Since stepping on the hip-hop scene, Wale has made no issue wearing his heart on his sleeve like it’s fresh out of Fashion Week. Whether in his songs or on his social media, the “SHiNE” superstar rarely shies away from his feelings. While Wale has a decorated catalog of deep cuts already, for his sixth-studio album, “Wow… That’s Crazy,” Folrain found ways to express himself even further.
As I heard Wale spill the tea on what brews in his mind as a black man warped in today’s world, I felt my cup runneth over with ideas on how my album review would be. Then, I thought, “wow… that’s selfish.”
This time I let black men do all the talking for me. With “Wow… That’s Crazy” being a project from a perspective of a black man, I wondered if my beautiful brothers out there had thoughts that mirrored the ones in Wale’s music. I wanted to have dialogue that broke away from conventional conversations and really get into a man’s inner thoughts and be introspective. In doing so, I turned to 4 guys whose hip-hop hot takes hold heavy weight:
- AK, a dedicated student, expert playlist maker and host of 4$ide Podcast
- Brenden, also known as Sway, formerly Columbia’s finest and host of The Working Title Podcast
- George, a new father, born and raised in The Bronx, known for being overly opinionated and super dedicated on his way to obtaining his nursing degree
- Taevon, rap artist and apparel designer from PG County, Maryland, who more than often goes by his stage name, Sinsier
They were honest and engaging as they opened up to me on touchy topics and their overall assessment of the album. Get a grasp of how these guys process the album and more of our conversation below!
Let’s start with explaining which song you relate to most on “Wow… That’s Crazy.”
AK: No lie, that’s a tough one. I think “Expectations” the most, but each song definitely has a bar that just resonates with me on a spiritual level. Like on “Sue Me,” when my mans said, “I fall in love with women I shouldn’t yearn for.”
Brendon: “Break My Heart (My Fault)” with Durk. I feel as if everything in Wale’s 2nd verse I’ve dealt with something similar this year. Beginning of the verse he said, “She was really too pressed, Me I was really too rude….I shoulda gave her the moon. Now I live in denial. You fallin’ back and you cool.” I’ll break it down like this “she was really too pressed, me I was really too rude” … It’s been plenty of times I’ve had a queen I was feeling around but I didn’t take it seriously because I know shit really don’t last forever so I never put myself out there like that. I wouldn’t say I’m always rude but I kind of shut out others peoples feelings or ignore them when I don’t feel the same way. “I shoulda gave her the moon. Now I live in denial. You fallin’ back and you cool.” I could go on all day about queens I messed up with and nitpick certain things I could have done and changed about myself but it is what it is. From the one that lives overseas to the one that’s 3 hours away.
George: I related to “Love Me Nina/Semiautomatic” the most, especially since my son is black. It’s just a constant reiteration that I must equip my son with the tools to embrace and love the person he is. Remember that you’re black first, so people aren’t going to view you in the light they view others, and never suppress your feelings.
Taevon: I like “Debbie,” “Love Me Nina,” “BGM“…
I noticed the songs you favored were centered on celebrating black women, which Wale often does THANKFULLY, and well.
Taevon: Yeah Wale’s been doing that since forever. [laughs] I just noticed that too. It’s my subconscious because black women raised me. I always show my love and appreciation 25/8. Even in my own merch, it says, “Black Woman is GOD.” “BGM” is just the complete celebration for women as a whole.
In the intro track titled “Sue Me,” Wale mentions not receiving enough affection growing up in a Nigerian household and how it attributes to his self-love today. Is this similar to your upbringing? Would you say it affects you today as an adult?
George: I received affection from all of the women in my life as a child, but I never received the affection that I truly longed for from my father. Even though my father was in my life, he never was the father I longed for him to be. It affects me now, but not in a negative way, as everything that I wanted for my father to be for me as a kid. I’m doing that now for my son and fiance.
Brendon: In the crib I grew up with 3 sisters and a mother so, the love was there for sure. It’s nothing like being loved by a black woman. I received loved, that’s not even up for debate. I think the main thing that affects me today as an adult is bottling things up, and I feel like because I never had my dad around I didn’t feel like I could talk to my mom about certain things, so I’d bottle them up rather than speak on it.
AK: I was lucky enough to have both my parents in my life, and I saw a healthy expression of love between the two. Since I was an only child, my mom definitely made sure to show me love. My dad, on the other hand, was more cold, not in a bad way though. Like, my dad ain’t really say “I love you” or shit like that, not a lot of “aye you did a good job,” but he had a lot of non-verbal moments of improvements. When it came to my love life, I kind of adopted that, [laughs] became less good with my words but try to show shit through action.
I think Wale’s best work involves describing situations in song about love and love lost. On this album he specifically shares how his mental wellness directly correlates to his dating life in songs like “Cliche” and “Expectations.” What’s your relationship status? How would you say your mental wellness plays a part in your romantic life currently?
Brendon: I have queens but not a main queen, I’m not trying to force anything right now because I really be going through it at times and I’m not trying to bring anyone around until my mind is right. My mental wellness goes up and down at times, I can’t be trying to love someone when sometimes I don’t even love myself.
George: I’m engaged. My mental wellness has gotten stronger with my fiance, because she’s the one who listens to whatever I go through, provides me with different perspectives when I couldn’t see them, and even when I’m helping her through everything, I often find myself resolving my own problems through that.
AK: I’m in a relationship now, it’ll be 3 months like next week. And to be honest, my mental wellness definitely plays a big part. I was single for the past 3 for that very reason. I need time to myself. I had to figure myself out, my issues, what I liked, didn’t etc. And I agree. Wale’s normally my go-to when I’m in my bag for that reason. [laughs] Going back to old tracks like “The War” and “The Need to Know,” he also knew how to capture that essence very well. I remember after I had a bad breakup my sophomore year of college. I had that joint on repeat. “The War” just dead explains everything you’re feeling.
Is this an album you can see yourself revisiting? Why or not?
Brendon: For sure, I said to the homies the other day that this the first album since HNDRXX that I’ve really related to. A lot of pop culture shit don’t really relate to me, I don’t pay it much attention but this right here something I’ve needed for a while.
George: I think I’ll revisit some tracks from it, but overall it doesn’t rank as a top 3 Wale project for me, so it may not get that much replay value.
Taevon: I don’t know at this moment. I got big love for Wale but my mind state right now is not fitting for his music at the moment, maybe down the road. I’m still upcoming and going through the early stages of my career where people don’t know me yet and I’m like learning the business and how to market and promote myself. I’m an independent artist. I’m listening to a lot of Nipsey and watching his interviews trying to soak the game up from him and others that was successful in building their leverage. Like how Master P finessed that 80/20 label deal..
AK: I’m definitely revisiting the album. I don’t got a rank for it yet on his discography but I know it’s a top 3 album for me. And even with me being in this relationship now, it reflects some of my fears I have with this current relationship myself just on a personal level.
Do you have any connections to hip-hop songs on mental health?
George: 2014 Forrest Hills Drive had a huge impact on my mental, especially Love Yourz.
Brendon: There’s songs here and there that I’ve connected with but I never felt the need play them when I need to get my mind right. Mad by Solange, that hotline number by Logic.. those the main 2 that come up. A lot of people I have been around and grew up with connected with Kid Cudi, I didn’t. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, I think it’s special when a person can connect with an artist on a deeper level. That just isn’t me, especially when it comes to mental health.
AK: Boogie had me full on self-evaluating. What goes through my mind is “not to self-destruct.” Sometimes I just find myself doing dumb shit cause I be feeling I might not deserve something. Can’t remember the exact bar but Wale said something about self-loathing on “Set You Free.” That’s another issue I have with myself.
Taevon: I personally tread lightly on that subject because I feel like the industry has turned into a marketing tool, and some media personalities milk it when it’s a real serious thing. It’s people really out here struggling with depression, stress, and other things and people are playing with it. But I do fuck with Boogie’s project. On DAMN, I think the song “FEAR” is the one for me that really expressed how I see and feel about things. Also 2Pac’s “Lord Knows” is an even bigger one for me too.
There’s a stigma against seeking therapy in the black community, especially in terms of black men. Are you open to see a therapist?
Taevon: I am. I actually go to therapy now. I just started back in August. You should try it, you never know what you can get out of it. My next session is next month so I’ll see how far the rabbit hole goes with this [laughs]
AK: Definitely open to it. It’s all about finding the right therapist to be honest. I’ve made a couple attempts at it before. The first time I was really reluctant to do it but after a string of tough events I had to. It was through my school’s student health center, didn’t help much. When I transferred back to NY for school, I told my mom, who’s a nurse practitioner, and at least had an understanding about mental health. But the thing with Nigerians is that they’re really religious, my moms ended up taking me to a pastor to be prayed for.
George: I’m very open to therapy. I think it’s important to express your true feelings and thoughts to an unbiased option, that won’t look at you awkward or alter some of your feelings, based off of perception. Especially in the black community, we tend to hold on to a lot of negative shit, and it’s not good at all.
Brendon: I’m 50/50 on seeing a therapist. This may sound ignorant but I put it like this, why would I pay some random person $100+ every time I see them just to be like “and why do you feel this way” 4 or 5 times? Maybe I don’t have a clear idea of therapy but I’m just going with what I see on TV and in the movies. Taji’s my best friend, and I talk to him about everything and it’s like again why would I pay someone to start my life story all over again with, when I can do it for free with a nigga I’ve known for years? It doesn’t all make sense to me. On the other hand, it’s like everybody goes through things, and some days I may not want to talk to someone about what’s going on with me, especially when I see they’re going through something themselves and it’s like “I need to get this out and not bottle it up”. I don’t think therapy is a bad thing in anyway nor do I want to make it seem like I’m 100% against it, and telling people to stay away from it.
What’s your therapy?
Brendon: My therapy is being around family, real blood family and the The Working Title family honestly. They know me more than I know myself sometimes, especially when I’m having conversations with Taji. Music works, but it be times when I don’t want to hear that shit, like days when I just want peace and quiet.
Taevon: I like to create that helps release the pressure. When I keep recording new ideas, whether I use them or not, it helps me stay in creative mode. Cause any artist knows once you get in the habit of not creating, it’s extremely hard to get back into.
George: My therapy is herbal and gazing into the stars, just letting my mind run free. I’m working on finding another therapy also. [laughs]
AK: The first thing I do though is take time for myself for at least a couple hours when I get overwhelmed. Normally I do that by taking a a quick walk or drive around. When I get back home, it’s listening to music and YouTube, though I’m not focusing on the music or the video, I start thinking of solutions.
With this being Wale’s sixth album, listeners know him for opening up time and time again. However, what’s a message you get from this type of album this time around?
AK: Simply put it’s acceptance. Wale’s always been open to an extent. Yeah, he’s given us stuff about his relationships and maybe had a bar about anxiety here and there in the past, but the first time we’re really hearing about his PTSD from the industry, his depressions, anxiety, how that affects how he handles his fame etc. I always thought the best way to accept your problems is to be open and truthful with them to yourself. That’s normally the hardest thing to do but Wale let the floodgates open with this project.
George: I get more of the overall “pro-black, and perception is everything” message from this Wale album. I also think he’s trying to shred this old image that we had on Wale of the “grumpy rapper. ”
Brendon: The message I got from this album is that being vulnerable and opening up isn’t something that should be looked down upon. I think that’s something I’ve struggled with ever since I was young, I shut down when things are going bad rather than trying to open up and figure problems out. I’m trying to get better at it but still the “why open up when I know nothing is going to change” crosses my mind a lot of the time
Taevon: He seems more confident in himself now than in past albums of him rapping about being underappreciated. I can relate to his frustrations. I’m sure every artist of any form can understand how frustrating at times dealing with art. It can be stressful at times, but it creates for great content. if you can mold your situation right.
If you could give this album your own title to sum it up, what would it be?
Brendon: “Yo What?” because that’s usually my response when something is getting ready to go to shit.
AK: ” Let It Go.” I feel by being open and finally accepting shit, Wale let go of all the baggage holding him back.
George: “Don’t Fail Me”
If you liked what you read, can relate, or want to react to whatever was mentioned, reach out to AK, Brendon, George, and Taevon on their social media and platforms listed below or leave a comment! (Shown in order from left to right.)
AK: Follow on Twitter , View on Instagram, and Watch 4$ide Podcast (YouTube) *Also available on various podcast platforms
Brendon: Follow on Twitter, View on Instagram and Listen to The Working Title Podcast (Apple) *Also available on various podcast platforms
George: Follow on Twitter and View on Instagram
Taevon: Follow on Twitter, View on Instagram, Watch on YouTube, and Listen to Sinsier and his debut mixtape, “199x:nostalgia” on all music streaming platforms.