The Album About Nothing is actually about something. Wale’s fourth studio album packs a lot of substance in the 14 tracks given, and it isn’t something you can skim through. Wale has a lot to say on The Album About Nothing. With the help of Jerry Seinfeld guiding and reinforcing the concepts along the way, the listener is truly immersed in the DMV rapper’s world. Wale speaks upon success, conflict, loyalty, relationships, and much more, leaving nothing up to question about how he feels about himself, his purpose on this planet, and of others around him.
Wale’s career as a musician was beginning to create a buzz when he began his “About Nothing” series in 2007 with A Mixtape About Nothing. Since then, the 30 year-old artist has signed with MMG and released a number of mixtapes and albums. For the most part, Wale has always stayed in his lane of soulful sounds with thought-provoking substance, though opinions on the rapper seem to vary. After signing his deal, a lot of fans pulled the “he has a major record label deal so he’s a sell-out and I don’t like him anymore” card, and a lot of new listeners enjoyed what they heard and replaced the old fans that fell off. Asking avid hip-hop listeners about Wale, and you will surprisingly find more mixed results then your average hip-hop artist. This could be a result of many different things, including but not limited to the complexity of his wordplay and approach of delivery. The Album About Nothing touches on these subjects well, forcing the listener to make a decision about Wale’s identity.
The title of this album, if you haven’t already discovered, is quite an oxymoron. Every song title begins with “The”, and has a cohesive concept that is delivered throughout the entire body of work. This overall concept is dense, but in short is the struggle of Wale becoming successful while staying true to himself, his loved ones, and his fans. This concept however, is not just about him. It also is about how others have changed. This change is not only in their behavior, but in their perception of Wale as well. There also is an overlying sense of “Good vs Evil” in this album. Whether it’s “Creativity vs The Music Business” or “Happiness vs Materialism”, there is a constant battle going on throughout The Album About Nothing. This is apparent in songs like The Pessimist when Wale says “America’s dream and nightmare in the same being,” or when he says “Good business with mad friends/or bad business with mad friends” on “The Glass Egg.”
The first five songs of this album are absolutely splendid. The keys on the intro track, alongside some light vocals by Wale really bring the listener close in a very unaggressive manor. “The Helium Balloon” follows the intro and delivers a punchier sound while still maintaining the peaceful aesthetic of the overall album. In this song, Wale speaks about the ability to create art and how it can be compared to the helium that is put inside of balloons to keep them afloat. It is concepts like this that really expose the amount of time and effort Wale has put into this work. One of the final verses on this song begins with this line speaking about his journey into the mainstream: “Gave dude a contract/stayed true through all that/came through with raws/writing bangers for y’all/but I ain’t lose my content.”
“The White Shoes” follows as the third song of the album, and speaks upon material wealth and how it can warp the minds of the society. Wale explains this concept well saying, “It don’t matter what you’re doing but how you’re looking.” This song is one of the best on the album, and the stand-alone production for this song could be the best of the group. This track like many others has soulful and uplifting sounds but still sheds light on issues that aren’t necessarily positive or happy, which is refreshing. This is especially apparent in the next song “The Pessimist.” With vocal assistance on the chorus by J Cole, Wale portrays this mindset of “Well, the world is pretty messed up and there’s nothing I can do to change it, so I might as well accept it and be happy.” Wale begins his performance speaking on the current climate of violence involving black men and women saying “If a nigga kill a nigga he’s another statistic/if his skin a lil different they gon’ say it was self-defense.”
The fifth song, titled “The Middle Finger,” somewhat wraps up what the first 5 tracks speak upon before making a subtle lane change. In this song Wale sings “Fuck you leave me alone” over a beautiful flurry of woodwinds, saying phrases like “Society y’all trippin” throughout the piece of work, portraying his feelings of shame and concern over humanity.
In the first song of The Album About Nothing, Wale states it is “hard to be friendly with bitches who’ve seen so many niggas” and then doesn’t seem to say much about a female counterpart until later in the album. After the fifth song, this subject begins to appear more. In “Girls on Drugs,” Wale delivers an excellent track about societal implications for women and how media and drugs can prove to be detrimental to the positive growth of a woman. Wale screams “these women ain’t serious” throughout the song over a very fitting sample of female vocals speaking about staying “up all night through the early morning.” The music video for this song only exemplifies the concept. It seems Wale is upset with the climate of young women in society and struggles finding a women of the quality he searches for. This results in what he discusses on “The Need To Know.” He talks about having casual relationships with more than one women and not withholding high value about those relationships. It seems that he is settling doing this, that he really would rather have one partner, but can’t find the correct candidate. He vocalizes his good intentions in songs like “The Bloom (AG3)“ asking, “if I’m tryna see you bloom why would I do it with shade?”
The Album About Nothing is the album about everything, if you’re Wale. This is the vulnerable Wale, the Wale that leaves it all on the table for the listener. This isn’t a hail of self-righteousness, or a plea to be understood. This is the everyday struggle that Wale goes through, and that everyone goes through in life. If one thing should stick out to you about Wale as an artist, it’s that he cares. He cares so much that he finds himself in these battles with societal norms and his celebrity status, which in turn translate to the music you hear on The Album About Nothing. This album seems to be directly transparent with Wale’s train of thoughts. It’s honest, it’s vibrant, it’s smooth. As stated in the first song, “as time proceeds, preoccupied with everything I think, it’s bout time that we sing of nothing.”
– Mike T