On Wale’s totally average best year ever, and being the best worst emcee of 2012

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”


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