If a Hip Hop fan still mispronounces Wale’s name, you have to wonder where they’ve been. After all, the DXnext alum has generated a considerable buzz. From his critically acclaimed mixtapes to his guest verses and recent leaks, it’s hard to avoid him, even with the new flock of talented young wordsmiths in the game. That being said, Wale’s debut album has been highly anticipated. Kicking in the door with Attention: Deficit, he hopes to be “everybody’s problem,” but it’s still to be determined if the “new” spitter is worthy of the hype he’s worked for thus far.
Lyrically, he’s a blend of clever wit and skill while never losing his flow, an important trait that is displayed from the onset. With Pop culture references, humor and wordplay, “Triumph” and “Mama Told Me” serve to set the plate for more substantive material like “90210” where he speaks on bulimia, drug use and other negative aspects of the “Hollywood dream.” Following this, Wale is unafraid to become introspective, analyzing color boundaries on “Shades” with lines like “I never fit in with the light skins / I figured that the lighter they was, the better that they life is.” The song proves to be the most personal with more quotable lines. “Man, I hate black / Skin tone, I wish I could take it back / But rearrange my status, maybe if I was khaki / Associating light-skinned with classy / The minstrel show showed a me that was not me.” Later, he uses a haunting instrumental to peak into the “diary of a black girl” on “Diary,” offering more depth to the overall quality of the album.
Guests are aplenty on the album. Bun B shares the mic over Mark Ronson’s smooth instrumentation on “Mirrors” and Gucci Mane and Weensey add an unexpected flavor to “Pretty Girls.” Nothing short of brilliant is the assistance of Melanie Fiona, Chrisette Michele and Marsha Ambrosius on a few hooks. Lady Gaga lends a Pop-friendly hand to the lead single “Chillin’,” K'Naan sings and raps on Dave Sitek’s “TV In the Radio” and newcomer J. Cole goes bar for bar on “Beautiful Bliss,” a cut co-produced by Mark Ronson and DJ Green Lantern.
With all the intelligent decisions made, some flaws still appear. For instance, The Neptunes-produced “Let It Loose” loses replay value and seems out of place in the sequencing. Producers Cool & Dre, The Best Kept Secret and others do a commendable job but the beats seem scattered without cohesion at times. In addition, the praiseworthy guests wind up leaving Wale in a feature-heavy project, something that generally doesn’t go over well on debuts. Here, we don’t truly get much of who Wale really is. Furthermore, while it’s true that almost all of the cuts on the album are solid efforts, few tracks truly shine in an outstanding manner, making this album lose some of its shine.
Overall, Attention: Deficit shows that Wale isn’t all about the hype. In fact, it continues to demonstrate the talent that was heard on his various mix tape releases. Nevertheless, it lacks the luster, personal touches and engaging qualities that often make debut albums memorable. “I’m just expecting the spectator’s respect,” he says early on in this album. Well after this official debut album, Wale has that and the game’s attention, without the deficit. Perhaps people will now get his name right.