ANY DISCUSSION ABOUT D.C. rapper Wale begins with the lament, “Why hasn’t D.C. hip-hop exploded?”

Yeah, well, don’t look to us for the answer; we still don’t know. But hip-hop heads of tha DMV (that’s District, Maryland, Virginia) rally behind the ferociously talented musician even if Wale can’t catch a national-level break. After all, one of his New Year’s night shows at the 9:30 Club with Remy (the 8 p.m. one) is sold out.

He may have snagged white-hot pop oddity Lady Gaga for a cameo on one single (“Chillin'”), sampled go-go legends the Back Yard Band (for “Pretty Girls”) and gotten a production hand from TV on the Radio‘s Dave Sitek (on “Triumph”), but the long-awaited full-length Wale recording, “Attention Defecit,” released in November, did not markedly expand the brand.

Never mind the numbers, then — the rapidly shifting media distribution and consumption landscape is changing the way we hear and hear about music. Until Wale’s fame train arrives, let’s cherish this local treasure for his wit, smarts, flow, integrity and love for his hometown.

» 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; Fri. Jan. 1, 8 & 11:30 p.m., $25; 800-995-5566. (U St.-Cardozo)

Photo by Jon Dragonette