Someone needs to get on the phone with NBA Commissioner David Stern immediately to let him know that there is no need to play out the upcoming postseason. Wale, the 25-year-old hip-hop artist out of the DC area, confirmed as much to the House of Blues crowd last night. That’s right, the playoffs may as well be over before they even start.
“I don’t care who comes out of the West,” he said. “Cleveland has this shit.”
And with that, the master of the mixtape drew a roar from the crowd before he broke into “Pretty Girls,” one of the latest singles off of his debut album Attention Deficit. An homage to the titled subject, Wale waxes lyrically a la Common or Talib Kweli.
“Admire your style and your physique/And I ain’t trying to critique but you deserve a good drink, so what’s up?”
Wale, born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, may not be as well known as some of the names that have been featured on his mixtapes (including but not limited to Lil’ Wayne and The Roots), but there is no denying that his niche audience came out to support him on a Tuesday night. Having been labeled as having an “alternative, hardcore style,” one look at the audience would signal just that. Suburban frat boys in t-shirts and ratty baseball caps flowed along with urban chic in skinny jeans, tight hoodies and high-top, brightly colored Air Force Ones. Whether Wale was providing a solo, on-stool version of “Diaries,” or if he was backed by his tour DJ (DJ Omega) for fan favorites “Nike Boots” or “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.,” the 90-minute set was eagerly received.
Injecting the city of Cleveland into several of his songs (including “World Tour” and “Chillin”), Wale mixed a solid blend of lyrical focus with a stage presence that seemed very natural.
Thanks to the rise of social media, certain recording artists have been able to make a name for themselves by being active with their fans. Wale’s album release posters for Attention Deficit proudly display the artist’s Twitter account where he talks with fans on a daily basis while posting the occasional link to a song for download. Also leveraging sites like Facebook and MySpace, one of GQ’s 2009 Men of the Year has done the extra legwork on his own to make a name for himself. For added excitement, the entire House of Blues show was being broadcast on uStream.
While internet mixtapes may continue to be a dime a dozen, the cream somehow still manages to rise to the top. And if Wale’s mixtapes-turned-debut album-turned-headline tour is any sign of what’s to come for the future of hip-hop, fans have a lot to look forward to. Whether or not this can revive the revenue stream that his predecessors had prior to digital music remains to be seen. — Scott Sargent