Friday, August 13, 2010

Wale's Attention Deficit, and D.C. music

In the '80s and '90s, the Washington, D.C. punk rock scene was in full force. Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses--the list goes on and on. D.C. had arguably the most important indie music scene in the country. It died out in the '00s, where the highest profile band from our area was... Good Charlotte.

Today, really the only major successful artist from D.C. isn't a rock band, but a rapper: Wale. As far as mainstream rap/hip-hop goes, he's a breath of fresh air, drawing on his D.C. go-go influences for the backbeat of some excellent lyricism. I'm not into a ton of rap music, but Wale is effectively the flagbearer for our city's music today, so I had to take a listen. His full-length album Attention Deficit is a great mix of creative beats and hooks that make Wale appeal to a wider audience while still retaining his artistic integrity. His most famous song is undoubtedly "Chillin," his collaboration with Lady Gaga (huh?) which is basically a District of Columbia anthem.

Many of Wale's songs do fall into mainstream trappings, but his creative choices of samples to use as well as his fun-but-still-sharp rhyming style keep it interesting. He says he named the album Attention Deficit because the lyrics are all over the emotional spectrum; there are obviously going to be some cliche partyin' songs, but the topics range from politics to dealing with fame to racism. Perhaps my favorite indicator that Wale's heart and soul went into writing this album are the numerous Nintendo references: rhyming about Kirby and Punch-Out!! is something I don't think most MTV rappers today would do.

Oh, and Wale played the tailgate party before D.C. United's home opener this season. That always makes me like someone more. Did I mention he's rapped about Ovechkin, Eric Lindros, and the throat-slashing of Richard Zednick? And that he released two Seinfeld-themed concept mix tapes?

Hopefully the success of Wale will lead to a re-energized District music scene. He's no Ian MacKaye, but Wale shows the rest of the country that "Hey, there's something here besides a bunch of government buildings."