What is going on with Wale?

December 13, 2013

Nikki Kahn / The Washington Post

The holidays are a stressful time, even for superstar rappers. Just after lunch today, Complex Magazine released audio of a phone call that home-grown rapper Wale made to their offices over his omission from their “50 Best Albums of 2013″ list. Apparently, the publication’s staff didn’t consider “The Gifted” to be worthy of such acclaim. Back in June, it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 list, selling 158,000 copies.

His antics as a so-called ‘sensitive rapper’ — a quite condescending term that implies that rappers should not have feelings — are well-documented. In fact, my colleague Chris Richards wrote a fantastic piece about this very topic leading up to that album’s release.

In the lede, he gets right to it.

“He has a name for his fits, his rants, his nano-tantrums. He calls them “Wale moments,” and he’s about to have one right now, pacing the green room in blue jeans and black socks, unable to decide which Nikes to wear on national television. “This is the kind of pressure you feel when you have an album coming out tomorrow!” he declares. A throw pillow gets thrown. Poof. A Wale moment,” Richards writes.

In addition, there was the getting kicked off a plane for using his phone situation. Then he decided to shut down his Twitter (again), presumably due to the overwhelming crush of “haters” wasting his time.  Before that, he went after a Toronto Raptors television analyst, physically, who said I’m sure somebody on Twitter can tell me exactly if they’ve ever heard of Wale. He’s not Drake, that’s for sure,” while Wale was at the game.

But what he said to a staffer at Complex is the No. 1 ‘Wale moment’ by a wide margin, and it isn’t even close. The phone call is hilarious, if you enjoy a certain level of schadenfreude in seeing people who constantly brag about having things that you don’t being upset about not getting what they want. On the call  he’s clearly taken personal offense to not being on the list, accusing staffers of having a personal vendetta against him, and somehow, hip-hop culture in general.

“You mean to tell me Juicy J album better than mine?”  is an all-time great quote.

But the end of the phone call is where things go truly haywire. Shortly after saying, “I’m trying to get to the bottom of it in a civil manner, yo,” Wale quickly reverses field to threats. “Man, [expletive] you dog! You know it’s disrespect. … I swear to god I’ll come to that office and starting knocking [expletive] the [expletive] out. You wanna see some ghetto ignorant [expletive]? That’s what y’all promote. That’s the only thing y’all promote from [expletive], is ghetto ignorant [expletive.]”

To be fair here, he has a modicum of a point. The culture of violence and drugs that unfortunately but sometimes necessarily surrounds the narrative a much of popular hip-hop is most definitely what gets the most attention from media, it seems. But the answer to that is not by threatening those that choose not to like a particular artist who doesn’t necessarily fit into that rubrique.

From there, it gets worse. “I’ll see y’all [expletive] tomorrow. … How about that. Get security ready.” I’m sure in a court of law, that could be considered a threat. But for the purposes of this discussion, no matter how you label, it’s hostile either way. Which if nothing else, is obviously unnecessary.

I’ve met Wale once. It was at Trillectro. A mutual friend introduced us. He was having what seemed to be a genuinely good time. But my main worry is that as a person, a 29-year-old man at that, Wale has officially re-defined himself as a tantrum artist, rather than a recording artist. There was a time when it was part of the show, part of the obvious struggles he has with fame. But now, it seems to be the only thing he’s known for at all.

Here locally, he’ll always have super devoted fans, just because. And that’s cool. I’m not huge on his music, but he’s made a lot of stuff that I do like. I wish him well. But for all the talk he’s done about trying to represent this area, and what the world can expect and should respect about our homegrown artists, he’s not doing a very good job of setting an example.

Maybe he should ask himself the same question he asked on his song “Vanity” from the album in question. “Is it really that important? Is it really that serious?”

Probably not.

 

Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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