Attention: Deficit is Wale’s first official album after numerous online releases, including last year’s Seinfeld homage The Mixtape About Nothing. But the Washington, D.C. rapper already feels beset by celebrity. “D.C.’s never seen such progress / So bitches on the scene seem quite stalkish,” he observes on “Center of Attention.” Seemingly stressed by daily coverage on Nahright.com, he adds, “I wouldn’t wish fame on my enemy / Paparazzi’s like a lifetime sentencing.”
Despite all the Internet notoriety, this is Wale’s show-and-prove moment. And somewhat surprisingly, he takes an introspective turn, with songs about unwed mothers (“Be Right”), wayward Lauren Conrads (“90210”), and being dark-skinned (“Shades”). But his best tracks retrace his go-go roots: On “O.G.,” the Dap-Kings’ horn section swoops over producer Best Kept Secret’s crackling rhythms, while mentor Mark Ronson loops a hard funk bass line for “Mirrors.”Elsewhere, Wale talks to the ladies over glossy, symphonic pop, though “Chillin’,” with Cool & Dre’s plodding beat and Lady Gaga’s wanna-be-M.I.A. cadences, gets unnecessarily crass.
Straddling the line between street and pop, Attention: Deficit doesn’t quite capture the pop zeitgeist. But it sheds light on Wale’s evolving personality, and his circuitous story raps reward deep listening. “I asked Mr. West for a little help,” he notes (referring to Kanye) on the David Sitekproduced “Triumph.” “Realize us new niggas gotta get it ourselves.”
WATCH: Wale Live at SPIN Office