For a relative newcomer in mainstream Hip Hop, Wale [click to read] is widely revered as maker of some of the genre's most exciting mixtapes. From his 2007 100 Miles & Running to 2008's Mixtape About Nothing [click to listen] (both mixed by Nick Catchdubs), Wale has bettered his peers with both dynamic beats and consistent topics. This Friday marks Back To The Feature, the third in the yearly efforts, this time with the bulk of beats supplied by Grammy Award-winning North Carolina-based producer 9th Wonder [click to read].
Despite its name and cover art, yesterday Wale was quick to wave off the tape as any connection to Steven Spielberg's 1985 blockbuster. "It has nothing to do [with the film]," he told HipHopDX. "A Mixtape About Nothing was designed to be a [dedication to Seinfeld]; this is just collaborative Hip Hop. This is just rappers rapping together. [Laughs] It's not even designed to be critically-acclaimed, like I [expected] with A Mixtape About Nothing." Wale said the purpose is simple, "It's just for your listening pleasure. That's all I want it to be - nothing more, nothing less."
The Friday release features Jean Grae, K'naan, Royce Da 5'9", Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, Black Thought, Peedi Crakk, Bun B, among an extensive list of others.
Each appearance has a role. Jean Grae's feature, a song called "Goodbye," imagines a break-up between the two Rap artists. "It's one them songs, man. You go through things in your life...I'm painting the picture of me breakin' up, and she's [explaining] 'This is why we gotta break-up.'"
With the album's theme, Wale believes that collaboration drives the market today. "I think people have let features and cosigns run Hip Hop." Still, he doesn't feel as fondly about cosigns as he does traditional collaboration. "Anybody who knows me and knows the newer [group of] rappers knows that I don't have that major cosign. I haven't been fortunate enough to go on tour with anybody and things of that nature. All those dudes, I support [and appreciate] what they're doing, but my thing is different." Even as an artist signed to super-producer Mark Ronson's Alido Records, Wale admits that such assistance doesn't impress the typical Hip Hop listener, "Mark Ronson is something different. It's not like people are checkin' for me 'cause of Mark; I didn't get Mark's fan-base. Hip Hop is too heavy on co-signs. It's too much! Certain co-signs can just jump-start a career, and I don't think it should be like that. I think it should be more about the music."
Although the guest artist fuels the theme of Back To The Feature, don't expect to see this translate into the personnel for Attention: Deficit, the DMV rapper's debut album. "On my album, I only have Bun B and K'Naan on there. I just kept that [list] real short with the features, as far as the rappers go. I don't count somebody singin' as a feature, 'cause I can't sing," Wale told DX. The album is due in the third quarter of 2009, on Alido/Interscope.
Known for working with an assortment of sounds and producers, Wale also told DX about the significance of him now working with the Murs, Jay-Z and Erykah Badu producer. "I just wanted to have the traditional 9th Wonder sound, to kind of show my diversity. 9th is someone that I definitely think is one of the greats. I wanted to show people how I could rock on [some] of his [beats]. At the same time, I'm giving a little bit of light to newer producers I'm workin' with." Back To The Feature also includes beats by BKS, Mikey Mike and Mark Ronson. "9th Wonder is the meat and potatoes of the mixtape, the focal point. I got 11 9th Wonder songs on there; I got 12 from [others]."
Wale further explained where Back To The Feature fits in his mixtape catalog, which also boasts early work, Paint A Picture and Hate Is The New Love, "My manager (Daniel Weisman) wrote me a whole write-up of the mixtape, and he basically said this mixtape is just like 100 Miles & Running, but with features. He [said] that A Mixtape About Nothing was too intense, too powerful, too aggressively intense. This one is laid back Hip Hop [where you can] roll a J or whatever you want to do. Sit back, relax and listen to it. And I hope you like it."
Wale's Twitter is @Wale and more information about downloading Friday's mixtape can be found at WaleMusic.com.