In 2009, following a string of well-received mixtapes including the brilliant Seinfeld-themed Mixtape About Nothing, D.C. rapper Wale dropped his disappointing major label debut Attention Deficit. The album conformed too well to its title, coming off scattered and uneven, not doing justice to the next-generation MC’s prodigious flow, complex wordplay and unconventional musical tastes. For every highlight, like the heartfelt “Shades,” there was a radio-baiting low like “Let It Loose.” Since then Wale’s signed with Rick Ross’s Maybach Music label, and the resulting sophomore effort is more cohesive musically, but lyrically more generic.
Gone is the playful delivery and sense of humor that reminded of Native Tongues-era raps, leaving the album almost evenly split between gangsta mugging and R&B-hooked romance. Most egregious is “Miami Nights,” which reaffirms a point already made so convincingly by Will Smith’s “Miami”: songs about having fun in south Florida are not fun. There are good moments, though, like the contrast between Diplo’s retro pop “Slight Work” beat and T-Minus’s gloomy production on “Ambition.” Even better is the one-two punch of the sparse, crisp “Chain Music” and the synthy, anthemic “Focused” with its Kid Cudi chorus. On the former, Wale complains of having to conform in order to be heard: “Peep the gold chain/hos changed, I didn’t/they say karats up your vision/but somehow it made ‘em listen.” Penultimate track “DC or Nothing” may be the album’s best, but by then it’s too little too late to rescue an otherwise unambitious record.