Story by Stereo Williams
Photography by DeWayne Rogers
“I think the hard work paid off.”
Washington, D.C.-based rapper Wale is basking in the glow of realized success. The rhymer has had a busy few months, with his third album, The Gifted, hitting the streets this summer and he and Roc Nation rapper J. Cole hitting the road for their highly anticipated “What Dreams May Come” tour. Wale is enjoying the fruits of his labor.
“I worked really hard on the album and was very hands-on,” he says. “I just believed in my ears and everything I worked so hard at. That’s how I got to this point and that’s why I call it The Gifted. I put more into it than I have put into any other project that I’ve ever produced.
“I think I was just a little more personal on it,” he continues. “I wanted to explain a little bit about myself and where I’m at. … What I feel about where I am in my career and where I am trying to go. Those are personal thoughts.”
Wale’s personal thoughts are usually front and center in some way or another. He reveals that he’s committed to making sure his story is told, because sometimes even he can’t believe how far he’s come.
“I try to lead by example,” he explains. “When I was young, D.C. was the cocaine capital and most violent place in America. For me to go there and then move to suburban Maryland, I was almost like a social outcast. [Being] African [wasn’t] the most popular thing around the early ’90s. Then I was in the detention center from sixth grade to 12th grade. [For me] to make it out of that, anything is possible.
“We got a black president. As cliché as that sounds,” he also states. “And it sounds normal now since it’s been about six years, but [there] was a time when it seemed far-fetched. Anything can happen. I think there are way more outlets. Way more. There are way more things going on. You can become a director without even going to art school now. It’s not just trapping and rapping.”