Washington, D.C. rapper Wale first entered buzz territory with his Seinfeld-inspired mixtapes, followed by a truly proper debut in Attention Deficit. Now, months before he releases Ambition, his first full-length as a part of Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group, the MC offers up The Eleven One Eleven Theory mixtape. Even though Wale has definitely become a more mainstream rapper in terms of how he slings rhymes, it’s not an entirely terrible transition.
Tracks like “Fuck You” and “Varsity Blues” are as seemingly generic and baseline as they come. From their simplistic beats, a blast of old-school sampling and uninspired drum machine rattle, respectively, to their overall subject matters (wow, a sports metaphor in a rap tune!), there’s nothing overly creative or particularly explorative about these and other tracks on the tape. Even still, these cuts are entertaining. The former overflows with passion, energy, and enthusiasm, and though the verses may lack substance at times, they’re enjoyable nonetheless. Even “Varsity Blues”, despite being a giant cliché, still has a lot of great sentiment thanks to Wale’s dedication to the concept.
Despite the more populist tendencies of this mixtape, there are a few spots on the effort that show Wale is not completely in line with his MMG cohorts. “Lacefrontin'” and “Ambitious Girl 2” are both odes and anthems for the ladies, moments where the Apple Bottoms of the world are seen as real, interesting people. And even if Wale takes a step or two back on tracks like “Passive Aggres-Her” or the further dumbed-down “Barry Sanders”, they’re enough to clearly separate Wale as a more forward-thinking and capable wordsmith, even if the comparison is simply to this.
When Ambition finally drops on November 1st, there’s no telling just how much further he will modify his style. One thing, though, is certain: For the time the record’s on, Wale will have your complete attention. And that’s got to be worth something.