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'Nothing': Something Special

D.C.-born Wale blends go-go, hip-hop and Jerry's wry punch lines.
D.C.-born Wale blends go-go, hip-hop and Jerry's wry punch lines. (
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By Sarah Godfrey
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Leave it to Wale -- tight MC and unabashed "Seinfeld" fanatic -- to successfully mine a sitcom about a neurotic comedian fond of tight jeans and white sneakers for nuggets relevant to hip-hop music and culture. "The Mixtape About Nothing" can be appreciated by "Seinfeld" admirers who aren't so big on the hip-hop music and by heads unfamiliar with the term "shrinkage," but for those who are fans of both the music and the television show, the album's arrival is like Christmas, Hanukkah and Festivus all rolled into one.

D.C. native Wale (who is signed to Mark Ronson's Interscope imprint, Allido Records) doesn't just rehash the most ubiquitous jokes and sayings of the show for laughs. The project, a freebie for download at beginning Friday, is a tribute to a series as well as a look at mainstream hip-hop's struggle to overcome vacuity.

The rapper lays out the mix-tape's basic premise on "The Opening Title Sequence": "If you love substance, you love Wale/But most [expletive] love nothing, so I made this tape."

The intro also has Wale posing questions in Jerry Seinfeld stand-up fashion ("What's the deal with . . . ?"), examining everything from ring tones to Eddie Murphy's love life. Wale's queries are set to the show's bubbling, gassy theme song, and D.C.-area beatmakers Best Kept Secret, who skillfully handle production duties for most of the project, manage to tease out the previously unnoticed funkiness of a TV theme seared into our collective brain, thanks to nine seasons of shows and reruns that live on in perpetuity.

Elsewhere, Wale uses slices of the series's hilariously inane dialogue about the minutiae of life as a jumping-off point to dig into serious business. "The Perfect Plan" begins with a snippet from an episode in which Jerry and his foil, George Constanza, devise a scheme to swap Jerry's current girlfriend for her roommate -- but Wale, over a go-go pocket beat, moves on to talk about the sinister plot to water down rap music. Soulja Boy features prominently, natch.

Even the show's cast gamely gets in on the fun: Julia Louis-Dreyfus stops by and does a funny little drop, during which she curses and says she's Wale's "biggest fan." But not every "Seinfeld" player is treated as well. "The Kramer" rightfully skewers actor Michael Richards by rehashing his infamous comedy club rant as Wale riffs on racism and self-hatred.

"The Mixtape About Nothing" sports tracks that aren't exclusive to the project. "Rising Up," Wale's collaboration with the Roots from their album "Rising Down," along with a remix of Wale's single "Nike Boots," featuring Lil Wayne, and the Ronson-produced "The Remake of a Remake (All I Need)" provide a break from thematic material. There is also fresh music not obviously tied to the "Seinfeld" premise, including Wale's shout-out to Baltimore club music, "The B-More Club Slam," produced by one of the genre's pioneers, Scottie B, and "The Star," a rip on e'erybody who expects a free ride on Wale's coattails.

Even when "The Mixtape About Nothing" strays from its overall premise, it's gold.

Wale is scheduled to perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion on July 27 (as part of the Rock the Bells tour).

DOWNLOAD THESE: "The Opening Title Sequence," "The Star," "The Perfect Plan"

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