“Wow I made one of the best albums of the year .. that’s crazy”
-Wale, via Twitter
“Timing is everything” — by far one of the most cliche and overused quotes to exist on the face of the Earth. To many people, this quote may mean nothing at all. To true musicians, this quote means the world. Music is currently in an era which people like to consider the “Microwave era” — very fast-paced and not full of content that sits long with fans around the world. There are some artists who are okay with this, releasing music and having fans tweet you two weeks later asking “yO wHeRes aNoThEr aLbUm?!”. Other artists are not okay with that, only creating music with the pure intention of sticking with the people and standing tall on their integrity to keep producing their best work possible.
When it comes to Wale, he happens to be one of those artists who has always stood his ground on putting his best foot forward when releasing music. Coming out at the top of this decade alongside Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean & J. Cole, Wale is among the hip hop heavyweights and has had a strong and promising career. Despite what people may have thought about Wale over the years, saying that he’s corny, that he fell off and got left behind, that his music is trash, etc., those things are what inspired him to keep going as an artist and continuing to put his music to the test. And here we are with his sixth album, Wow…That’s Crazy, which is an accumulation of everything that people have been saying about him.
Before The Album
All throughout his career, it seems as if Wale could never miss. Mixtape About Nothing and More About Nothing were the early classics that would define his career going forward. His sophomore album, Ambition, is what introduced Wale to the masses, and The Album About Nothing really showcased his ability to make a high-quality concept album. Somewhere along the way, Wale’s momentum as a hip-hop heavy-hitter started to slow down. After the release of his album SHINE, he began to receive a lot of negative reception about the performance of the album and its sales. During an interview on Everyday Struggle in 2017, he sat down with Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks to explain why he believed his album wasn’t a flop. He stated that he can’t be a flop when he’s still selling out shows and having fans tell him how great the album was.
“I’ve always wondered what would happen if I had a bad first week since the beginning of my career, and you know, I finally did and I’m just like you know what..I’m invincible now.”
In the age of social media, it can be hard to come back from an album that flopped, or to come back from a perceived negative perception, so much so that a narrative can be painted about you and people will hold that against you for as long as they feel like. Despite all the hate, Wale knew that he could not change his vision and his artistry just to appeal to people who weren’t fans of him to begin with. Following the release of SHINE, he then began on a journey of finding himself, not only as an artist, but as an individual. Wale no longer wanted to be known as the selfish, egotistical rapper that everyone painted him out to be, which is what leads us to a newly-redefined Wale in 2019.
One thing that stood out the most about the entire rollout of this project would be the initial announcement of the title. Wale released a short clip of him receiving therapy sessions, speaking about everything people say about him, talking about his experience within the music industry, and more. These teaser clips perfectly sum up what the album is about and where the title actually comes from. During his interview, he stated that the title derives from “the good, the bad, and everything in-between” of the many things that a person can say “wow that’s crazy” to. He also continues to elaborate more on the artwork which shows a painting of Wale himself being shredded, similar to the $1.4 million dollar painting by Banksy that “shred itself” after being sold, and a balloon with the word “crazy” written on it.
“Theres a balloon on the cover and it’s flying away..and it’s really just letting that stigma go–releasing the crazy stigma”.
Fans of Wale know that he’s never been hesitant to tell things how they are, get personal, and provide some introspective bars. On Wow…That’s Crazy, we get more of that and then some. Relating back to the pre-album therapy session teasers and the album artwork, a lot of the album serves as Wale’s own therapy session where he puts everything out about what people think about him. Best known for his amazing intros to his albums, the opening track “Sue Me” doesn’t disappoint whatsoever. The hook, “sue me I’m rooting for everybody that’s black,” comes from the sentiment that a lot of black people felt as if some were abandoning showing love and support for people like them — examples being black men dating outside their race and being boisterous about it, or showing support for businesses that are not black owned. Wale makes his stance clear here that he is still down with supporting all things black and is not afraid to show it.
Staying on the subject of everything black, the song “BGM (Black Girl Magic)” elaborates more on his love and support for black women and uplifting them. In fact, this song was actually released before the album and on Woman’s Equality Day, just to add more to its meaning and purpose. This song is Wale speaking to black women wishing “someone like you would love me” — that a black woman could show him what he needs to know not only about love, but about himself, as well. The lyrics on this song aren’t in need of a deep dive or an extensive lyric breakdown because Wale wants to the message to be as clear as day, as stated in an Instagram post promising the release of the single.
“I’ve been trying to find ways to promote my music creatively and deliver messages that are easily digested. This song is special to me and when you listen tomorrow you’ll fully understand why. There is a lot of noise right now. And I don’t know much about anything because first, the hot girls were up then the city boys then the game got canceled because of cucumbers and then rescheduled in the name of a spicy chicken sandwich but I digress.”
Wale, via Instagram
Wale reflects a lot about love on this project and his problem with it. On “Cliche,” which features Ari Lennox and Boogie, he explains how he has an issue with commitment within relationships because he feels like it’s the same thing over and over. The wordplay on this song may be missed if you aren’t really listening to it; “I care and all, but I’m fearing this here a carousel to me,” and “We get on and off like we horizontally horse-playing” come off effortless, just as Wale seems to exhibit all throughout the album. His creativity on the topic of love is also something that has to be highlighted. Often so when discussing love, its mostly one-sided, being that its either one person’s fault and not the other, or vice versa. However, during Wale’s “therapy session”, he speaks about his issue with love from both perspectives — his own fault and the woman’s fault.
On “Love…(Her Fault)”, Wale speaks about the relationship going bad on the woman’s end. In the song, he does, in fact, note that he gave up and abandoned his woman, but only due to her lack of love and affection. Wale is assisted by Bryson Tiller on this track, which adds more to it being one of the most pleasing love ballads on the album. Another notable line here comes where Wale says “I hope that this beef is fake, the impossible / We could do it, the impossible,” which is an amazing play on words. “Break My Heart (My Fault),” featuring Lil Durk, speaks about the relationship that ended on Wale’s terms. This story is told in order for Wale to realize that he needed to take accountability for his own actions, rather than blaming it all on the women for causing the breakup.
“I can’t expect you to stay
You deserve a bouquet
You deserve a true label
Fuck a post on a page
You’re supposed to be great
And I just lie in your face”
Of course this sounds like there’s a lot of love talk on this album, which is true. However, the album receives a break during the middle where Wale gets back to his MMG roots and recruits Meek Mill and Rick Ross on “Routine”. This being the first time that they’ve all been heard together on a track since “Ambition”, it was such a refreshing feeling knowing that they all could come together once again and deliver a heavy-hitting rap anthem. There were issues in the past between Wale and MMG, so to see all of those past issues be reconciled was an amazing moment to witness, especially as a fan. Meek and Ross’ names are actually hidden from the tracklist in order to hide the fact that they’ve all collaborated once again, in hopes of fans stumbling across it during their first play through the album.
Getting back to the main concept at hand here, Wale reflects a lot about himself and his actions on the album, and even touches on the depression and anxiety that he suffers from. “I’ve been sorting through a lot of sh*t that’s in my head now” is the hook of “Expectations” featuring 6LACK. This speaks to the fact that a lot of the wrong things people say about him are actually what fuels his depression and anxiety. He speaks more about this during his Breakfast Club interview (around the 23:16 minute mark), detailing the public perception of him and how he’s been trying to handle it going forward in life. He has been trying to become a better person and not be so outspoken and “rude” the way people think he is, yet he can’t seem to shake it (“You expect me to know a lot of sh*t that I’m just out here tryna figure out“).
“50 In Da Safe” speaks more about Wale’s coping tactics, using vices to numb his problems even though they only lasts temporarily. He’s “gettin faded to feel alive” and even refers to himself as a “functioning alcoholic” on this track. Coming to terms with this reality is vital for him going forward if he really wants to remove that negative stigma of crazy that’s attached to his name.
In an era where music with a purpose seems to be uncustomary, it’s always a great pleasure to get an album that serve with a purpose rather than a collection of fire songs. The term “concept album” started to fade away, but Wale is here to revive it. Wow… That’s Crazy can be anyone own personal therapy session, and can even serve as a reminder to some that we are not all perfect and may be in need of a change at some point in our life. “A black man learning to love himself…that’s crazy right” Wale raps on one of the final tracks of the album, “Set You Free,” where the feeling of a man (or black man) to love himself is crazy. Wale offers that realization that it is, in fact, not crazy to learn to love yourself, and that we all could use some learning, ourselves.
The “crazy” stigma is definitely subjective, but nonetheless, Wale has provided fifty-four minutes of musical bliss to aid anyone who may think that what they’re going through is crazy, and assures them that it’s not. Whether people still refer to Wale as wild, he has now become one with himself and finally realized what he needed in order to become a better individual inside and out.