It’s all-too-common for a hip-hop artist to come out with a strong debut only to experience a sophomore slump with the next album. Washington D.C.’s MC Wale’s debut album Attention Deficit hit shelves in 2009 to critical acclaim but failed to achieve commercial success. For his second full-length Ambition, the MC was looking like he might fall into that same category as he began to work with less impressive and commercially-centered artists such as Rick Ross and Waka Flocka Flame.
Ambition has highs and lows. Though his delivery is on point, with lyrics flowing smoothly over production by various DJs, Wale seems to have misplaced his tendency to write about anything significant. “Miami Nights” tells a typical story of excess over a schmaltzy horn and synth-heavy beat: ”Miami nights, it was all a dream/If I can get my money right, I’m about to O.D.”
Clearly, as the album states, prominent topics on the album are ambition, confidence and Wale’s desperation to succeed. Once noted for touching on issues like race, child abuse and poverty, Wale seems to have decidedly focused solely on his struggle to the the top. However, Wale does manage to do this without being obnoxious and still brings quality, even if it’s slightly dumbed down.
Even ”Slight Work,” a clear album stand out, with its memorable dance floor-ready production style by dancehall/electro producer Diplo and a guest verse from G.O.O.D Music’s Big Sean, relies solely on clever word play. “Lot of intuition, I ain’t never finished college/Never hit the mall and forever get it all/Any broad bet I lay her like I’m dressin’ for the fall.” While his lyrical skills are unquestionable, Wale doesn’t appear to be quite the storyteller he once was.
It’s safe to say Wale might have beaten the sophomore slump. Ambition truly is a solid album, with memorable beats and fantastic rhymes throughout, but it would have been nice if the content varied other than how much he wants to commercially succeed. Ambition may not stack up to his numerous mix tape releases and Attention Deficit, but it proves the MC’s determination to hit the big time.