Album Preview: Wale – ‘Attention Deficit’

There are a few lessons to be learned after hearing D.C. rapper Wale’s Allido/Interscope Records debut, Attention Deficit: look within before judging others, living to achieve celebrity has its risks, and, most importantly, his name is pronounced Wah-lay. Besides driving home the point that one’s moniker is to be respected, the 24-year-old provides a wealth of teachable moments on his first release.

Gathered amongst a crew of select media and music industry executives in New York City’s Chung King Studios, producer Mark Ronson debuted 11 tracks set to appear on Attention Deficit. Besides Lady Gaga on the lead single “Chillin’,” guest appearances from Bun B, Gucci Mane, J. Cole, Dap-Kings, K’naan, Jazmine Sullivan, Travis Barker, Marsha Ambrosius, and Melanie Fiona pepper the album, releasing October 20.

“He wanted to tell the story of everything he’s experienced in his 24 years,” Ronson explained before premiering Wale’s tracks. “I think the music speaks for itself.” Attention Deficit did exactly the opposite of what its title suggested, grabbing a hold of the aural senses. Check out Rap-Up.com’s exclusive track-by-track preview.

1. “Triumph”
Produced by Dave Sitek

On Dave’s first foray into hip-hop production, he crafts a jazzy tune, replete with big horns, to support Wale’s lyrical celebrity hotbed. The rapper shouts out Hollywood staples like Lily Allen, Slumdog Millionaire, and, most importantly, a man that taught him to do for himself—Kanye West: “I asked Mr. West for some help/ But I realized us new ni**as gotta do for ourselves.”

2. “Pretty Girls” featuring Gucci Mane
Produced by Best Kept Secret

The title pretty much sums up the type of woman Wale has his eye on. A tune that blatantly speaks to his female fan base, this is the only record on the album that features the signature go-go sound. A sample from the 1970s track “Girls” by The Moments & The Whatnauts, Gucci Mane’s Southern flavor, and incessant hand-clapping on the chorus (reminding Ugly Bettys to “be quiet”) are key standouts.

3. “Mirrors” featuring Bun B
Produced by Mark Ronson

Both Wale and Bun B spar with the ominous tune—a mix of gothic guitars, soulful crooning from Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald, and heavy drums—to contend for the title of “who’s real.” The D.C. native lyrically jabs at his doubtful opponents on the chorus, rhyming, “Mirror, mirror on the wall/ Who’s the realest of them all/ Is it right, is it wrong/ They ain’t hard, swear to God/ These ni**as ain’t real at all,” while Bun plays no games, “… I’m gon’ keep it G/ If you can’t look up at yourself, how you gon’ look at me.”

4. “Contemplate” featuring Rihanna
Produced by Syience

The first question that comes to mind upon listening to this dark, thought-provoking record: is that Rihanna on the chorus? Producer Syience sampled the pop chanteuse’s voice from her Good Girl Gone Bad album cut “Question Existing.” She sings (with some added tweaks) over a grandiose rhythm, shedding light on inner turmoil with lines such as “Who am I living for?” while the rapper questions his place on the hip-hop radar, spitting quick brain buzzers like, “Am I doing this for them or me?” and “Play this shit while you contemplate.”

5. “90210”
Produced by Mark Ronson

“The Perez Hilton angle,” according to Ronson, don’t expect to find silicone and Botox applauded anywhere over the Mario Bros.-sounding beat. Beginning with a sea of electronic pulses that scream “high on life,” Wale raps about the stereotypical L.A. girl hoping to achieve celebrity by any means necessary. One verse through, and the chorus sticks: “She throws up whatever she eats/ She leaves the bathroom with a nose bleed/ Regular girl, celebrity dreams/ She’s 90210.”

6. “World Tour” featuring Jazmine Sullivan
Produced by Cool & Dre

When Jazmine Sullivan’s name is read, one hopes to hear the R&B singer bang out a stellar chorus to support Wale’s stories of leaving his D.C. ghetto behind. But high hopes are extinguished once all Sullivan belts out are a few short “oohh oohhs.” The cherry on this hip-hop sundae is the triumphant beat, which opens with a piano solo and immediately hits a heavy drum and bass pattern, and Wale’s no-holds-barred chorus, where he rhymes, “We on a world tour, Wale ya man/ Hustling each and every ghetto with a mic in my hand/ New York, VA, D.C., get paid.”

7. “TV in the Radio” featuring K’naan
Produced by Dave Sitek

Wale puts forth a braggadocio vibe over a rocking beat featuring a hint of an electric guitar and classic horns. The rapper wants to punctuate the fact that, like Lil Wayne, motherfucker, he’s ill. Lines like, “Everybody’s on me like the ‘A Milli’ beat,” show and prove his point. Supporter K’naan overshadowed his hip-hop friend, delivering a frenzied verse, replete with pompous attitude: “If we wasn’t so original, we’d be criminal.”

8. “Diary” featuring Marsha Ambrosius
Produced by The Sleepwalkers

This one has “soundtrack to a hip-hop fairytale” written all over it. The beat twists and cascades underneath Marsha Ambrosius’ troubled lyrics, which feature sentiments of a girl having a hard time holding her own. Wale opens the pages of his hip-hop diary to help soothe her soul: “Wife, you deserve the label/ But you’ve been hurt before so you don’t think you’re able.”

9. “Beautiful Bliss” featuring Melanie Fiona & J. Cole
Produced by DJ Green Lantern & Mark Ronson

Remember the Folgers coffee slogan? Well, the best part of waking up will be playing this record. Begin the day with this uptempo slice of soulful delight, brought in part by Melanie Fiona, who gleefully belts out, “It’s a beautiful day,” at its opening. A big beat backed by horns and a rampant piano, listeners are directed by Wale to focus on the prize at the end of each day. The pièce de résistance is rap newcomer J. Cole, who, expectedly, name checks the man filling up his bank account, rhyming, “I’m in a class of my own, at dinner with Hov/ Hoping he’ll pass the baton/ All he pass is the Patrón.”

10. “O.G.”
Produced by Sean C & LV

Who better to thwack the drums and make a record sound right than Travis Barker? The Blink-182 dude showcased his skills on the track in an opening drum solo, quickly supported by a horn section played by funk soul band the Dap-Kings. The unique rhythm created by the two powerhouses creates a hip-hop jazz bed for Wale’s vocals, as he raps about the life of an O.G.

11. “Prescription”
Produced by Best Kept Secret

Announced as the album’s closing track, any other place for it wouldn’t have worked. Its name is synonymous with the entire effort’s title, summing up the 10 tracks prior as the sonic pill to heal listeners’ auditory ailments. While Wale writes out the doctor’s orders (“Language, I provide like a Percocet”), flutes, bongos, and a tinkling of piano keys are celebrated on this jazz-inspired beat. A welcomed surprise (and personal favorite) at the record’s finale came in the form of the D.C. native’s spoken word talents, where he expressed a certainly debatable statement in an unorthodox manner: “I am hip-hop, past, present, and future.”

-Georgette Cline