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Flyer Than the Rest of Them?

Wale returns with a disappointing mixtape

Wale’s new mixtape, More About Nothing, opens with an introspective poem. He talks about his “rededication to greatness” and how he’s been “deprived by the stations.” It’s a fitting followup to Attention: Deficit, the album that was supposed to make him a national star—and draw attention to Wale's hometown rap scene in the District. It didn’t quite work out, though. He says in his music: “ ’06 came, had all kind of buzz, and Isaiah said one day your time will come. ’09 came, then bad record sales. The silver lining couldn’t find them on any shelves.”

So Wale has turned back to what got him here. The Mixtape About Nothing, his 2008 Seinfeld-inspired bootleg release was the source of his initial hype. More About Nothing follows that blueprint, using Seinfeld clips to frame his songs, but Wale really doesn’t have as much to say this time around.

On “The Soup,” Wale raps about trying to fit in with his Interscope labelmates and how he feels like an afterthought: “Em Startin, 50 Startin, Gaga, Will.I.Am. and the Peas, I’m sixth man for Interscope.”

As is Wale’s habit, sports references both obvious and obscure are all over the tape. The NBA star Kevin Durant has an interlude. Wale turns to a football analogy for his career path on “The Power,” rapping “Who woulda thought that the little running back with the Dickerson mask would get in the ass of opponents?”

And while it can be obscure or cliché, sports are, at least tangentially, the subject of his best track, “The Eyes of the Tiger.” It starts with Tiger Woods begging one of his mistresses to help him hide his infidelities from his wife, then moves on to his first press conference. “My stories ain’t addin’ up, but Elin ain’t got no proof. I love what the ladies do, but I love my babies too. Once the message released, she found out and tried to treat my head like a tee.” Wale, who has dealt with sex-addiction allegations in the past, seems to really get Tiger’s dilemma.

While some of the issues Wale addresses may be close to heart, the album feels less close to home, at least referentially, than his past efforts. There are a few exceptions: “PG loves me like I’m [go-go band] TCB, North Potomac loves me like them Jonas’es,” he raps on one track. He continues his habit of namechecking Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, and he finally shows the Nationals some love on “The Black N Gold,” in a nod to the same mania for Stephen Strasburg that’s swept the rest of Washington.

But the tape, like Attention: Deficit, is just okay. He’s been better before. He’s become one of the rappers the first tape was targeted at: one who says nothing. Most of the tape is about his fame or himself.

On Wale’s first big hit, “Nike Boots,” he opens the song with “Southside Whatup, Uptown Whatup, PG Whatup, Moco Whatup . . . unification of the DMV I will achieve” The end of the mixtape maybe explains his transition to the mainstream best. He sings “Rockville Whatup, Gaithersburg, North Potomac Whatup, Germantown Whatup.” Wale may be trying for a return to form, but he’s not all the way back to his roots.

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