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"NEW SLANG: Raised on Reaganomics, go-go, and the neverending pursuit of freshness, Wale and Tabi Bonney rap for the capitol STORY BY Nick Barat"

Wale is picking at some
french fries in a burger
spot on Georgia Ave
in Washington DC,
right by the Howard
University campus,
when I ask him about the first time he ever heard go-go
music. “I remember the back of the school bus,” he says.
“I went to school in Silver Springs, because DC schools
were getting blasted at that time for dirty water, this that
and the third. We used to use my cousin’s address, they
interrogated me and knew we were lying but didn’t really
care. There were nine of us—I was the youngest, and all
I remember was them going, ‘Keisha got a big ol’ butt!’
and the bus shouting back, ‘Oh yeaaah!’ Now, it’s like the
‘Oh yeaaah!’ kids started growing up, and this is what
we got.”
Go-go has been the sound of the District for years:
live bands and deep percussion, overextended grooves,
repetition, chants and audience participation. Chuck
Brown and his Soul Searchers first molded the sound
out of R&B yelps and James Brown funk in the late ’70s
with tracks like “Bustin Loose.” Early rappers like Kurtis
Blow and Salt N Pepa would often incorporate go-go
elements into their tracks, and by the end of the ’80s, DC
artists were starting to reach the rest of the country on
their own, with hits from Trouble Funk (“Pump It Up”),
the Junkyard Band (“Sardines,” produced by Rick Rubin),
and EU, whose “Da Butt” was immortalized not only on
Wale’s bus, but also in Spike Lee’s School Daze. At the
same time, the city was just as well known for blights—
from skyrocketing murder rates to “Bitch set me up!”
surveillance footage of then-mayor Marion Barry smoking
crack in a DC hotel room. For the next decade, as national
interest would ebb and flow, go-go venues like Club U
were consistently plagued by fights and stabbings, yet
the music itself remained vibrant as second generation
groups like Backyard Band rose up with a harder take
on the sound; their frontmen were not MCs in the usual
sense, but “talkers” or “callers” who took the traditional
call-and-response elements in a more rap-like direction.
Still, just as with Baltimore club, Chicago juke and
other regional inner-city subgenres, the relationship
between go-go and present day hip-hop has been
tenuous at best, running the gamut from occasional
homage (Ludacris performing a go-go version of “Pimpin
All Over the World” backed by Rare Essence on the VMAs)
to straight jacking (Jay-Z taking RE’s “Overnight Scenario”
for his “4am at the waffle house…” bit on “Do It Again”),
but rarely meeting in a wholehearted embrace. This past
spring, however, drivers could tune into DC rap radio
almost any time of day and hear the signature go-go drum
rolls of Northeast Groovers’ “Off the Muscle” blaring from
their speakers. It wasn’t the actual song, but “Dig Dug,”
a rap single built off a sizeable NEG sample, performed
by a new artist named Wale (pronounced Walé). Over the
hypnotic loop, Wale shouts out his hometown’s go-go
bands, crack dealers and college hoops teams, appointing
himself the “ambassador of rap for the capitol” before
listing the sticker price on his SB Dunks. It was soon followed by two other go-go laced singles, “1 Thing” and
“Breakdown,” and there was nothing else on the radio in
DC or elsewhere that you could even start to compare it
to—until fellow local Tabi Bonney made it on the air a
few months later with his own hybrid single, “Doin It,”
and the wildly successful “The Pocket.” On first listen,
“The Pocket” doesn’t seem musically beholden to the city
in any way, but between Bonney’s relaxed, pause-heavy
rhymes and homegrown expressions (When somebody
syses you, you see a girl that’s tight or summ’n…she put
you in the pocket! When you rockin bamas, stylin on ’em
and stuff…), you realize it couldn’t have been birthed
anywhere else in the world.
Inside Tabi Bonney’s small basement apartment on
Capitol Hill, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead sits on a
bedside table next to some PlayStation games and
vintage Versace pillows, and an enormous flatscreen
TV plays MTV Jams with the sound off. Hanging
on one of the walls is a framed LP cover featuring
Bonney’s father, Itadi. The elder Bonney made a name
for himself in the West African country of Togo playing
soukous and high-life music, and after marrying Tabi’s
mother (a DC resident running an international school in
Togo with the Peace Corps), the family remained on the
road. “We would always be on tour, or living in France for
a year or two,” says Bonney. “My sister and I would be
onstage with him, dancing on TV shows in Africa for the
president and stuff like that. Even then I knew I wanted
to be in entertainment. I didn’t know if it was going to be
music—I just knew I didn’t want to lead an ordinary life,
because I wasn’t around an ordinary life.”
Once the Bonneys settled in the States, a preteen
Tabi got a secondary musical education from his DC
surroundings. “You had the Slick Rick, the Kid N Play
influence, but the city was go-go,” says Bonney. “I was
slightly sheltered—I didn’t go out to the clubs all the time
because people were getting killed, but we had tapes,
you’d hear it on the radio, sometimes bands would be set
up on the corner, too.” While studying at Florida A&M in
Tallahassee, Bonney saw some local success with his rap
group Organized Rhyme, rocking tracks he describes as
“underground hip-hop with a lot of samples—the Police,
stuff like that.” But he always found himself returning to
the sounds he came of age listening to.
“When I was working on my [solo] album, I was
thinking back to those hustling days in the ’80s, the
golden age of DC,” says Bonney. “There was a guy around
Lincoln Park who we always looked up to, he’d have a
brand new car every month. He had this pet monkey—he
would come through and the monkey would be wearing
all Polo. Who has ever seen that in the streets?” On
“Lunchin” (“That’s like, if a girl or somebody is trippin,
they lunchin,” Bonney explains), the mission statement is
made clear: I ain’t no herb, no bama, no busta, no mark,
no slouch, no loser, no nothin/ I’m that cat that’ll hit you
with a couch or a stove/ I slap you in the mouth so bust it/
People be illin, thinking they tight/ Pardon me while I hurt
they feelings!/ Lunchin! Lu-lu-lu-lunchin! The beats on his
album, A Fly Guy’s Theme, are as minimal as the rhymes are easy, sometimes only snatches of an accordion
sample (“You”), go-go loops (“Beat Rock”) or even
just beatboxing (“On It”). As a result, its biggest charm
lies in just how awesomely unassuming a throwback it
is—Bonney describes the album as “cool guy tracks and
little treats for the ladies,” and like Devin the Dude or Del
the Funky Homosapien before him, he makes life as a
laidback dude sound pretty damn exciting.
If Tabi Bonney is DC’s understated rap celeb, Wale is
its baby Kanye West (or, as a WKYS program director
would joke, “Wale Fiasco”), a supersized personality
in golden Nikes ready to take over the world, jotting
down almost too-clever lyrics in his Sidekick whenever
he’s not compulsively checking MySpace messages on it.
He’s already got a mini Grammy Family in tow: a longtime
DJ, two eager managers and a clique of close friends
with names like Jay Promo and Sneakerman Dan. Wale’s
orbit even includes local video model Angel, a G-Unit
favorite who just happens to drop in and drop jaws as we
grab lunch on Georgia Ave; he insists they’re on strictly
platonic terms. “She understands where I’m coming from,
so we just bonded,” he says. “You can’t stop DC from
saying what they want to say about you, and they say shit
about her all the time. It’s good to have a homie in your
corner who gets it.”
What do people hate on him for, exactly? “‘Wale not
street, he just a go-go rapper, he not from DC, he can’t
rap,’” he says. “But they know I’m good. It’s not like
they can say ‘You suck’ and look to their left and their
man’s like, ‘You right.’ It’s more like ‘You suck’ and their
man is like, ‘I don’t know, Joe. You hear that mixtape?’”
On his well-rounded Paint a Picture and Hate is the New
Love CDs, distributed for free online and hand-to-hand
throughout the city, Wale makes a convincing case for
his embryonic stardom. Over Kanye’s “Touch the Sky”
instrumental, Wale thanks listeners for their support like
a pro (“Good morning DC! My name’s Wale, you prolly
know me from the rap…”) and follows up “Dig Dug” with
“They Warming Up Caine,” remaking Big Daddy Kane’s
“Warm It Up” into a tongue-twisting indictment of DC’s
drug problem (Government officials is rude in the District/
They do the shipment, we do the pitchin/ They do the
scorin, we more like Pippen/ Lockin us up for the drugs
that we dealin/ But I don’t know no hood nigga that’s
a chemist), and “Lucky Me,” where Wale candidly speaks
on growing up with two immigrant parents while shuffling
between the Northwest DC projects and suburban
Maryland. “I’m no gang banger, I’m just a real genuine
dude in Washington DC,” he says. “I’m an embodiment
of where I’m from. You might double-check me because
I rock a little different from everybody, but that’s my own
style. I’m gonna make that accepted.”
On Wale’s MySpace page, a snapshot of him and Bonney
standing shoulder to shoulder has almost double the
comments of any of the other photos. “THA POCKET
2GETHER,” “2 niggas puttin DC on da map!” and more
than a hundred other well-wishers have left their notes
of support for the duo’s sign of unity. “[Wale] was the first
rapper from DC that I heard and was like, ‘He’s tight,’”
says Bonney, and Wale holds his counterpart in similar
regard. “Tabi’s always there for me,” he says. “He helped
with everything, from dealing with the negative feedback
to hooks to just everything.”
Yet even if they weren’t so friendly, the two MCs would
probably find themselves linked for the rest of their
careers. One glance at the cheesy mixtape covers in any
mom and pop record store will tell you there are many
other MCs hustling throughout the District, but Wale and
Bonney were the ones to capture the imagination and
expectations of their hometown, where “Taxation Without
Representation” is printed at the bottom of license plates,
and the collective desire for recognition is immense. As
with any artist who’s tasted the first spark of success,
Wale and Bonney no longer view their future as a series of
“if’s,” but “when’s.” Bonney is filming a proper video for
“The Pocket” with Swishahouse lensman Dr Teeth, while
finalizing national distribution for A Fly Guy’s Theme, and
Wale continues to record steadily, taking trips up to NYC
to soak up knowledge jewels from Roc-A-Fella engineer
Young Guru, who promises to link him up with Swizz
Beatz and Just Blaze. “I been MySpacing Just to find out
where he got those drummers,” Wale says in traffic, while
listening to Blaze’s nine-minute epic “Why You Hate the
Game” from Doctor’s Advocate. “He won’t tell me where
he got the drummers! I’m gonna have them on my album.
Go-go with an orchestra! If don’t hear that, you know
somebody messed up my budget.” - The Fader Magazine (March 2007)

"Wale Interview with Format Magazine"

When a new artist breaks into a specific scene, there is no real clear path to the top. These days, talent, money and hustle aren’t enough; it’s about finding a niche and working the angles.

Enter Wale: a 22-year-old with flair unknown in hip-hop, using a fusion of distinct musical styles that are foreign to the mainstream, Wale has an all seasons approach to his music that, unfortunately, a numb industry cannot hear over popular snow rappers, or can they? Wale’s couples lyrical prowess with a natural swagger. He is a rap ambassador in the capitol. Although unsigned to a major label, Wale is hardly a minor. His presence places DC on the map, a city now known for more than Capitol Hill and an insane murder rate.

Format: How important is hip-hop to fashion and vice versa fashion to hip-hop?

Wale: I think the connection is very underrated. There is a whole fashion sub-culture – jeans, fitteds, hoodies, sneakers, etcetera – that people are now just starting to pay attention to, all of which are very important. The first thing a person sees is what you got on. If you look at jeans, or a hat, or sneakers it defines a person aesthetically. I rap in a song about Suvie denim and people are gonna wanna know about Suvie denim, just like Jay spoke about Evisu. After that, their sales blew up. I’m gonna put stuff out there like that. I wanna be known as a tastemaker and a style creator, not a hypebeast. Hip-hop is redundant. What’s cool now is big white tees, Timbs, jeans and bling. I don’t look like that – I’m not wearing some uniform.

Format: What artists do you feel have stylistic individuality, what do you do to be your own person?

Wale: Kanye has good style, Lupe looks fly, but I really try to do my own thing. I don’t admire too many people tastes. I’ll tell you what’s really funny is that the DJ’s and the A&R guys are the best dressed in the industry, but many of these guys are old, and don’t care about being different. All I’m saying is when you see me walking through the streets, I got my Hundreds tee on and some SB’s or whatever and I don’t really look like other city cats, especially in DC!

Format: What do you listen to?

Wale: Everything. Washington DC is obviously known for the go-go, so that is where my soul comes from. Aside from that, in terms of rappers, the way Jay-Z looks at Kane and Rakim, I look to him. He’s my Rakim and Kane. He’s slightly older than me, but has always been relevant in my life. Lil’ Wayne is in my age bracket and he’s doing his thing so I try to stay up with that. Black Thought is an MC I really like and respect a lot. He’s very clear and concise and the Roots are into the heavy percussion, which is reminiscent of the go-go sound. AZ is great. I also like Busta’s stage show. [Wale’s mobile phone rings] What yall know bout UB40? “Red Red Wine” is my ring tone.

Format: What’s in Wale’s closet?

Wale: A whole lot of stuff from The Hundreds – shout out to Bobby and Ben. I got a lil’ bit of Gucci. The shoes? I can’t fit them in my closet, I got a room full.

Format: Do you have any intentions to incorporate your fashion interests into your music?

Wale: For sure, even if they don’t like it, as a tastemaker I am expected to do that, being fly and being envied. I care about what I look like and having that swagger. Just the other day I was flying back into Baltimore and I was rocking my Lucky 7’s Dunks – shout to Mr. Weisman for the birthday present. I was getting off the plane and R&B singer, Mario, is feeling my style, asking where I got my shoes, saying, ‘Nice watch, nice shoes!’ It’s funny, you think these people will all this money would know, but nobody knows out here. They all bite off other people and are too scared to do their own thing. I’m trying to come at this with a new swagger, a new approach to make people say, ‘Wait a minute,’ and then focus on what I got on for ten minutes before they even start talking to me.

Format: Do you intend to start your own clothing/sneaker label?

Wale: I’m thinking about doing a line, a project called Forever Nothing. It’s very early and not in the works yet, though. If I do something, I’m gonna need the denim from Japan because that is the best out there. It also takes time in fashion because you need to build relationships, just like anything else. Plus, I wanna do it right. You won’t catch nothing of mine at Marshalls!

Format: If you could only have one pair of shoes that stayed fresh no matter what, what would they be and why?

Wale: I need some red Supreme dunk highs. Please hit me on MySpace if you got em in 9, that’s something I ain’t got that I need.

Format: Isn’t the Nike SB thing played out?

Wale: It is definitely on its way out. I let the hypebeasts buy the new stuff because, come on, new SB’s with Enyce? It’s not done yet, but I don’t buy them just `cause they are Dunks, I gotta love the shoe.

Format: Top 6 Dunks?

Wale: Supreme highs, Jedi’s, Tiffany’s, De La’s, Shimizu’s, Avengers Patent leather.

Format: What about the Bathing Ape stuff, are you over it or was it never really your thing?

Wale: I’m a tastemaker, I follow what I want. Thing is, they are very cocky in the store, which is a turn off, but I still got love for Pusha T, that’s my man and Malice and Pharrell, but there too many fakes out there especially with the hoodies and shoes. I love their jeans, though, and I love some tops like the tiger hoodie.

Format: If you had an opportunity to tell the world one thing what would it be and why?

Wale: Get for ready Washington DC! Give it a chance and don’t be scared of something new

Format: Why is Wale better than the next up and coming cat?

Wale: I’m not necessarily better, but I have other elements to make me a contender. I’m a lyricist. When Wale goes in, I go in for real – the style, the swagger, being from DC. I got a legit shot at the title that when it’s my time, I have a well laid plan and I will without a doubt make it happen.

Format: Why has it taken this long to put DC on the map, not only musically, but the fashion tip as well?

Wale: On the fashion tip, not many are like me in DC. DC don’t know how to love. It’s cold around here, literally and figuratively. But people see that a dude like me has come along with his Rocking Republic’s and Hundreds tee and say, ‘I’ll fuck with him.’ But in DC, everyone gets hated on. They just don’t know Jesus was hated before his was loved. As for the music tip, go-go will always be the first music choice in DC, it’s from here, and it has no love like it has here, but look out cause I’m coming

Format: Whets the deal with an album?

Wale: It’s all about getting the situation right. I am not trying to rush an album, but if we have to drop an indie real quick, I got about 60-something songs right now. I got some plans and been talking to Young Guru, Just Blaze and Swizz Beatz about doing some stuff eventually, but for now I’m just putting tracks down locally.

Format: Anything Else You Got?

Wale: Look out for Wale in 2007! I appreciate all the help people have been giving me. If you still don’t understand, I am a rapper’s rapper. I’m not doing this crunk stuff, I’m a young dude and people are going to have no choice but to understand it and give me a shot. Peace to all my people’s. Be Easy. - Format Magazine-Feb 2007 (www.formatmag.com)

"Wale Interview with Hip Hop Game"

Wale: Hate is the New Love
By Jonathan Bolarinwa

The streets of D.C. are a cold unforgiving place no place for the weak at heart. It’s the place where our country’s biggest decisions are made, but all that aside. What’s up with the Chocolate City music scene? Go-Go was a music staple back in the days it still gets love today but, the times have changed and made way to a frigid yet grimy sound. For one artist his plans to change the game have come to fruition.

Wale [pronounced Wah- Ley], ran the streets of D.C. as a youth getting into all types of mischievous activity but, what saved him from the penitentiary opened up to a new world of music. Wale listened to everything he got his hands on. What sets him apart from everyone else is his personable attitude, distinct rhyme style, and his keen fashion sense. Linking with big time DJ Alizay, he showed D.C. how to party with the hit "Dig Dug," as well as working with his hometown R&B star to make hits like "Addicted." Then, he joined forces with Kenny Burns together they formed the self- proclaimed 3 headed monster.

Wale has stamped his name in the D.C. and Maryland area, but he is still overshadowed by his northern and southern neighbors. Can he still make that same dent in the national scene? Only time will tell.

AllHipHop.com: Washington D.C. is known for the Go-Go scene. Your approach to music is different. My question is what sets you apart homegrown and national talent?

Wale: Well, what I believe makes me stand out from national artists is that I’m from D.C.; we are one of the last big markets that has yet to be tapped. But out here people consider me the most eccentric out of all the artists kind of outspoken. I’m not afraid to have fun, just like how I carry myself - the image I’ve made for myself is not necessarily normal. It’s not gangsta rap, not too hard- core but it ain’t happy music or nothing like that, just good music. I make songs about stuff; it ain’t all shoot ‘em up bang, bang, all day long.

AllHipHop.com: Would you say how you dress helps your fans relate to you?

Wale: It does help because people notice that I’m different. I was actually talking to one of my boys, he was telling me he thinks it would work because I dress different from the rest. I handle myself differently. D.C. is known for Nike boots, all-black hoodies you know the straight grimy look. I’m more like let me wear some bright shoes, some nice jeans, whatever. The look off the bricks makes me stand out; you get that vibe once you see me.

AllHipHop.com: How’d you get started?

Wale: I been rapping since I was 11 years old. It started off recreational, and then I started to really study music. Not even hip- hop, just studied how songs were structured, melodies, and things like that. I listened to artists like Phil Collins, Salt-N-Pepa, Eric B. and Rakim, The Beatles, Jodeci, Shabba Ranks and Prince. Things started picking up like 3 years ago when I got with DJ Alizay. He started tutoring kinda giving me his feedback helping to mold me as an artist. He stumbled across Kenny Burns, and they figured out what we could do.

AllHipHop.com: You take criticism real well. Most people aren’t too fond of anyone critiquing their work, but you acknowledge…

Wale: I learned not to take things so personal; D.C.’s a very sensitive town, a lot of people don’t want to admit it. If someone shouts out Blahzay Blahzay in a song; you can actually get a phone call the next day from the person like, “I heard you said something bad about me.” This place is not like a lot of areas, if you say someone’s name in a record they gonna check you, yo. If you say something bad about somebody, they gonna check you. If you say you shooting niggas or you hustling they gonna check you. As far as it goes you can’t take things personal that’s what I’ve been trying to stress to people, but growing up in D.C. I felt it’s no other way I could do it but to not take it personal. That’s all they do out here, so when someone gives me that negative critique or whatever. I gotta run with it and just work harder, yo! I mean if it‘s from a credible source at least.

AllHipHop.com: Explain how you got up with former V.P. of Rocafella Kenny Burns?

Wale: His sister Robin was like a fan of my stuff. She heard covers and certain songs I did on the radio. She told him about me, telling him he needed an artist from D.C. meanwhile, he heard me and felt I was the guy to bring them back into the music business,

AllHipHop: So what was the first meeting between you and him like?

Wale: Oh, it was crazy! First time he heard me rap for real was over the phone. I guess that was phase one there was this little audition that him and Chucky Thompson at Cramden auditorium; No music, nothing straight acapella. Kenny liked my style bought me a bottle that night at his birthday party. It’s been all good ever since the three- headed monster me, Alizay, and Kenny Burns.

AllHipHop.com: So under Alizay’s tutelage he molded you into a radio staple?

Wale: Alizay is the biggest DJ in Washington, D.C. he been like a big brother to me from the start. I used to stay at his house when things were going bad at home, he would take me around and introduce me to people, all the big wigs in the city. I’ve become the star and I can just see how proud he is.

AllHipHop.com: Right off the gate you could say you have a great start on your career with the city’s top DJ and a record executive in your corner.

Wale: Yep. That’s why I call it the three- headed monster. It’s like the early stages of Jay, Dame, and Biggs. Of course Kenny would be like Dame he’s the marketing master. He knows what to say, when to say it, how to say it. Alizay is like Biggs gets things done more behind the scenes type.

AllHipHop.com: The first joint you had was called "Dig Dug" that became the song for the whole D.C., Maryland area. What was the premise behind the song that made it so popular?

Wale: It was definitely a hit of the summer and the most requested song ever from an independent artist. The song was basically paying homage; "Dig Dug" is actually one of the players in the Northeast Groovers. The Northeast Groovers was my favorite Go-Go bands coming up, so I was like I want to do a party record. I got something done with them in it incorporating that sound that I love so much. Basically, what we did was we took a sample from a song called “Off The Muscle,” by the Northeast Groovers and it worked out perfectly. It was produced by Southeast Slim.

AllHipHop.com: You had 3 songs in heavy radio rotation at the same time…

Wale: “Dig Dug” was in heavy. Another joint called "One Thing About A Playa," another Go-Go sample, it had a pretty good rotation for a few weeks. Those were highly, highly requested records. The third called "Uptown Roamers," it was the first non Go-Go records it kinda became a popular street record. It gets spins on mix shows a lot but it was never really thrown into rotation. “Rhyme of the Century” got some attention as well from the Source magazine.

AllHipHop.com: Your first mix tape entitled “Paint a Picture,” spread throughout D.C., MD, and VA like wildfire. What was the secret behind that?

Wale: We printed out a couple hard copies, but it was heavily downloaded. Every 1 out of 3 people that listens to urban music [in our area] had that or something from that.

AllHipHop.com: So downloading got the music to the people, were you expecting that or prefer them getting it from a direct source?

Wale: It was free, we gave it out. Not a problem. I felt like I gotta put my voice out there in D.C. we were willing to put our money up just so they can understand what’s going on. I felt like, yeah, we got somebody that we can depend on that can give us consistent good music by giving it out for free. No one was really to take chances on things hey are not really aware of. Even if I do have a song that’s crazy on the radio, you got to take a step further in D.C. It’s that much harder out here than in any other city.

AllHipHop.com: What would you say is holding D.C. back in the sense of making heavy presence in Hip-Hop?

Wale: Hate. All we know is hate. There’s nothing that anybody can do in D.C. to please people, we will never be pleased. You can pay homage to your city; they’ll be like why he doing a song about D.C. why don’t he go national. Or if he goes national then it’s like why he ain’t doing nothing about D.C., Why he ain’t reppin? Or if he not doing something that ain’t shoot em up bang bang, then he gay. He ain’t a real nigga; I ain’t never seen him in the streets. They always try to find the fault in everything. I’m doing my best with a few other artists Tabi Benet, Circle Boys, E.M.P., Kingpin Slim, Oy Boyz, Oy Way, we are doing our best to erase that. Everything is all good because none of the artists are beefing with each other.

AllHipHop.com: You did work with some notables like Guru and The Clipse?

Wale: Me and The Clipse done so many shows together so it’s like we just know each other. Guru really is interested, we talked once or twice a week. Dudes like Fat Joe they come to town they respect what I’m doing. T.I., had an opportunity to meet him. I met a lot of dudes like Kanye, also had a few hip- hop managers taking notice. Jae Millz, I a remix to my record, “Something About a Playa” on the new mixtape “Hate Is The New Love.”

AllHipHop.com: How’d you hook up with Jae Millz?

Wale: It was cool, a little something Alizay set up. Jae really showed a lot of love, because a lot of people wouldn’t understand the record unless it’s from a voice they are familiar with. In D.C., I’m a familiar voice outside of D.C. I’m not. It’s understandable. My boy was in Philly the other day on South St. and he heard the joint playing, Jae has a lot to do with that.

AllHipHop.com: Any other projects coming out?

Wale: We got the album coming out called Love Day, the date is not set in stone yet. But be on the look out for that when it drops.

AllHipHop.com: What’s your plans to take D.C. to the next level?

Wale: We gotta try and get love from others. We already smashed our market. We gotta have D.C. behind us, and let them know that we all about D.C., if it’s done I’m going to be the one the one to represent this area right with other artists we gonna rep this right. We got a lot of people out now. They just don’t have that outlet to be heard. Hip- hop is the voice of the culture, not stand- up comedy, not R&B, not acting but several actors are from here. It’s just a matter of us taking D.C. to that next level. We are gonna let it be known that we are from here and we’re gonna give you our style and flavor.

Wale's Myspace Page is www.myspace.com/wale202 - www.hiphopgame.com

"Wale Interview with Take Me Out To The Go Go"

"Dig Dug! Off the Muscle!" I was in my car one day when I heard that come on the radio and I got excited because I thought I was about to hear some vintage Northeast Groovers (NEG). Then I looked at my watch. It wasn’t time for the radio station’s daily half-hour of Go-Go music yet. Just as I was getting into the song, the beat changed and I heard:

That’s my name
Don’t forget
It’s not a game
Hold your dame
Cuz my thang’s somethin’ vicious (repeat)
Not from Northeast
But I guarantee I groove-ah

When the song went off the DJ said that it was a local artist named Walé (Wah-lay), and that the song was called "Dig Dug." At first I wasn’t sure that I liked this song that kept teasing me with the promise of some old NEG, but the more I heard it, the more I liked it, and the more I started to listen for the "Shake it, Shake it," part. That’s not NEG, but all Walé. That wasn’t Wale’s first song to be played by local radio, but it was the one that brought him the most attention—not all of it good.

Sometimes people in the DC area complain because local artists don’t embrace Go-Go music, then you get someone like Walé who does embrace it, and people still aren’t happy. "That’s the mentality of this area," Walé said. "The first instinct is to hate something. The first time I performed "Dig Dug" people looked at me like ‘What the hell is this dude doing?’ Second time, they heard it on the radio a couple of times, they like it. Third time, they love it. Fourth time, they love it to death. Fifth time, it’s ‘yeah.’ One of my friends said she was in the car with a girl who just got back from school who heard "Dig Dug" and was getting ready to turn the channel. She was like ‘What is he doing to this? I hate this.’ By the end of the song she loved it." From a genre of music that is famous for covering other artists’ hits came outrage from both artists and fans. "Did he get permission to use the song?" some wanted to know. "Is he even from DC?" others questioned.

Twenty-two-year old Wale Folarin was raised in Northwest Washington, DC by Nigerian-born parents and graduated from Mark Twain, an alternative school in Rockville, MD (something he raps about on a mix tape song called "Lucky Me"). The rapper grew up listening to and loving Go-Go music, and was also a hip-hop fanatic, so a union of hip-hop and Go-Go seemed inevitable for him.

Prior to radio stations putting "Dig Dug" in rotation, they occasionally played a song Walé had done called "Rhyme of the Century" that landed him in the "Unsigned Hype" section of The Source in June 2005. His song "Uptown Roamers" has been getting a bit of airplay in recent weeks. "Flexx from PGC called me today and was like ‘that joint been getting requests all day long,’ " Walé reports. Neither of these songs samples Go-Go records, and like the song Dig Dug, "One thing about a Playa," which samples The Backyard Band’s "Keep it Gangsta," and "Breakdown," which samples the Huck-a-Buck’s "Sexy Girl," all appear on mix tapes that were given away and not sold.

Walé admits that being young and not knowing better, he didn’t necessarily go through the proper channels to get permission to use the Go-Go samples, but said that should he decide to use any Go-Go samples on his studio album, than he would definitely go through the proper channels. "And, I do apologize if anybody feels like I disrespected them," Walé said. "But, the object wasn’t to do that, the object was to bring exposure to a genre that’s not getting any exposure." Feedback has been both positive and negative—but mostly positive. "I talked to G [Big G of The Backyard Band]," he says, "and he was all for it. He was loving it. He was like ‘keep doing what you do.’ He said that anything he could do to help, he would do." Walé reports that he got love from the Huck-a-Bucks as well.

When I asked former NEG (and current What? Band) frontman Chris "Rapper" Black for his thoughts on it, he had no comment. Walé adds that he met Rapper shortly after "Dig Dug" came out and Rapper told him that he was upset—not with Walé, but at how things went down. I spoke to Ronald "Dig Dug" Dixon, a former member of NEG, and asked him for his feelings on Walé sampling the NEG song and on the song being named after him. "I didn’t understand it," Dug said was his first reaction. "I wish sometimes people would just ask. People are always taking something from us." Dug first heard that Walé couldn’t get in touch with anyone and said "Fuck it, I’m going to use it anyway," but later found out from his brother Maestro—former NEG keyboard player—that this was, in fact, not true. Walé tried to get in touch with Maestro and Miss Pratt (former NEG manager), but they kept missing each other. He went on to say that he was flattered to have a song named after him. "It’s an honor. You must really love it to use it. Once I found out that he was a true NEG fan, that’s all I needed to hear."

Why then, didn’t Walé thank NEG or anyone from the Go-Go community when he recently won the KYS Go-Go Award for DC Metro Breakout Artist? "I was nervous as hell," he explains. "Rapping in front of a lot of people is a lot different from talking in front of a lot of people. It’s usually us with the music, us with the beats, or whatever." Someone had told him—jokingly—that they knew he wasn’t going to win, so he never prepared a speech because he believed them. "I could feel it when I walked off stage. I wasn’t trying to shun anyone. I didn’t even thank the dude who made the tracks for me. My mother was mad at me for not thanking the Lord. She’s real religious."

During the KYS Go-Go Awards, Walé performed his hit "Dig Dug" with the Uncalled 4 Experience (UCB) who was recently signed to Studio 43, the label established by Kenny Burns, former Vice President for Rocafella Records. To the delight of the crowd, The Backyard Band’s Weensey made a surprise appearance to sing the hook to "Keep it Gangsta" when Walé performed "One thing about a Player." "I’ve done a lot of shows with UCB, and I used to do a lot with the L!ssen Band actually," Walé replied when I asked him about his plans to work more with live Go-Go bands. "I’ve been talking to Polo [of TCB] lately. We’ve been trying to get some stuff done."

Every now and then a rapper or a rap group will come along in the DC area and will be touted as "the next big thing." Two years ago, The Washington Post ran an article on rapper Blyss who claimed, "There’s no probably about it. I am going to be the first rapper to put D.C. on the map." The self-proclaimed "King of D.C." has yet to make a mark on the national—or local for that matter—hip-hop scene. Expected by many to do what no other rapper has done so far—be the first major rapper from DC in the national spotlight—Walé says that he doesn’t feel like there is a burden being placed on him.

With so many people forming their own record label, with his track record at Rocafella records, and with his reputation for working with such artists as Dream, Mariah Carey, Kanye West, and Jay-Z, Kenny Burns has a lot riding on Walé, who is the artist who will launch his label Studio 43. Burns, a DC native, first heard about Walé from his sister Robin Lyons, who Walé describes as being very critical. "She doesn’t like anything." He called up Wale’s manager, DJ Alizay and asked him to bring Walé to Howard University where he was judging a showcase for producer Chuckie Thompson so that the two could meet. Once there, Burns convinced Walé to give an impromptu performance. Everyone else rapped about being a gangsta and "ice and bling," but Walé rapped about the high price of gas.

About his style Walé says, "I’m not posing to be like a kingpin, drug dealer kind of guy. Like a super drug dealing gangsta pimp, or whatever. My lane is pretty much like bringing swagger back to the game. Have fun kind of style. And it’s crazy that some people still come at me like ‘You’re not a gangster Walé,’ and I’m like, ‘I never said I was.’ That’s crazy to me."

"It was refreshing," Burns says. "He was funny, but witty. I get so tired of all that other stuff. I grew up on it, but I have kids now." When asked what made him choose Walé to launch his label Burns responded, "His swagger was much like mine at an early age. He had a certain thing about him like, ‘yeah Joe.’ On top of the swagger, he might be one of the best rappers lyrically that I ever heard. I was part of the whole Jay-Z system from "Reasonable Doubt" to "Blackout." Walé reminds me a lot of him. He’s a rapper’s rapper." The CEO of Studio 43 went on to say that he wanted someone to represent DC—and himself personally—in the proper way, and he feels that Walé is the one to do it.

Wale’s album titled "LoVe Day" is slated for release on Studio 43 records in early 2007. It features the single "Addicted/I Wanna Kiss U," a collaboration with Raheem DeVaughn. (You can hear the song by logging onto www.myspace.com/wale202. Burns says that he has been getting calls about the rapper from all the bigwigs. "Everyone from Atlantic to Warner Brothers." Everything that Walé has done so far including the free mix tapes has been part of a plan carefully orchestrated by Burns. "The plan," he explains, "is to create a fan base first. Get paper second. It’s bigger than Studio 43. It’s bigger than Walé." - http://www.tmottgogo.com


May 2006

September 2006

May 2007

JUNE 2007

"Dig Dug"
"1 Thing About A Player"
"Uptown Roamers"
"Addicted" f. Raheem DeVaughn
"Good Girls"
"Ice Cream Girl"



Surveillance of the current hip-hop scene turns up a plethora of rappers who are carbon copies of successful artists that came before them. From their content, to their flow, to their delivery and even down to their style, they are exercises in unoriginality. Wale (Wah-lay) is not the case. A 22 year-old first generation American of Nigerian-born parents, Wale grew up in Washington, DC learning to love music in every form. "When I was younger, I would beat on oatmeal containers with these sticks my parents used to clean their teeth with," Wale recalls. That musical instinct helped cultivate his eclectic musical tastes. "I listened to everything: Phil Collins, Salt and Pepa, Eric B and Rakim, the Beatles, Jodeci, Shabba Ranks, Prince," says Wale. His initial raps were an extension of his love for music and functioned as a recreational release, but it quickly turned into a challenege. "I started wanting to master the art of music," says Wale. "I wanted to be able to rap to the phone ringing, because it sounded like music to me. I just liked the idea of putting words to it."

Fast forward to 2007 and Wale has taken DC by storm, has already started buzzing around the US and is ready for the world. Already seeing heavy rotation in DC, Maryland and Virginia, selling out shows in the "Urrrea", North Carolina, Philly, Los Angeles and Atlanta, Wale has been covered by The Source, The Washington Post, The Fader and countless music blogs from the UK to Sweden to Nigeria to the US. Already past 1 million MySpace plays, Wale is an organic hip hop and lifestyle phenomenon. Top streetwear label The Hundreds has already co-signed Wale, as has lifestyle brand, Five Four Clothing, who will be releasing a "Best of Wale" mixtape with Tapemasters. Starr African Rum and Nike are also in Wale's corner.

Every once in a while an artist comes along who completely changes the game from every angle: Jay-Z, Nelly, Pharrell, Kanye West. Wale's got next.