When a new artist breaks into a specific scene, there is no real clear path to the top. These days, talent, money and hustle arenâ€™t enough; itâ€™s about finding a niche and working the angles.
Enter Wale: a 22-year-old with flair unknown in hip-hop, using a fusion of distinct musical styles that are foreign to the mainstream, Wale has an all seasons approach to his music that, unfortunately, a numb industry cannot hear over popular snow rappers, or can they? Waleâ€™s couples lyrical prowess with a natural swagger. He is a rap ambassador in the capitol. Although unsigned to a major label, Wale is hardly a minor. His presence places DC on the map, a city now known for more than Capitol Hill and an insane murder rate.
“If you still donâ€™t understand, I am a rapper’s rapper. Iâ€™m not doing this crunk stuff, Iâ€™m a young dude and people are going to have no choice but to understand it and give me a shot.”
Format: How important is hip-hop to fashion and vice versa fashion to hip-hop?
Wale: I think the connection is very underrated. There is a whole fashion sub-culture â€“ jeans, fitteds, hoodies, sneakers, etcetera â€“ that people are now just starting to pay attention to, all of which are very important. The first thing a person sees is what you got on. If you look at jeans, or a hat, or sneakers it defines a person aesthetically. I rap in a song about Suvie denim and people are gonna wanna know about Suvie denim, just like Jay spoke about Evisu. After that, their sales blew up. I’m gonna put stuff out there like that. I wanna be known as a tastemaker and a style creator, not a hypebeast. Hip-hop is redundant. Whatâ€™s cool now is big white tees, Timbs, jeans and bling. I don’t look like that â€“ I’m not wearing some uniform.
Format: What artists do you feel have stylistic individuality, what do you do to be your own person?
Wale: Kanye has good style, Lupe looks fly, but I really try to do my own thing. I don’t admire too many people tastes. Iâ€™ll tell you whatâ€™s really funny is that the DJâ€™s and the A&R guys are the best dressed in the industry, but many of these guys are old, and don’t care about being different. All I’m saying is when you see me walking through the streets, I got my Hundreds tee on and some SB’s or whatever and I don’t really look like other city cats, especially in DC!
“as a tastemaker I am expected to do that, being fly and being envied.”
Format: What do you listen to?
Wale: Everything. Washington DC is obviously known for the go-go, so that is where my soul comes from. Aside from that, in terms of rappers, the way Jay-Z looks at Kane and Rakim, I look to him. He’s my Rakim and Kane. He’s slightly older than me, but has always been relevant in my life. Lil’ Wayne is in my age bracket and he’s doing his thing so I try to stay up with that. Black Thought is an MC I really like and respect a lot. Heâ€™s very clear and concise and the Roots are into the heavy percussion, which is reminiscent of the go-go sound. AZ is great. I also like Busta’s stage show. [Waleâ€™s mobile phone rings] What yall know bout UB40? â€œRed Red Wineâ€ is my ring tone.
Format: What’s in Wale’s closet?
Wale: A whole lot of stuff from The Hundreds â€“ shout out to Bobby and Ben. I got a lilâ€™ bit of Gucci. The shoes? I can’t fit them in my closet, I got a room full.
Format: Do you have any intentions to incorporate your fashion interests into your music?
Wale: For sure, even if they donâ€™t like it, as a tastemaker I am expected to do that, being fly and being envied. I care about what I look like and having that swagger. Just the other day I was flying back into Baltimore and I was rocking my Lucky 7’s Dunks â€“ shout to Mr. Weisman for the birthday present. I was getting off the plane and R&B singer, Mario, is feeling my style, asking where I got my shoes, saying, â€˜Nice watch, nice shoes!â€™ Itâ€™s funny, you think these people will all this money would know, but nobody knows out here. They all bite off other people and are too scared to do their own thing. I’m trying to come at this with a new swagger, a new approach to make people say, â€˜Wait a minute,â€™ and then focus on what I got on for ten minutes before they even start talking to me.
Format: Do you intend to start your own clothing/sneaker label?
Wale: Iâ€™m thinking about doing a line, a project called Forever Nothing. Itâ€™s very early and not in the works yet, though. If I do something, I’m gonna need the denim from Japan because that is the best out there. It also takes time in fashion because you need to build relationships, just like anything else. Plus, I wanna do it right. You won’t catch nothing of mine at Marshalls!
Format: If you could only have one pair of shoes that stayed fresh no matter what, what would they be and why?
Wale: I need some red Supreme dunk highs. Please hit me on MySpace if you got em in 9, that’s something I ain’t got that I need.
Format: Isn’t the Nike SB thing played out?
Wale: It is definitely on its way out. I let the hypebeasts buy the new stuff because, come on, new SB’s with Enyce? Itâ€™s not done yet, but I donâ€™t buy them just `cause they are Dunks, I gotta love the shoe.
Format: Top 6 Dunks?
Wale: Supreme highs, Jediâ€™s, Tiffany’s, De La’s, Shimizu’s, Avengers Patent leather.
“Whatâ€™s cool now is big white tees, Timbs, jeans and bling. I don’t look like that â€“ I’m not wearing some uniform.”
Format: What about the Bathing Ape stuff, are you over it or was it never really your thing?
Wale: Iâ€™m a tastemaker, I follow what I want. Thing is, they are very cocky in the store, which is a turn off, but I still got love for Pusha T, thatâ€™s my man and Malice and Pharrell, but there too many fakes out there especially with the hoodies and shoes. I love their jeans, though, and I love some tops like the tiger hoodie.
Format: If you had an opportunity to tell the world one thing what would it be and why?
Wale: Get for ready Washington DC! Give it a chance and don’t be scared of something new
Format: Why is Wale better than the next up and coming cat?
Wale: I’m not necessarily better, but I have other elements to make me a contender. Iâ€™m a lyricist. When Wale goes in, I go in for real â€“ the style, the swagger, being from DC. I got a legit shot at the title that when it’s my time, I have a well laid plan and I will without a doubt make it happen.
Format: Why has it taken this long to put DC on the map, not only musically, but the fashion tip as well?
Wale: On the fashion tip, not many are like me in DC. DC don’t know how to love. Itâ€™s cold around here, literally and figuratively. But people see that a dude like me has come along with his Rocking Republic’s and Hundreds tee and say, â€˜Iâ€™ll fuck with him.â€™ But in DC, everyone gets hated on. They just don’t know Jesus was hated before his was loved. As for the music tip, go-go will always be the first music choice in DC, it’s from here, and it has no love like it has here, but look out cause I’m coming
Format: Whets the deal with an album?
Wale: Itâ€™s all about getting the situation right. I am not trying to rush an album, but if we have to drop an indie real quick, I got about 60-something songs right now. I got some plans and been talking to Young Guru, Just Blaze and Swizz Beatz about doing some stuff eventually, but for now Iâ€™m just putting tracks down locally.
Format: Anything Else You Got?
Wale: Look out for Wale in 2007! I appreciate all the help people have been giving me. If you still donâ€™t understand, I am a rapper’s rapper. Iâ€™m not doing this crunk stuff, Iâ€™m a young dude and people are going to have no choice but to understand it and give me a shot. Peace to all my people’s. Be Easy.