Diana Levine for AOL
Following the emotive MC around in New York City on Nov. 2, a day after his first album under the Maybach Music Group/Warner Bros. Records umbrella debuted, brushes away preconceived notions that he's just an irate rapper posting 140-character jabs at critics and unsupportive followers on Twitter. Wale's happy, as long as there's a blunt full of weed in his hand -- which he smoked many times throughout his hectic day -- and a forum to showcase his lyrical talents.
His morning kicks off around 10:30AM, where he sits down with The Breakfast Club radio hosts DJ Envy, Angela Yee and Charlamagne at Power 105.1. Music off his second LP plays, answers are given as to his departure from former label, Interscope Records ("My assistant knew before I did that I got dropped") and stories are shared behind the inspiration for tracks like his love-gone-wrong ode 'Sabotage' ("That was the first time a girl punched me in the face; I love crazy women").
Crazy is a word that many people may use to describe Wale, who dropped his first album, 'Attention Deficit,' in 2009. However, Power 105.1's Angela Yee thinks his actions, which sometimes include emotional outbursts via social networking platforms, are misconstrued by the public. "People have this idea about him that he spazzes out and he's so crazy but I think all of that shows that he's a passionate person," she shares. "He's passionate about what you think about his music, he cares so much about what you think about him."
Besides crafting songs like the braggadocio bars of 'Bait' and the Miguel-assisted 'Lotus Flower Bomb,' his other passion lies in sneakers. At 11:30AM, he walks into Flight Club, a popular sneaker boutique, and scours the walls lined with kicks like a kid in a candy store. Wale, born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin on Sept. 21, 1984, admits to having most every kind of sneakers displayed in the store but that doesn't stop him from scooping up a pair of camouflage Adidas Jeremy Scott Wings. "It's his addiction," says Wes, who serves as the MC's road manager and is an official member of his Board of Administration movement. In total, Wale walks out of the store after dropping $3,340 on merchandise.
Before getting a slew of interviews underway with various outlets, a rapper's got to eat. He'll settle for Subway but after making a pit-stop at Flatotel -- the hotel he's chosen to rest his dreadlocked head while in the Big Apple -- he and his entourage opt for a more elegant eatery. A pricey seafood restaurant tucked away on a midtown street is where the 'Eleven One Eleven Theory' mixtape creator not only eats a crab cake sandwich and drinks fresh squeezed orange juice at 1:40PM, but also where he charges his phone, which never seems to leave his fingertips throughout the day.
Sitting with his crew, it's apparent Wale has a tight-knit team. His manager Greg and Roc Nation manager Rich Kleiman sit beside him, laughing at the random conversation being thrown out. Of course Wale appreciates those in his presence, but there's an absence felt for one of his hometown friends. He shares sentiments about him on a track that hits close to the soul. "'D.C. or Nothing,' I don't listen to [that song] that much 'cause it's too emotional," he says.
"On [that song off the album] I talk about my friend Ricky, who's currently incarcerated. I haven't talked to Ricky in about a year-and-a-half -- he did something really bad. [On my album release day Nov. 1], I never pick up blocked numbers [and] I picked it up and it said, 'You have a collect call from Inez, Kentucky, it's Ricky F.' I was dog-tired and my heart sunk to my stomach. He was like, 'Man, I'm so proud of you. You're doing it big.' We just stayed on the phone reminiscin' about high school and the first time we got locked up. I was thinking, this is what's it's about. This is what life is really about. These are the moments I have to work toward, those memories and enjoying that. I'll take collect calls like that all day."
As he walks with a full stomach just a few blocks away to his talk sessions with US Weekly and Rolling Stone regarding 'Ambition,' Wale, ever the Twitter enthusiast, reads a tweet that one of his legion of fans sends his way regarding 'Illest Bitch Alive,' one of the songs on his LP. "Thou I'm not a fan of the title. I am in LOVE w/the lyrics 2 @Wale Illest B**** Its a modern love letter since men don't write those nemore [sic]," @Almond2yourJoy writes. "She hit the nail right on the head," he states with satisfaction.
The heavily tattooed rhymer, who has the word "ambition" inked on his right hand, isn't usually a staple on the pages of US Weekly like reality TV stars or Botox-injected celebrities. On his first album, a song titled '90210' features lyrics that speak of a Hollywood lifestyle that regular women strive to be a part of by any means. The publication's Senior Editor Ian Drew probably isn't aware the rapper isn't too keen on the "nothing here's real and everyone's alike" image the celebrities project in the magazine because he's all smiles at the moment, especially when Drew flaunts a physical copy of his album in front of the camera for a Hot Stuff segment at 2:30PM.
Wale jokes when Drew lists off past collaborators like Lady Gaga ("You don't call. I got the same number. Call me") and throws on another grin when his boss, Rick Ross is mentioned. After all, the Teflon Don was the one who helped paved his yellow brick road towards a second career opportunity.
"He's a special person to me," Wale discloses. "[Rick Ross] gave me my shot and he got us to where we needed to go. I just want him to know that me and Meek [Mill] got him. We work hard so he doesn't have to work as hard no more. He already put in his years of super hardcore work. Now you just kick your feet up and be the boss. Maybach we gon' keep pushing. He taught us how to be entrepreneurs for real, told us how to work the game and how to get to the top and do it the right way."
Diana Levine for AOL
Rolling Stone is next on the To-Do list, then there's a stop in Times Square to visit Sway for a live TV showing of MTV's RapFix. A lauded journalist, Sway's watched the MMG signee's come-up from trials and tribulations with his first effort to the current success of 'Ambition.' The firm handshake he serves Wale as well as the solid pat on his back are unspoken actions that prove he's a lyricist fully embraced by an elite member of the hip-hop community.
"The percentage of the girls that come up and cry to me is getting higher," Wale says after squaring away his pow wow at MTV. He currently rests inside a turtle-top Mercedes van en route to an album signing at J&R Music World. When he arrives to the one-stop music shop in lower Manhattan at 5:15PM, screaming fans with T-shirts emblazoned with his logo line the street. Indoors, the fandemonium is a bit calmer as he sits at a table to scribble his autograph on 'Ambition' covers. One young female Waleiber -- yes, the rapper jokingly refers to his fans this way ever since going head-to-head with Justin Bieber's 'Under the Mistletoe' holiday album during release week -- offers the DMV-bred entertainer a handwritten letter when she finally gets the chance to meet him. "There's always stuff in these joints that make me sad," he admits with a lost look on his face.
He's back in his vehicle after J&R, stopping quickly in SoHo to purchase a camouflage Penfield vest -- a brand he "loves" -- at Atrium. By 8:15PM, Wale's sitting inside Hot 97's studios to speak with Funkmaster Flex. Their discussion includes his song 'Legendary,' a past verbal spat with model Rosa Acosta, a free midnight concert he'll perform at Highline Ballroom -- Miguel, Ne-Yo, Meek Mill, Rick Ross and French Montana all take the stage alongside him -- later that evening and his overall maturation process.
"Anytime you can see artists grow from a first album to a second album, it's a great thing," Funkmaster Flex explains. "Since Wale's new album is here, it makes me think about his old album a lot. Now you can understand how talented he is because that feel and what he gave us in the first album was dope, but this one he stepped up. He didn't abandon the style but he grew."
Growth is what is expected of artists putting their second body of work out for public consumption. Wale's work ethic -- he doesn't recommend his way to anyone because it's an "unhealthy one" -- in creating 'Ambition' hasn't gone unnoticed. Countless videos, mixtapes and collaborations with other rap guys in the game are among his accomplishments, but there's more he's looking to do than just stand in front of a microphone commanding audiences. Wale wants to "try the Hollywood thing," possibly recording his third album on the West Coast, where albums like 'Doggystyle,' Snoop Dogg's debut LP, were made and one that inspired his own lyrics growing up. He's also set on penning a book.
For the sneaker and sports aficionado, now is the right time for aspirations such as that. However, music is still at the forefront and his ultimate goal is to push his sound globally. He's the best at what he does in his eyes, but he's not arrogant in his admission. Humbly, he understands he still has a ways to go to get to where the greats are, with mediocrity being his only fear. "I think I'm one of the best rappers," he declares. "I know I'm one of the best lyricists but I'm not in the all-star game yet. I'm not in the starting five. I'm on the team though. I'll get in the game soon."
Diana Levine for AOL