Reviewing albums can be a very clinical process. You have a list of elements you check for to determine their level of merit as you listen. Then you draw your conclusion as you add them all together. Following this analytical path to a decision on an album’s worth would definitely yield Wale’s Attention Deficit a great review. The production is artistic and effectual. His selection of topics is wide without being schizophrenic. He manages to self analyze without meandering into emo territory and chastise without sounding preachy.
However, there is that last phantom-like consideration that really can’t be boxed in and checked off. It’s a certain feel you get from an artist’s music. It’s the uncanny ability some have to put pen to pad and shift your consciousness into their realm even if you have never experienced the story they are telling you. It’s why at some point we stop listening to their words and start seeing the picture they paint with them. And it is the largest single problem with Attention Deficit (Lady Gaga not withstanding) because Wale just doesn’t have “it.”
The album starts fittingly enough with “Triumph.” The track is aggressive with its blazing horns, organ loops and congas. Wale accepts the title of the new hotness claiming he wants the vets’ heads more than he wants the dollars. It’s a statement of arrival; a grand entrance and a vain look at what he thinks he has to offer.
That vanity takes a back seat to the barrage of thoughtful and honest topics that trail this song though. Some are tried, true and maybe even a tad cliché. The crabs-in-a- barrel mentality is discussed along with conspicuous consumerism on “Mama Told Me.” “TV in the Radio” tackles all things fake, including some rappers’ lyrics and “Diary” is the typical ode to chicks with way too much baggage. However, Wale does take the road less traveled in some of his work.
“90210” explores eating disorders. “Shades” is a very honest look at colorism in the Black community and “Contemplate” steps away from its initial story of an inattentive girlfriend and turns to Wale questioning his own intentions as a celebrity.
The supporting cast on Attention Deficit does Wale a lot of justice as well. Bun B gives a hard lyrical stutter step on “Mirrors.” Gucci Mane drops in on “Pretty Girls” and without his incessant ad libs is unusually palatable. Jazmine Sullivan, Chrisette Michelle, Marsha Ambrosius and Melanie Fiona flesh out the hooks and J. Cole gives an awesome performance on “Beautiful Bliss.” Mark Ronson, Cool & Dre, Green Lantern and others lace the young spitter well with soulfully luxuriant soundscapes that work well with Wale’s depth of thought. The couple of miscues, “Chillin’” and “Let it Loose” take L’s in production value though. “Let it Loose” with its synthesized blips and bleeps sounds out of place on the album. “Chillin’” is uninspired and Gaga on the hook is like nails on a blackboard.
Minus a couple of bad decisions, this album is what the folks involved wanted it to be. Wale does not big up the trap, but he admits an understanding of it. He doesn’t drone on about his deep pockets or his ability to pull and pound the finest booty celebrity can buy, but he claims he does alright for himself. He deals in his reality and suggests other rappers do the same without sounding like he’s standing in a pulpit. Yet, his musical aura waxes and wanes. His ability to connect is minimal and he does come off a bit generic here. Wale has done some remarkable things in the past. However, with Attention Deficit Wale has watered down the eccentricities that made him so interesting. Even with the wealth of great material on this album, he was unable to deliver a knockout punch.
3.5 out of 5
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