If there's any rapper up for most improved year ever, it's gotta be Wale. The 26-year-old DC diehard has been making good use of his new Maybach Music Group home with a clearly-heard invigorated flow and upgraded stature. VIBE hopped on the jack with Wale during a sporadic tattoo session to grill him on how life's changed, what gave him a boost of motivation and why it's still hard out here for a black man. —Tracy Garraud
You’ve probably seen the most changes this year out of your MM brethren. What’s the last 365 been like?
It's been all work. I really haven't had the opportunity to reflect yet; it's just been all work and I'm fine with that. I'm working and I'm trying to make important music and trying to make my impact on the culture. Maybe two years from now I might be able to reflect, but right now I've just been working nonstop.
How’s your schedule different now vs. pre-Maybach?
It's a little bit more organized. I'm scheduling studio time in between shows and I wasn't doing that before.
It’s easy to tell you’ve been putting in work. What’s been pushing you to upgrade your raps?
It's about being around good energy. It's Meek's energy. It's Ross' energy. It's just the people I'm around. It's contagious. I never hung around rappers like that; I just hung with my friends. Now I'm around people that do what I do.
Yeah, they say you are the company you keep.
Exactly, it just feels like you got to keep working or somebody's going to surpass you. It's just a contagious vibe. It's incredible.
Has your work ethic changed? Do you look back and think you were possibly underachieving?
I definitely was [working hard], but the energy is different now. I feel a lot freer. I'm a lot happier. I was doing what I was doing, but I evolved as a person.
A lot of crews have had problems within their circles and eventually ended up dissolving. Has that ever worried you?
Thing is we're all individual artists. It's just like Def Jam doing a compilation. It's not really like that. What Ross is trying to do is become what Def Jam music is. So it's not really a group. We all got to grind. We all got to put in work. I look at it like a dude trying to be great. Hopefully we all expand and do more things and it doesn't end on bad terms. I don't look at it like the new rap crew. If you look at it like the new rap crew that's how it will end up. But at the end of the day Maybach Music is where I want to be. I believe 100% we all have the potential to be the biggest label in music.
If you could pick anybody else to join the squad who would you chose?