Local rapper Wale, who's attracted international attention with his mash-up of rap and go-go, performs at Flowers High School in Prince George's County.
Local rapper Wale, who's attracted international attention with his mash-up of rap and go-go, performs at Flowers High School in Prince George's County.
Photos by Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post
Correction to This Article
An Oct. 21 Style & Arts article about local rapper Wale Folarin contained several errors. The article incorrectly said that Wale is 24; he is 23. The last name of a sound engineer was misspelled; he is Derek Pacuk. The article incorrectly said Wale drives a Nissan Pathfinder; he drives an Infiniti QX4. One of the rapper's lyrics was also incorrectly reported; it should have read, "I sag it like Dan Tanner." The article said that Jeremy Carry and Daniel Issayes are on Wale's "payroll," but Wale and his manager, Daniel Weisman, say that is not the case.

The Great Rap Hope

Wale before the Flowers appearance with his endorsements manager Daniel
Wale before the Flowers appearance with his endorsements manager Daniel "Sneakerman Dan" Issayes. Both sons of African immigrants, they worked at a shoe store before Wale hit it big. (Jahi Chikwendiu - Twp)

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By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Allow me to introduce me

My name Wah-lay

Don't say Wal-ly

Yes, he wants to be a star. Needs to be a star. Loves the way they're calling his name right now, right here in a high school gymnasium, deep in the heart of Prince George's County, screaming it, shrieking it: "WA-LE!" "WA-LE!" Right before his appearance, he engaged in his ritualistic "Do-they-know-who-I-am-I-don't-want-to-get-booed" mantra, repeating it to whoever would listen. Just to keep the ego in check. Knowing all the while that, of course they know who he is, and that is why they invited him here. And why, at the sight of him, they start hollering his name.

WA-LE! WA-LE!

Never mind that the three-time college dropout has yet to sign a record deal. Or that he's still living at home with his folks. Never mind that rap is losing its ascendancy, that D.C.'s never managed to spawn a breakout rap star. Or that the man who dubs himself the "Ambassador From the Capital" actually resides in Bowie. Wale Folarin -- born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, the son of Nigerian immigrants -- bearing suburban swagger, go-go beats and a production deal with uber-producer-of-the-moment Mark Ronson, just might be the one to break out.

Or not.

"Success or bust," he says.

Wale, 24, D.C.-born and suburb-bred, is poised at the precipice, to fall or ascend. He's fielding offers, weighing options, hopping the Acela to N.Y.C. every week, recording tracks, posting them on his MySpace page. Performing with Ronson at the MTV Video Music Awards, striking a pose with Paris Hilton -- and then dropping in on homecoming pep rallies like the one at Flowers High School in Springdale, posing for cellphone pics, getting swarmed in massive, estrogenic group hugs. Now he's back in the United Kingdom, where, for a month, he'll be touring with Ronson, the English phenom who produced Amy Winehouse's breakout CD, "Back to Black," and has worked with Jay-Z, Lily Allen and Christina Aguilera.

"He lets us know that we can all be famous," says Sonya Osei, a 15-year-old Flowers High sophomore and Wale fan. "It's not that hard."

"He's like a one-man marketing machine," says Rich Kleiman, who with his business partner, Ronson, signed Wale for a production deal earlier this year. "He gave us so much ammunition, we're in the position to get the perfect [record] deal. He's pretty strategic about every piece of material he does. . . . We're creating demand, creating a buzz before we have that major-label structure."

"Basically, we're trying to have a whole feng shui momentum," Wale adds, with just a touch of sarcasm. "The momentum that is Wale."


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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