Commentary

Wale has got our 'Attention'

Originally Published: November 10, 2009
By Matthew Iles | Special to ESPN.com

The D.C.-based rapper Wale has been building momentum ever since he first hit the capital's radio waves back in 2006. With his numerous sports references and two previous mixtapes titled "The Mixtape About Nothing" (which was inspired by the show "Seinfeld") and "Back to The Feature," it's readily apparent through Wale's music that he's a sports and pop culture nut. But he also brings touchy political issues into sharp focus with his distinct perspective and wise lines.

The Life caught up with Wale before Tuesday's release of his first studio album, "Attention Deficit," to discuss everything from lazy Sunday afternoons to the deepest, and even darkest, elements of his music.

The Life: You have punch lines throughout your music referencing Jeremy Shockey's trade to New Orleans and Byron Leftwich winning the Super Bowl as a backup last year. But I have to ask, just how closely do you follow the NFL?

Wale: I could probably tell you more things about the league than you could tell me. I could stump the Schwab.

The Life: So Sundays are a big day for you?

[+] EnlargeWale
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty ImagesWale's career is taking off, but it's not all great, because he's still a Redskins fan.

Wale: Oh yeah. I try to chill out every Sunday and watch all the football. I'm just a big, big football fan. I can't let my team's poor performance stop me from enjoying the only 19 weeks out of the year that's great every Sunday.

The Life: You're from D.C.; you represent D.C. big-time in your music. So it must be tough being a Redskins fan right now. How have you handled the season so far?

Wale: I can't say I've been too happy. I knew in Week 4 we weren't going to be so good this year. "Oh, we're playing Dallas this week? So prepare for the worst." But I hope for the best, I hope for the best. But their offense just isn't clicking.

The Life: You also rap about being able to outdo Vince Young on the Wonderlic test.

Wale: [Laughs] I think I'm a bit sharper -- not trying to go at Vince -- I'm a bit sharper than some of the athletes. But we all think we're a bit sharper than the athletes.

The Life: Judging from the names of your previous two mixtapes, it seems pretty obvious you're a big TV and movies guy, too. What are some of your favorites?

Wale: My theory is that I have so much drama already in my life, I don't need to get involved with that at the movies. I just want to laugh. I don't want a movie to make me cry or scare me. I just want to laugh. "Coming to America," "I Love You, Man." "Friday," "Next Friday," "Friday After Next." Anything funny you know. I'm a big "Family Guy" fan, and "South Park," too. … ["Seinfeld" is] definitely one of my favorites.

Howie Schwab
Kevin Mazur/Getty ImagesHowie Schwab, you've been challenged.

The Life: With the album, though, you decided to go with "Attention Deficit" instead of another play-on-words, pop culture reference. So why "Attention Deficit?"

Wale: I just think people are really stingy with their attention spans, and what they're willing to pay attention to. People are elitist music snobs now. And rightfully so. Music over the last six years, there's only been a handful of good projects. Great projects, there's only been a handful of great projects.

The Life: You have a song on called "The Kramer" [which uses Michael Richards' racist rant in 2006 as a launching point] that seriously gives me goose bumps every time I hear it. With that song, as well as "Shades" [which focuses on intra-racial racism between dark-skinned and light-skinned African-Americans] you've obviously made race and racism an important part of your material. You approach those issues differently than most artists, though.

Wale: Everything is from my heart. It's just the things that go through real peoples' lives. I'm not rich; I'm not famous, really. I'm just a kid from D.C. I enjoy the world with my friends, try to enjoy the world with my band. It's real situations and real people. It's just my analysis of life. I don't try to impress people. I just tell real stories and hope they relate to a wide audience. And I think they do.

The Life: In "The Kramer," you assign some blame to black people for letting their white friends get away with certain racist behavior. I don't think that's the first explanation people necessarily jump to. Explain that point of view.

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Getty Images"Seinfeld" and its cast have been a great source of material for Wale.

Wale: I think it's more so shedding light on these things. One thing I never try to do is judge. People who judge are preachy and point a finger when they got a lot of dirt themselves. I just try to shed a light on it. For example, I had a record called "Even If It's Wrong." It's about how a lot of girls in the D.C. area are turning gay early. I'm not judging, I was just shedding light on it. I just want to shed light.

The Life: You've been coming up since 2006. You've released several successful mixtapes, you were the in-house band at the VMAs, and you're currently touring with Jay-Z. Now you're finally releasing your first studio album. How big is that?

Wale: It's like the biggest thing that's happened in my life. I'm anxious, scared, happy; it's a mixture of emotions. Every emotion I could have is fighting for supremacy in my body. I really don't know if I'm happy, scared, anxious or what.

The Life: Lastly, if you were put in charge of the Redskins, what would you do to fix it up over there?

Wale: Man, give me four months in the gym to get back into playing shape, and I can be out there for them.

Matthew Iles is an editor for ESPN.com.