8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Solid Sophomore Effort,
This review is from: Ambition (Audio CD)
Wale's first album, 2009's Attention Deficit, went highly unnoticed - including by myself. It garnered positive reviews, but like the majority, I slept on the album. Two years after its bow, Wale goes from relatively underground rapper to having a #2 debut on the Billboard 200 charts, just behind Justin Bieber's Under the Mistletoe. Go figure. Regardless, Ambition, Wale's sophomore LP is more primed for success and finds the standout MC on fire. Signed to standout rapper Rick Ross's Maybach Music label, Ambition is a strong set that retains Wale's more intellectual side as well as sets him up for relative commercial success. For the most part, producers do a good job balancing the MC, which makes Ambition a strong rap effort for 2K11.
"Don't Hold Your Applause" is a strong opener, though one feels like it is a `warm-up' for what is to materialize. The production work is solid and Wale's flow is remarkable. "Don't Hold Your Applause" lacks a certain flashiness or slickness - kind of like J. Cole's opener "Dollar and a Dream III," but at just over three minutes in length, there is little to ultimate quibble about. "Double M Genius" sort of falls into the same boat - quality rhymes and production, but somewhat conservative and non-overt. Wale manages to slip in some random, yet well devised punchlines, which makes "Double M Genius" as consistent as "Don't Hold Your Applause." Similarly, "Miami Nights" has the same marked consistency, using a similar formula to the first two cuts. A bit more assertive, one senses that Wale is about to `breakthrough' big time. "Legendary" is `that track' that the listener has been waiting for. The production is dark and `wound-up' in sound, providing the perfect backdrop for Wale to channel even more machismo and frank talk into his rhymes. Wale's performance of the hook is sort of nonchalant, but that is the appeal of the cut ("...I'm just trying to be legendary...").
After four `grimier' cuts, Wale `softens' up a bit for three R&B collaborations. The first is the best, "Lotus Flower Bomb" featuring burgeoning R&B singer/songwriter Miguel. Miguel sounds solid here and the cut is so chill/mellow it could have easily appeared on Miguel's solo effort. Wale showcases his mainstream appeal here without making too many concessions. "Sabotage," featuring Lloyd cultivates more of a `live hip-hop feel' without actually being live. The cut isn't too shabby, but at five and a half minutes it is a bit overwrought. Regardless, there the soulfulness is undeniable and Lloyd's countertenor pierces the heartstrings as much as ever. Wale taps Ne-Yo for the enjoyable "White Linen (Coolin)," which may be the brightest sounding production of the effort. While the three R&B cuts are sound, one hardcore hip-hop purist might question why not spread the cuts out more as opposed to chunk them all together.
"Slight Work" is manic but brilliant. Produced by Diplo, Wale brings along Big Sean to give the album a party-cut that Big Sean probably would have killed to have on Finally Famous. Diplo's minimalist production easily takes the prize for best of the album and both Wale and Big Sean `kill it.' After the overt cut, "Ambition," the exceptional title track, contrasts with more low-key production work. A brilliant contrast, "Ambition" possesses a `calm' fire thanks to electrifying rhymes by Meek Mill, Rick Ross, and Wale in that order. "Ambition" will remind rap enthusiasts of "Maybach Music 3" from Rick Ross's Teflon Don as far as the format.
"Illest B****" is solid in concept, though does not quite translate as a solid entity. The soulfulness and sense of empowerment shines here, but as cut itself, it is one of the weaker spots. "No Days Off" atones, finding Wale spitting his typical hard-edged, brutally honest rhymes. Wale even manages a repetitive, memorable hook. "DC or Nothing" is ok, but second-tier compared to the best cuts ("Legendary," "Lotus Flower Bomb," "Slight Work," "Ambition," etc.) Closing cut "That Way," featuring Jeremih and Rick Ross is a strong finish to an overall solid effort.
Ambition shines more often than not and propels Wale forward as an MC to watch. It is not the flashiest or most daring rap album of 2011, but it is one of the most solid an consistent. If you enjoy solid underground rap with a `ill' flow, you will enjoy Wale's sophomore effort.