The Breaks goes back to 2009 for a look at Wale‘s debut, then puts out about Yung Gleesh‘s birthday celebration/early Thanksgiving meal/concert.

Why Wale’s Attention: Deficit Wasn’t a Failure

Five years ago last week, Wale released his debut album, Attention: Deficit, on Interscope Records. Five years ago this week, the disappointing first week sales numbers returned, and the album had moved a mere 28,000 units. The D.C. rapper has been defensive about this, as Attention: Deficit’s performance made him the Internet’s whipping boy, even when he finally attained commercial success. He definitely fanned the flames in certain situations, but I’m still part of a minority who believes much of the album’s criticism was unwarranted.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: “Chillin” was a mistake from the jump. Interscope heads likely figured they’d match Wale with their then-rising Queen of Weird, Lady Gaga, to create a bankable radio record, something that wasn’t Wale’s forte (imagine that). The end result was a forced combination that had his dedicated fans and everyone who loved the previous year’s Mixtape About Nothing in total confusion. Still, “Chillin,” the uninspired “World Tour,” and the bland “Contemplate” (actual Rihanna > Rihanna sample) are the only weak songs on Attention: Deficit.

There’s a smooth charm to “Mama Told Me,” and the heavy guitars that helped earn Mark Ronson a Grammy for Producer of the Year in 2008 add a spark to “Mirrors.” On the latter, Wale matches his wit with Texas rapper Bun B’s wisdom. “Pretty Girls,” produced by Best Kept Secret, still gets played in clubs thanks to its unshakable go-go swing. It’s difficult to listen to the cautionary tale “90210” without getting the sneaking suspicion that Lindsay Lohan (who was dating Ronson’s sister, Samantha, at the time) was an indirect inspiration. There’s an unmistakable radiance to “Beautiful Bliss,” where North Carolina rapper J. Cole steals the show with a ravenous hunger.

Attention: Deficit’s brightest gems are “Shades” and “Diary.” On the former, Wale reveals that insecurity made him cruel to girls in his younger days in a confused attempt at revenge. “I felt the lighter they was, the better that they life is/So I resented them and they resented me, cheated on light-skinned Dominique when we was 17/I figured I’d hurt her, she evidently hurt me,” he concedes, confessing the miseducation of Wale Folarin.

“Diary” is an open letter to women who refuse to shake the pain of failed relationships. “Every problem that you ever had with another man I gotta face/Started off on thin ice, I’m still here but I can’t skate,” he rhymes. He uses his talent for poetry on the song’s final verse, and though the mention of spoken-word poetry often makes folks’ inner critics roll their eyes, his words are affecting:

And every day that goes by is a couple more lines in her diary
The day before is better than the present
So anyone presented in her presence deserves these life…sentences
No key for release
No reason to be around
Her mind in the clouds
She writes it all down, in her diary

Attention: Deficit may feel all over the place, but considering the album’s title, that makes sense. More importantly, that’s who Wale was as an artist at that time. But the biggest reason that his debut wasn’t a failure is that it made the industry direct its attention to the DMV. Part of the reason that artists like Logic, GoldLink, Fat Trel, and Shy Glizzy have received national cred is because Wale kicked the door open.

As for what he’s up to these days, he’s capped a good week off with the release of the video for “The Followers.”

YouTube video


Yung Gleesh’s Birthday Celebration

Tomorrow, the local hip-hop scene’s biggest character is celebrating Thanksgiving a little early, as well as his birthday. A meal prepared by New York City’s Hood Chef (there’s a full menu) will be followed by a concert featuring Gleesh, Black Kray, Shaboozey, Mike of Doom, Milf, Retz, and more. Mista Selecta and frequent Gleesh collaborator TrapMoneyBenny will handle DJ duties. It all starts at 7 p.m. at the Clubhouse DC. Head here for tickets and more information.