Wale, ‘Shine’ | Album Review
Washington D.C. rapper Wale switches up things on his fifth studio album, ‘Shine.’ By far, Shine is his happiest, most commercial album to date.
Wale is an interesting rapper to say the least. His first album, Attention Deficit (2009), didn’t earn much attention, while his sophomore album, Ambition (2011), gave the rapper his breakthrough. His previous two albums, The Gifted (2013) and The Album About Nothing (2015), both debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200. For his fifth album, Shine, Wale seems to be changing up the formula. From the start, Shine contrasts the rapper’s previous work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also keeps Shine from being a classic. While the ‘new’, commercial sound is surprising and arguably off-putting, Shine still has its moments regardless.
“Thank God” opens the album with a shine indeed. Wale is all about positive vibes and thankful for his success. While he is thankful, he flexes, much like his contemporaries. “Thank God” still possess some signature characteristics of the rapper, but it also suggests he’s going to try some different things throughout Shine.
“Running Back” featuring Lil Wayne is slick AF. It’s an atypical sound for Wale, but it works out well. Essentially, this standout is a hard hitting, flex fest for both rappers. Wale is on autopilot, using football speak to his advantage:
“B*tches want money stacks, I just want my percent / She told me to hit the hole, I used to play running back / You n*ggas be fumbling, don’t give ‘em no gun again / These b*tches be flying out, yeah, ‘cause money be coming in.”
The part about hit the hole is just what you think it is.
“Scarface Rozay Gotti” is all about the come-up. There’s nothing particularly significant about the subject matter – Wale keeps things simple. The biggest thing to note is who he shouts out: Scarface, Rick “Roazy” Ross, and Yo Gotti.
“My Love” featuring Major Lazer, WizKid, and Dua Lipa gives Wale an uncharacteristic dance song. Naturally, Wale employs the ever-popular, oft-grating patois. This song won’t be for everyone, particularly given the past work of the rapper. Don’t worry though – atonement is just around the corner.
“Fashion Week” featuring G-Eazy catches on from the initial listen. It features an excellent, rhythmic beat, which standouts among the rest of the album. The chorus and post-choruses rock, without a doubt:
“Walk by, on fire, baby, can’t douse it / That body bangin’, accept that / You should model, girl, who do your booking? /…Switch, gold switch… / My b*tch.”
Much like the beat itself, Wale gives a stunning, rhythmic delivery:
“Mmm, I know a thing / And she tell me f*ck her and call her a bad b*tch / I can never cuff her, I’m stuck on this rap shit / F*ckin’ up the budget but nothin’ but rap shit.”
G-Eazy is the perfect collaborator, thinking with his pants throughout his rhymes:
“Hit Barney’s and f*ck up a check there / In the dressing room, f*ck have sex there…”
“Colombia Heights (Te Llamo)”
“Colombia Heights (Te Llamo)” finds Wale and J Balvin are strolling through the hood. Wale is hiding his jewelry, having sex with the ladies, and essentially, up to no good:
“Tuck all my diamonds, f*ck the attention / F*ck wit the b*tches / F*ck with no effort / Just hit the projects / to holler and check / Just hit up papi / Te llamo No Bueno.”
J Balvin sings the second verse, in Spanish naturally. Colombia, hello!
“CC White” stands for Cocaine White. Wale sings and pop-raps here, incorporating numerous metaphors, again. Sometimes cocaine is cocaine. At other times, it’s infatuation – love and sex.
Follow up “Mathematics” plays true to its title. No, it’s not algebra or truly deep math, but Wale excels with numbers.
“Keep this shit 100 with the squad / Playing at 50 with hoes / And I got nothing for anyone fronting / It’s simple we stick to the code.”
Like most of Shine, the production is slick and Wale is less concerned about being the best rapper alive, at least in regards to profundity.
“Fish N Grits”
“Fish N Grits” featuring Travis Scott is arguably the wildest song from Shine. The record features sketchy sounding, mysterious production work. Ultimately, the quirks of “Fish N Grits” play to Travis Scott’s strengths. Scott delivers the unique hook:
“Never seen a night like this / Won’t you take a drag, another hit? / Whippin’ up the pot, fish grits / Never had a night like this…”
“Fine Girl” featuring Davido & Olamide features an exceptional groove and solid overall production by all means. The hook is simple, merely repeating the title. The post-chorus is infectious, and arguably, more notable, spoken in African by Olamide. Wale delivers more superb rhythm on the first verse, even if he isn’t delivering transcendent rhymes. Davido takes the second verse.
“Heaven on Earth” gives Wale something most commercial rappers have in the arsenal – a Chris Brown feature. The results are effective, yet to some degree predictable. Among the pros of “Heaven on Earth” are how Brown and Wale split the first verse between them.
“My PYT” is among the crème de la crème of Shine. First and foremost, the samples are smartly chosen: “Sexual Healing” (Marvin Gaye) and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” (Michael Jackson). Expectedly, the hook is catchy, performed by both Sam Sneak & Wale. The best part is all Wale, where he lifts directly from the Michael Jackson record:
“I want to love you / Pretty young thing / You need some loving / From a real one / I want to love you / Pretty young thing / You need some loving / And I’m a real one.”
“DNA” is something of a letdown following “My PYT.” Profundity may not characterize shine, but “Good d*ck and advice?” Come on now! “Smile,” featuring Phil Ade & Zyla Moon concludes Shine. One of the reasons its stands out is because Wale raps with more relevancy. If listeners had been waiting for that Donald Trump reference, it finally arrives:
“And a possible bigot slash misogynist is ‘bout to run the whole damn thing…”
Ultimately, Shine isn’t, nor will it go down as a classic Wale album. This project has its moments, and the positivity is appreciated. That said, it sounds quite different from the more soulful, thoughtful, and hard-hitting raps we’re accustomed to from him. This is a more commercial effort, but perhaps the biggest letdown is the fact that Wale doesn’t dig deeper. Like Common’s Universal Mind Control which followed the election of Obama in 2009, it seems he missed an opportunity to make a bigger statement like some of his colleagues have.
Gems: “Running Back,” “Fashion Week,” “Fish N Grits,” “My PYT” & “Smile”