Wale might be hip-hop’s most vulnerable top-tier rapper. His music is seeped in sentiment and he’s unabashedly emotional both inside and outside of the booth. For a rapper who has found the type of success Wale has, it’s still a little weird to see him lash out at random fans on Twitter or blow up at a magazine editor for being overlooked in a year-end list. While he seems to have cooled down a bit over the last year, the chip on Wale’s shoulder is still a fitting calling card for the emcee.
In a new interview with Billboard, he opens up about his public persona and why he cares so much about what people think of him. If you let the DMV native tell it, his obsession with the public’s perception of him can be traced back to not getting much praise from his parents, and ever since he’s turned to the world at large for validation.
“All these rappers, they do songs about their mothers,” he said. “I’m Nigerian — my mother didn’t encourage me to do this. Even when [my first album] Attention Deficit came out and I had kind of made it, most parents would have been like, ‘My baby did it!’ but I don’t have that…[As a kid] I didn’t have one-on-ones with my mom or dad. I was in juvenile facilities a lot. My point is that I grew up with the outside world meaning the most to me. This is in hindsight — I’m trying to figure out why I’m this way. I rely on the people’s opinions, because I don’t have much outside of that.”
Mixed with the personal turmoil he’s weathered over the last few years, Wale explained why random social media jabs can be so hurtful. “A couple of months before [my girlfriend had a miscarriage], one of my closest friends died in a car accident, a cousin that was there for me through blood, sweat and tears,” he said. “So I go through all that and I go online and some white kid is saying, ‘You dumb ni—r, you’ll never be as good as J. Cole.’ You put all that together…”
Among his upwardly mobile rapper peers, Wale has admittedly stagnated at times and has yet to regain the stride he found on his early mixtapes. He’s self-critical about his status in the industry and seems burnt out on the constant rejection.
“I gave this my all,” he said. “I’m not trying to whine about being critically acclaimed or getting in the door, but it breaks my heart. Everyone says, ‘Be patient. It’ll happen.’ But all signs are showing, ‘No, it won’t happen.’ I’m okay with people not liking my music but provide an intelligent reason for why you like or don’t like something or you’re a hater or a dick-rider. This is my fourth album. I want some respect. I want to go to a party and not have Katy Perry tell her security to move me out of the fuckin’ way. We do the same thing. I know there’s no union in the music industry, but have some respect. I want people to be like, ‘Your album’s just as good as Kendrick [Lamar]’s or Esperanza Spalding or Beck.’ I work just as hard as them.”
Wale’s next album, The Album About Nothing, is set for release tomorrow.
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