Wale's third full-length release, The Gifted, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 when it dropped in July.
But the D.C. rapper still hasn't scored a platinum single, and he's cool with that. Because in an era dominated by quick hits, he's into making albums. And eventually, he plans to sell enough to buy the Washington Redskins.
This Tuesday, you can see him live on his first major headlining tour alongside J. Cole at the James L. Knight Center. Here's what Wale had to say about hip-hop, Bob Dylan, his new record, South Beach nightclub LIV, and running with Haitians.
New Times: You rap about buying a sports team. Which one you going for?
Wale: Redskins or somethin' like that. I gotta get my money up. But when I get there, I'ma try to do it.
You've called out the Washington media in your raps.
It's not like the Washington Post — more like the Gazette. They try to hold you down no matter what 'cause they hate their life; they wanna hold the position that I'm not deserving of anything, try to say some stuff about me.
Do you follow the interpretations of your music on Rap Genius?
I'm a fan of that. They get it right like 80 percent of the time. It'll be off sometimes.
How does your heritage play into your style?
I'm just very vocal. My culture is Nigerian, and we love to dance and be joyful. We have a soulful religion, a lot of singing and dancing, and I think I'm very soulful as well. I've also started working with Nigerian rappers like Wiz Kid.
There are a lot of Nigerians in South Florida. You have any plans to work with talent down here?
That's coming soon. I'm still looking for artists from all walks of life. I've been thinking of moving to South Florida to live. I just want to see if I can keep myself out of LIV.
Why, in an era of singles, do you make albums meant to be consumed whole?
I love it. I wanna sell records, and I want my message to come across, whatever that may be, and that's the way of the future. It's the day of the single 'cause you can have that platinum single, but I'd much rather have what I have. I've never had a platinum single of my own.
Favorite songwriter of all time?
Michael Jackson. And Stevie Wonder. I love Stevie's writing. I took music appreciation in college. I know about Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Beach Boys. But I'm a soul guy — Michael, Prince.
Your biggest musical influence?
I got a lot. I grew up off Cash Money, off No Limit, off Jay Z, the Roots, stuff like that.
When did your underground "A.D.D." rap first come out? And what's different now?
It was like 2004. I like to make every rhyme count; before, I'd just flow and go with whatever happened.
How you feel about this tour?
Miami is the opening day! I'm trying to blow the roof off. I wanna see all my Miami people out there. This is a big, big, big, big tour for me, my first big tour. It's an amazing stage.
Connection to Miami?
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A lot of people don't know that my first school I played college football at, half my team was from Miami, from Northwestern, Edison, North Miami, Hialeah, Plantation, all over South Florida. I have a lot of strong connections to the Haitian community from here too. We're not all just black Americans. A lot of Haitians know about the extra-strict parents and trying to be successful among our own race and appreciate that.
You speak any Kreyol?
All I know is sak pase, n'ap boule. But when I go to Miami, I always try to get some Haitian food. I know they're gonna bring me some stewed chicken backstage. And some fish.