Shelly Bell, Writer
In being 2012′s most ordinary success tale, Wale is the best worst rapper of 2012.
In a year where hip-hop culture was an amalgamation of platitudes and denouements, Wale’s success fit the most typical of rap standards. At no point in the last 12 months did he do any of the following:
- Unlike Jay-Z, he did not re-set the standard for hip-hop culture’s business aspirations.
- Unlike Nicki Minaj, he did not learn the cold realities of maintaining a high artistic standard while being a rising pop superstar at the focal point of a “360″ deal.
- Unlike Kanye West, he didn’t date a woman best known for her body or whose she’s had sex with.
- Unlike Drake, Wale is not getting into physical fights with other artists over relations with beautiful pop stars.
- Unlike Lil Wayne, he isn’t a pop CEO by 30 who drinks lean, and is almost perpetually seen shirtless, wearing skinny jeans and dancing around in videos.
- Unlike 2 Chainz, Wale is not a massively tall emcee with the ability to simplify everything about their style and with a stream of incredibly puerile adlibs, drive a stake through the heart of mainstream popular culture.
- Wale is not Kendrick Lamar. How so? “Lotus Flower Bomb” and “Diced Pineapples” feature the kind of immature poetics that never fail on school buses and at senior proms, plus “Bag of Money” and “Actin’ Up” feature hooks that do no favors for the sanctity of the rights of women, so, while making statements that please part of the population, he does not gain a whole lot of support.
However, in a year where rap bodied the mainstream, Wale did something so incredibly basic yet so incredibly important. He finally put himself, and by extension, his hometown of Washington, DC, on the map. Rap success has always been a case of smoke and mirrors, but in the age of the internet, it’s literally everything. Ask your favorite blog hot emcee about what happens when people stop being likes and follows and start becoming real. From Kreayshawn to Big Sean, the progression of new school emcees has been difficult for all, but seemingly finally easier for Wale, arguably one the godfathers of hypebeast generation rap. Whereas others saturate the atmosphere with videos, publicity stunts and collaborations, it would appear that Wale is merely putting in work that’s finally paying off.
Here are Wale’s three major success stories of 2012.
- Wale is making money! In the last 12 months he grossed over $20,000 a night while performing more than 75 concerts. He is worth $6 million and barely missed the Forbes Hip-Hop Cash Kings 2012 list. There are artist who are popular fan favorites, but worth much less than Wale.
- Wale is still selling albums! Ambition, his sophomore album, went certified gold in July selling over 500,000 copies. This is extremely notable being that this album was released in 2011 and Wale has not produced a third album nor an abundance of mixtapes in 2012.
- Wale is all over the Billboard Charts! In January and February, “Lotus Flower Bomb” featuring Miguel oscillated between the #1 and #2 on the R&B Hip-Hop chart. In April, “Sabotage” featuring Lloyd was in the top 20 on the R&B/HipHop Airplay chart. By September, ‘Bag of Money” featuring Rick Ross, Meek Mill, and T-Pain was #2 on Billboard’s R&B/HipHop Song chart.
Judging by Wale’s success he should be in the running for rapper of the year, but by setting a standard that is great when rap is either extraordinary or terrible, he’s not exactly the world’s most eye-catching choice. The most notable ideal that makes him worth mentioning is that instead of becoming an “instant superstar,” Wale appears more savvy about the game, and is willing to become a consistent rap presence. When interviewed by Forbes Magazine this year, he expressed his need for he and his team to have more than “y’all.” In joining Rick Ross and Maybach Music, Wale now has a solid platform upon which to grow and develop a top-tier standard for himself to use to reach greater heights, and by extension finally give DC artists a measure of excellence by which to gauge their success. I am not a Wale fan in particular, but I am in awe of the underdog story here.
If you are glancing back at 2012 and looking for great lyricists you will instead find bubble-wrapped nostalgia waiting to be delivered to the future. Ultimately rap, and hip-hop culture as well, have become akin to a game of Pac-Man – hands, joysticks and various levels of little monsters. In being one of the few rising emcees able to maintain a level of humanity in this game, he may be rap’s best emcee of 2012. Instead of winning with a series of cheat codes, he’s taking his time, playing every level and as Wale told Forbes, he’s “aiming for the highest score.”