Album Review: SHINE
Album by Wale released on April 28th, 2017.
"...One time can you put the deuce up for the triple black niggas that put forth so much foresight on this forthcoming, fifth album..."
Track 1: Thank God (Rating: 9/10)
Wale opens up his fifth studio album beautifully with this flawless track. After a classic Wale introduction, speaking smoothly over the already smooth instrumental, Rotimi begins the song, singing and thanking God for bringing them out of the lives that they previously lived. Honestly, I had no clue that it was Rotimi singing on this track, the voice sounded like Usher to me, but after researching and learning who was truly behind those vocals, I give him the utmost respect and props for his work. On this track, Wale speaks on his personal life and his critics/haters. The chorus of this track pays homage to Tupac, specifically his track "Wish The Best On My Enemies", while the beat contains a sample of "Wind Parade" by Donald Byrd. This is personally one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Track 2: Running Back (feat. Lil' Wayne) (Rating: 8/10)
Wale teams up with Weezy for a fun track, full of double meanings and a positive beat. Wale's first verse is full of great lines, including, "Look, my bitch is on Tumblr....your bitch need a tummy tuck. Since Jesus of Nazareth, the realest you've come across".
Wayne's voice seems perfect for this track, as he flows freely, speaking satirically on women with fake bodies and what they do for fame, eventually switching to rapping about flaunting money.
Track 3: Scarface Rozay Gotti (Rating: 8/10)
This track is about how Wale became who he was in the industry with the help he's received along the way. Scarface, a hip-hop legend, was a huge artist in Washington D.C. when Wale was coming up. Obviously, Rozay, Rick Ross, eventually signed Wale to Maybach Music Group, which he is still a part of today. Gotti, according to Folarin, is one of the first people in the industry that rocked with him. He flows with great wordplay in his first verse, and on his second verse he speaks on his beginnings in the industry.
Track 4: My Love (feat. Major Lazer, WizKid, & Dua Lipa) (Rating: 9.5/10)
Wale ventures into afro beat on this track, and the sound is very authentic compared to most artists out there. I'm pretty sure that Wale actually being Nigerian helps with the songs authenticity. This track has a very fun and bouncy beat, and Wale still flows on the track seamlessly. Another favorite on the album that I'm sure will eventually go gold as a single.
Track 5: Fashion Week (feat. G-Eazy) (Rating 9.5/10)
This is one of the best track on the album in my opinion. The Christian Rich produced beat is flawless, especially Wale and G-Eazy flowing over it. The two speak about women while using countless fashion references. This is a track that you ride to on a warm summer night, just cruising. You can't help but bob your head to this track.
Track 6: Columbia Heights (Te Llamo) (feat. J. Balvin) (Rating: 8/10)
Wale gives a shoutout to the Columbia Heights neighborhood in D.C. with the title of this track. The title is also a play on words, with the featured artist, J. Balvin, being from Columbia. Wale begins the track talking about how he doesn't really like all of the attention. He also calls out the people that think they know him with the lines, "Te llamo no bueno, te llamo no bueno. You know my picture, don't know what I been through..." during the chorus.
"Te llamo no bueno" translates to "Your name is no good" in English, which shows that Wale is saying that those people are phony when they try to say that they truly know him. When Wale says "You know my picture, don't know what I've been through..." he means that those people that say "know" him only see the famous side of him, and don't know who he truly is. J Balvin also speaks on the same situation briefly during his verse, entirely in Spanish.
Track 7: CC White (10/10)
Wale's genius as both a lyricist and a storyteller are personified on this track. Big Ghost LTD and Cedric Brown were amazing with the production for this double entendre track, with Wale speaking about cocaine as if it were a white woman. The double meanings are flawless, a track that you have to listen to multiple times before you truly catch everything that Wale is trying to say. Folarin explained the track on Everyday Struggle with Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks (Skip to 19:17 in the interview below). This is the strongest track on the album in my opinion.
Track 8: Mathematics (Rating 8/10)
On this track, Wale speaks on those he's had to leave behind and those that he keeps around him. He uses a clever line that alludes to the saying "bros before hoes" when he says, "Keep this shit 100 with the squad, playing at 50 with hoes". When Folarin speaks on those that aren't around him anymore, he calls it "the price of being a boss", which is not only a great line, but could also be paying homage to his label owner, Rick Ross. Wale spoke about the track during an interview with Genius: "It’s probably the darkest sounds on Shine, but the lyrics are important to me ‘cause I’m talkin’ bout people I don’t fuck with people no more, people I lost along the way and – you know – it’s just me talking my shit again."
Track 9: Fish N Grits (feat. Travis $cott) (Rating 8/10)
Folarin teams up with La Flame for a track about money chasing and living luxuriously. The song was actually recorded in 2015 around the time of Travis' debut, Rodeo, and was leaked during a fake release of Days Before Birds in October of 2016. This is honestly a showoff track, with the two artists trading lines bragging about what they have and what they're going to do.
Track 10: Fine Girl (feat. Olamide & Davido) (Rating: 8/10)
Wale has another authentic foreign track that he flows smoothly over with "Fine Girl". The beat makes you wanna dance, and Including two of Nigeria’s biggest Afropop acts, Olamide and Sony Music signee Davido, only add to the authenticity of this track. The three celebrate the beauty of women with this bouncy summer anthem.
Track 11: Heaven On Earth (feat. Chris Brown) (Rating: 9/10)
This is a silky smooth track, another summer evening anthem. Chris Brown's vocals fit the production on this track perfectly during the chorus. The two artists then trade line after line speaking a woman, trying to get her to come home with them, respectively. The chorus is a great expression of how people when they are in love, accepting the all of the flaws regardless of what they are, hence the lines "I know you're not perfect, but girl, you're still worth it, I swear you're my gift and my curse..."
Track 12: My PYT (feat. Sam Sneak) (Rating: 8/10)
Wale speaks for his type of woman on this track, a pretty young thing. The chorus samples one of the most popular songs of all time, Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" from his album Thriller. Producers also sample another hit from 1982 for the beat on this track, Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing". This track was the first official single from the album, releasing on May 20th, 2016. This single has gone gold, and I expect to hear it on the airwaves this summer, another bouncy summer track from the D.C. native.
Track 13: DNA (Rating: 8/10)
Wale is back to his old ways on this track, speaking smoothly over the track with an already smooth instrumental. He has a good chorus on this track, which gives away the acronym that DNA stands for, good (d)ick a(n)d (a)dvice, which he first used on a featured verse for Rick Ross' single, "Trap Trap Trap" for his newest album, Rather You Than Me.
Track 14: Smile (feat. Zyla Moon & Phil Ade) (Rating: 9/10)
This is a great outro track for the album. He disses Tomi Lahren (who has disliked him since he started mispronouncing her name, which has ensued in countless Twitter exchanges.) on this track, and gets very political. Folarin covers everything from Hillary and Trump to Black Lives Matter and police brutality. A great closing to a great album.
Out of all the artists in the "new wave" that began in 2009-2010, Wale continues to perform and go under-appreciated by those outside of his string fanbase, including myself, within the hip-hop community. A lot of people say that this album "underperformed" or "wasn't up to par" due to sales (see Everyday Struggle interview above), but the album is everything that Wale is about. I look forward to what he has in store for future releases.