax. I got an OG in DC! I grew up listening to him! To me [he] was [like] Jay-Z and all that… So I look at a guy like Big Wax like, "Okay," you know? He’s somebody I felt like could’ve been a Bun [B], or a Styles P, or anybody that’s been around but it’s just... The time wasn’t right you know? So you know that’s why we work with niggas like that. I’ma help Wax put out his project when the album is done. That’s how I feel. DC’s got a lot of talent.
DX: What’s your mindset on Ambition?
Wale: End all, be all. You. I want to have this conversation with everybody who asks me that question. You. A lot of people would kill to be where you at, right? But you would kill seven motherfuckers to get to where you wanna go in your mind. It’s a stepping stone. Young niggas really gotta get on they shit, for real. Whether you in the league, you playing basketball, whether you selling dope, whether you in school… We gotta get on our shit! Our parents ain’t have no m'fuckin' e-mail, m'fuckers had to memorize numbers and… The least we can do is grind!
How many young Lyor Cohens you see? How many young Diddys you see? None! A lot of young niggas is in it right now as if they only wanna be in it temporarily, I want it forever! Fuck the money, fuck the fame, I want niggas to say, "You know what? Wale make that… Psssh… Man… For real. For years. I love this nigga's music." Young niggas don’t aspire to be legendary no more. They don’t. Niggas our age are so consumed in the now. That’s why they follow trends. That’s why they do little akee shit, weirdo shit…know what I’m saying? Young niggas don’t want shit but "now." The temporary riches, like, I want the forever, I want the forever glory. Temporary riches is nothing to forever glory. That’s what we striving for, that’s what Ambition is.
DX: Do you feel like that theme comes from your background?
Wale: I applied it my life. Just sports, girls, whatever like, even dating a woman. If I’m in love, I try to top the last nigga she dated. I try and top my last gesture. I try and top my last physical performance. It’s just my nature. I wanna be great. I just want… I obsess over being great. Not obsess over being famous. If I could write a million songs and never be heard, so be it, but if they’re considered great, I can go to sleep every night like, ‘I’m great.’
DX: Were you raised to think like that?
Wale: Nah… "They" turned me into this monster. "They" did. ‘Cause when I did my first album [Attention : Deficit], "Aiight, cool," know what? Now I want all y’all shit! Now I want all y’all niggas to hear me! ‘Cause y’all thought…y’all not saying I’m one of the best new niggas? I want everybody to motherfucking listen and I want you to compare this record to that record. I want you to compare this flow to that flow. I want you to compare these lines to those lines. Go! I want it all! Listen, everybody fucking listen now. I do this shit for the Hip Hop DXs…in every profession, there’s always somebody in front of you. Always somebody in front of you. I want them. I want that shit. I’m working relentlessly. I’m not stopping. I do this for the culture.
How many niggas is doing this for the culture? The funny thing about it is, how ‘bout lil’ Wale that had “DC Chillin’” two years ago, how ‘bout lil’ Wale is that smart to know that, "Let me rub shoulders with… let me make songs to…" ‘Cause all y’all gon’ listen to is the shit I been trying to do since 100 Miles & Running. My real fans - the real fans - they know my heart. I pray every night, "God please let these people know my heart, please…" ‘Cause I’m not stupid. I know what I’m doing. Trust a nigga. Trust a nigga young. Trust me. Like for real. All y’all gotta do is trust me. I’m aspiring, I’m rapping, Self Made [Volume 1] , let me show y’all niggas I can do whatever.
DX: A lot of people think you shine on that album.
Wale: Trust me, y’all. When you allow yourself to listen to it, that's what you’d say. But when you get caught up in, "Well, why is this backpack nigga rolling with some trap niggas?" Man, I grew up around trap niggas, that ain’t nothing to me, the nigga love Hip Hop music, I love Hip Hop music. That’s the underlying theme, that’s the common denominator.
DX: You’ve known Rick Ross for a while anyway though. He’d been heralding your skills for a minute, so when the idea of MMG came about, was it a given that you’d be on?
Wale: There were a lot of things on the table and I don’t wanna throw nobody under the bus, but a lot of niggas was talking… I could’ve went on Twitter like, "I just left Interscope [Records], what’s up?" I let the industry talk, I let everybody do what they had to do. I had my situation… I was signed to [Maybach Music Group/Warner Brothers Records] before niggas even knew I left Interscope. I had a situation on the table I should say.
DX: What kind of pressure are you feeling even being affliated with Rick Ross?
Wale: I want it! Listen: my first album, all they used to ask me was, "Do you feel pressure being from DC?" I was like, "Well, you know. I’m used to it. I can handle it." I want it now! Because the music is that good, I promise you. For the first time in my life… Imagine a nigga, for his whole life, wanting to paint and only being able to paint with black and red, that’s all he knows and that’s all he can paint with. And imagine you say, "Son, you 26 years old now. I’ma give you infinite colors to paint with…" You know how many pictures gon’ be painted? 26 years worth of painting in infinite colors. That’s how I feel.
I wasn’t doing this stuff for 26 years but I feel like I never got to share my emotions, my passion, my thoughts and my heartwith the world "over there" [at Allido/Interscope Records]. I mean Ross theorietically said, "Here’s your budget money, here’s your label. Make whatever music you want." Where as Interscope was… "You stand with this person, you go there by yourself, you do that, and now you make my album. And hurry up too." This shit is like I got a blank canvas with a million colors. And it’s time to work. There’s people at my label that say, "I’ve never seen a person do this…" I had to go to the doctor, and he told me to stop. He said, "Stop." They gave me medicine like, "Yo…slow down." No. I can’t. I’m too ambitious for that.
DX: Can you name the producers on this LP?
Wale: I don’t want to.
Wale: That’s a…that’s a dated question.
DX: Is it?
Wale: Yeah. Absolutely.
DX: Oh okay. Anyway… You had a tweet earlier this week where you said you may do an “Ambitious Girls 2.”
Wale: Yeah. I got something even bigger than that called “The Illest Bitch Alive.” I got two songs on the album that I can’t listen to, know what I’m saying? Like if you write in your diary about something painful, you probably can’t read it, you gotta skip it. The only thing you can do is reflect on it lightly but… That’s what those two are. I did a show in Mississippi and there was a girl who came up to me after my show, I was leaving, and I don’t really be paying attention, I just be tryin' to get out, but for some reason I stopped and said, "How you doing?" She says, "Wale, I’m a big fan of you and I love your music. You helped me get through a lot of stuff in my life. But you make me feel unincluded with “Ambitious Girl.”" I ain’t sleep that night.
This black culture means so much to me. Both of my parents from Africa, they ain’t know no English, nothing when they came to this country. They grinded. This black culture? This all I know. Me and my brother, in DC and suburban Maryland, we fended for ourselves but we analyzed the whole…but this shit means the world to me. Know what I’m saying, like…some niggas have the opportunity to say way more than they’re saying, that’s not fair. That’s not fair and I love niggas music but you got an opportunity… And then, it’s not even their fault because the environment that they were brought up in, it doesn’t evoke that. It’s all fun. It’s all partying. But it’s niggas going through shit…
It’s niggas that I know, my best friend, been in prison for two years, but he in and out. Every time I try to get him straight … I’m not rich nigga, but I’m tryin' get him straight, he go back in. This is the shit I go through. I ain’t no drug nigga, I ain’t no trap nigga, but these are my friends, this is my environment. This is what I come from. I can’t be at ease knowing that. Just like I can’t be at ease overly stuntin’. I got cousins in Nigeria that don’t have anything, like, that’s my story. So if I get my shit to my level where everybody’s listening, I’m gonna use it. I’m gonna use it the way I deem necessary. I’m not judging off how anybody else is using it. I’m just letting it be known that, I feel you my nigga, if don’t nobody else do… I feel you my nigga. You might not know but I’m a lot like you. I know what it’s like.
I got friends who got parents on [drugs]. I talk about that. If I never do it again, this is gonna be the album right here where I’m gonna you know, dig into… My favorite rapper of all time is Jay-Z. His most intimate album was Volume 1: [In My Lifetime]. Those are the emotions. I’m getting there now but by my next album I may be in a financially better place where I can’t even dig down. All my niggas may be rich, God willin’. It’s gon’ be hard to get that pain. I ain’t rich, I’ll tell you in my verse first. “600 Benz” is aspiring to get the 600 [Mercedes] Benz. “I been grinding / ‘Cause I been saving / For that Benz…” Y’all listening? When did they stop listening? When did they stop? ‘Cause I promise you if I woulda said that on a Statik [Selektah] or a 9th Wonder beat, they’da been like, "Yo… '600 Benz' isn’t about a car. It’s about ambition, it’s about drive." You dummy. You see me in the [WorldStarHipHop.com video] shit with the 600, yeah, I ain’t get it. Ross gave me the 600; but I got one. But that’s not what it’s about, it’s about trying to get one. There were three 600 Benzes at the video shoot, but it’s about grinding to get one. People are so lazy now.