Review Summary: A successful, albeit uneven major label debut.
Self-proclaimed as one of the best rappers in the blogosphere, Wale has had critics pining for his debut for almost a year now. After the unique Seinfeld-themed, Michael Richards-fueled A Mixtape About Nothing
and feature spot on The Roots' Rising Down
last year, his respective hype locomotive magnified in size by an incredible order of magnitude; it's impressive that a hip-hop artist can grow near-exponentially from relative DMV (DC/MD/VA) no-name to burgeoning mainstream pop-rap star. This growth isn't quite unfounded, however - Wale is a consistently excellent lyricist bolstered by his pop culture-laden punchlines. Attention: Deficit
aptly explores his multi-faceted personality - be it a conscious bent or mainstream appeal.
But this ADHD proclamation acts as a detractor as much as a boon to the LP's credibility: the production here, while expertly handled for the most part, is uneven. Cool & Dre's glorified future-hop in hit single "Chillin'" contrasts so much, in fact, that it feels like a completely different record from Dave Sitek-produced (of TV on the Radio fame) "Triumph". Both tracks feature respectable beat tracks, yet one can't help but wonder what they're doing on the same album. Regardless, after "Triumph"'s bombastic, soulful intro it becomes readily apparent that Attention: Deficit
offers a sampling flight of excellent modern production trends. Mark Ronson has a great showing with the 8-bit sampling and traditional boom bap of "90210" and "Beautiful Bliss", respectively, while really melding well with Bun B's trademark flow in "Mirrors". Overall, the production credits are impressive without overpowering the performers.
Surprisingly enough, Wale's who's-who of current trends in the mainstream and underground doesn't devolve A:D
into a name-dropping carnival or out-performing feature fest. The guest vocalists complement the compositions well, especially with names like Pharrell, Lady GaGa, and Rihanna. The only time Wale is truly out-shined is on "Beautiful Bliss" by J. Cole (who robs the spotlight so thoroughly that this almost sounds like J. Cole featuring Wale) - which is perfectly acceptable considering how admirably Wale performs throughout. There are only a few, but the primary lyrical disappointments come in the shape of "TV in the Radio" with K'Naan's pedestrian verse/chorus/what-have-you, Gucci Mane's uninspired brrr-ing, and some of the unnecessary spoken soliloquy-like passages throughout. Otherwise, Wale's penchant for pop-culture-oriented, creative punchlines and uncanny ability to straddle the line between conscious and pop-bent lyricism is impressive.
Overall, Attention: Deficit
should be considered a successful debut, albeit mildly uneven. Being a major label debut (Interscope), this multi-directional approach is definitely indicative of marketing uneasiness, and hopefully it'll be sorted out for Wale's sophomore release. After recovering from some very disappointing mixtape follow-up LPs this year, it's refreshing to see an artist enact quality control standards based upon mixtape reception and release a truly professional product.