The great hope of the D.C. music scene, backpacker revivalists, a whole nation of bloggers, Wale’s career has been dogged by unfairly high expectations. Taken out of the blogospheric context, it’s easier to see Wale as a technically virtuosic rapper with a personality that’s still learning to express itself and as someone who boasts a better-than-average taste in beats and a savvy knack for jumping on trends before anyone else.

Olubowale Victor Akintimehin was born to Nigerian-born parents in Washinton, D.C. As a teenager he dubbed himself Wale and became involved in the local go-go scene, releasing his first music around 2005. After a few years of local hits, 2007 saw the release of Wale’s mixtape, 100 Miles & Running, which famously flipped Justice for “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.,” and the buzz-making single “Nike Boots.” After signing a joint deal with Allido and Interscope, Wale started preparing for his major-label debut. During that long preparation, he released 2008’s The Mixtape About Nothing, using Seinfeld as a prism into social issues. It was the one of the most critically acclaimed rap albums of that year, and it established as Wale as one of hip-hop’s strongest new voices.

Another mixtape, Back to the Feature, followed in the summer of 2009, which failed to match Mixtape About Nothing’s intellectual highs but was spirited and engaging nonetheless. Finally, in December 2009 Wale released Attention Deficit, his major-label debut. The album sold poorly and pleased no one completely: Aficionados condemned the appearances by Lady Gaga and Gucci Mane, and radio DJs complained that the album was void of hits. ~Wilson McBee

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