Striving to merge blatant commercial interests with the art of complex lyricism, Wale has refused to accept strict definition and restrictions as an emcee. Since becoming a key element of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group regime, he has molded himself to receive regular radio spins while meeting the challenges of pleasing entitled day one fans hesitant towards his newer direction. Gearing up for 2013, Folarin seeks to bring Wale’s name back to the forefront after what has been a quiet year for the lead pride of DMV Rap.
In Wale’s quest to bridge the gap between progressive Hip Hop and the lowest common denominator, his ongoing identity crisis risks confusing the large audience he caters to. With Folarin aiming to be all things to all people, its primary drawback is the inconsistency that accompanies this sort of branding. Far from innovative, “GetMeDoe” finds Wale reliant on the trends of a simplistic 2 Chainz guest spot and production imitating Lex Luger’s faded shine, a sure letdown to followers with greater expectations. In a similar vein, “Back 2 Ballin” insults the intelligence of his core as an uncomfortable fit given French Montana’s dim witted drug peddling references and “Bad” suffers as a sappy ballad courting untamed women.
Though disappointing in some regards, Folarin manages to win with intense wordplay during its more inspired moments. Paying homage to his DC Gogo roots, “Change Up” allows Wale to channel his most acclaimed beast mode as does the percussion heavy “Ji-Dope” and the high energy of “Street Runner.” Never neglecting his penchant for soul samples, he enlists boom-bap vet Jake One for the Scarface assisted “Limitless,” and his ambitious nature births impressive love records with established songstress Chrisette Michelle on “Money Changes” and “Cool Off” featuring rising R&B newcomer Jhene Aiko.
Folarin has Wale divided amongst two extremes, obligated to play both sides of the field and mindful of the wide crowd he serves with shameless versatility. Nearly a standard for free mixtapes, this release is weakened by filler that compromises maximum potential, but ultimately it is flexibility that will likely continue fueling his well-rounded career.
DX Consensus: “EP-worthy”