In the runup to November 2009's release of his debut disc, Attention Deficit, D.C. rapper Wale floated into pop consciousness on a thick, fast-moving cloud of accumulated hype. After he hooked up with master trend-caller Mark Ronson in 2006 and signed a million-dollar deal with Interscope Records in 2008, the hip-hop seers (read: hyperbolic bloggers) thought they'd found a savior. Or at least the next Kanye West.
For Wale, the timing couldn't have been better. In fact, he was fronting the house band at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards when West crashed the stage, ambushed Taylor Swift, and uttered those four infamous words: "I'ma let you finish." At that moment, the throne was vacant, and Wale was only a few steps from snatching it. But right away, he made a fatal move. Coming to West's defense, he told the already pissed-off crowd: "You can't blame a man for speaking his mind." He was booed — loudly. The omen was out.
With Contra, Ross One, and Jessica Who? as part of Dirty Hairy. 11 p.m. Wednesday, December 15, at LIV, 441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-4680; livnightclub.com. Ages 21 and up.
And ultimately, Attention Deficit fell short. The album never climbed higher than 21 on the Billboard 200. It scored a hesitant thumbsup from Pitchfork and XXL. And the pop audience basically shrugged. The worst part: The 26-year-old seemed to be running in place, chasing the hype.
OK, so maybe he isn't the next Kanye. He's just Wale. Isn't that enough?