The buzz surrounding the 23-year old Washington DC rapper Wale has grown pretty loud in the last month or two. Everyone from Entertainment Weekly to Rolling Stone and XXL have profiled the guy. Hell, Urb even put him on the cover of their150th issue (Though I'll admit that when I saw Wale surrounded by the creepy French biker-looking dudes of Justice, I thought that he was the token black member of the Ed Banger crew. Turns out, not so much.) So forgive me if I'm a little late to jump on the bandwagon. To be perfectly forthright, the phrase "Mark Ronson protege" didn't exactly make me rush to check Wale out. Nothing against Ronson, he's got a great ear. But as a rule, I don't take hip-hop recommendations from people in fedoras. It generally works out to my advantage. This is the rare exception.
If you haven't heard of Wale yet, be prepared to hear a lot more about him in the future, with rumors already swirling about a possible signing with Jimmy Iovine and Interscope. Judging from his excellent mixtape, 2007's 100 Miles and Running, Wale's one of those rare rappers capable of transcending the increasingly nebulous boundaries between the worlds of the commercial and the underground. Black Thought is his favorite rapper. He raps over everything from old Camp Lo instrumentals to "D.A.N.C.E," name-dropping Zack Morris, mocking Soulja Boy and even managing to get Lil Wayne and Evidence to appear on the "Nike Boots remix."
The Good Doctor Zeus (who you should all be reading by now) compares Wale to a cross between "Lupe Fiasco at his most accessible, Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne and Devin the Dude" and those camparisons seem pretty dead-on. If you've often found yourself wondering where all the talented young rappers are (and yes, this is probably a valid question to ask), download Wale's free mixtape below. He's proof-positive that every now and then people who wear fedoras aren't all bad.