I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been looking forward to Wale’s The Album About Nothing just as much as I looked forward to To Pimp A Butterfly. Unlike Kendrick, Wale has been teasing this album for some time, releasing promo videos, partnering with Complex and Jerry Seinfeld for hilarious skits. He even released a mixtape in December called Festivus (an ode to the Costanza family anti-Christmas event). And, come on, it features Jerry Seinfeld!
The Gifted, Wale’s last album, was mostly overlooked because of its release date. Not only did hip-hop heavyweights Kanye West, J. Cole, and Mac Miller release their albums in the same month, but both Jay Z and Drake announced their upcoming albums as well.
Regardless of what anyone will tell you about TAAN, this clearly is Wale’s most consistent work. The Seinfeld additions help tie together the themes, something that’s always been true for Wale. His most respected projects are the mixtapes The Mixtape About Nothing and More About Nothing (again, both Seinfeld-influenced). He rose to fame with those works, rising much higher than you may think.
People tend to be surprised when hearing Wale’s name among Drake’s, J. Cole’s, and Kendrick Lamar’s. It was Lamar, actually, who included his name when he called out hip-hop’s new elite in the infamous Control verse. Listen to the tracks The White Shoes and The Pessimist if you need any convincing. Both show Wale’s lyrical abilities and social consciousness.
In fact, this album gives us something we haven’t seen from a Wale LP: back to back to back tracks that are phenomenal. From The Intro About Nothing all the way to The Need To Know (9 tracks), not one should be skipped over. They’re all fantastic tracks.
However, the last quarter of the album is where Wale loses steam. The premier track on the back end, The Matrimony, is followed by a song I’d hoped wouldn’t make the cut, The Body. The tonal change is beyond jarring. The Usher-aided The Matrimony speaks to love, the idea of marriage, the complexities of Wale’s relationships, even touching on his girl’s miscarriage. The track ends and we’re immediately greeted by, “Damn, baby, your body is dope!”
The major flaw, though, is that there isn’t enough Seinfeld. True, I am a massive fan of the show, and it’s possible Wale worried the Seinfeld references may have gone over his listeners heads; still, the album’s title is a direct reference to the show. It features one of the most famous comedians of all time. We only get tidbits of Seinfeld sharing his wisdom (the best portions of the album) and short clips from the show. Wale had something here that no other rapper did — a unique ingredient to make a defining record. He restrained instead of going all in. While yes, this is his best album to date, and this album is a both a step forward for his career and a step closer to the Wale of old, this month will be remembered as Kendrick Lamar’s, and The Album About Nothing will go in the Good, Not Great category.