In the 21st century it is really difficult to surprise the masses with original and exciting content. Most Hollywood blockbusters are either based on novels, are a sequel, prequel or reboot to another successful movie series or are simply not innovative. Music, particularly rap, is kind of the same. Even though the genre is young compared to others, it has been accused of recycling artists and ideas for the last 10 or so years.
Wale made his debut back in 2009 and was hailed as the ‘new breed’ of rapper that would breathe fresh air into a genre that some purists called stagnant. His career proved that to be true with three critically acclaimed albums under his belt and now with number four just being released, The Album About Nothing.
In a major move towards originality, Wale has created a piece of music that sees him collaborate with the most unlikely of partners, Jerry Seinfeld. Nobody should panic though, as the comedian from Brooklyn doesn’t channel his inner Biggie. As Wale weaves through this concept album, Seinfeld acts as the narrator and inner voice of the rapper. Strange concept, yes, but fans need to go on this creative journey.
A mix of original material of Seinfeld speaking in a studio – lifted dialogue from the comedian’s show Seinfeld – is laced throughout the album. The spoken words act as a Greek chorus to this story of growth that Wale spins.
Standout tracks like Helium Balloon and White Shoes follow a formula that has Seinfeld talking on a random topic and Wale using that as a basis for the songs’ lyrics and theme. These performers have two very different careers and even more contrary upbringings but it makes for interesting and boundary pushing music. For example, the song White Shoes is about the materialistic ways of the youth and what they do to reach this superficial goal. The song’s concept started with Seinfeld telling a story about why he still wears white sneakers. Simple yet genius.
Surprisingly the album doesn’t feature a heavy use of comedy, as Seinfeld manages to give Wale material that delves into topics much deeper than just observational humour. With this, Wale has made a brilliant album that flawlessly follows a character that experiences love, money, self doubt, fear and anger all the while trying to be a good person in this world.
The album plays out like a movie with songs resembling cinematic scenes as no one song is a standalone track. The narrative begins with a character reaching for success in life and slowly encountering a series of challenges.
The track The Pessimist with J. Cole, talks about the hopelessness we can all feel that then melds with the next song The Middle Finger, which is about the anger and aggression a person feels after being told they’re not worthy over and over. This kind of consistency thrives throughout the album.
Though there are some scenes that derive from the overall story. The song The Girls on Drugs, doesn’t fit into the concept of this album but is still a great tune.
Luckily, the day is saved by the last two tracks The Bloom (AG3) and The Matrimony, since they have a clear story structure to them. The former is about the initial stages of love while the latter is about the fears of spending the rest of your life with someone.
The title is misleading though as this album is filled with an unbelievable amount of relatable material that doesn’t ball out too hard for the average listener. Unlike the characters of the show Seinfeld, the protagonist here matures, grows and learns from his experiences.
Wale proves again that he is a very talented rapper with an over-flowing pool of lyrical and storytelling skills. Meanwhile, Seinfeld proves that he is still a very switched on comedian with a lot of time on his hands.
Rating: 4 out 5