It's past 10pm at the Best Buy Theater in New York and the crowd isn't concerned with the clock but more occupied by the mix of Maybach Music hits bumping in the venue. Suddenly, DJ 5’9” stops the needle on the record and announces Wale's arrival. As the rapper strolls onto the stage in Jordans, his go-to footwear of choice, the crowd goes wild.
As with every performance, you can tell Wale is feeding off the audience's energy but there seems to be more to his attitude on this particular night. With less than a couple hours till his third project The Gifted drops into the playlists of fans, the DMV rep, also known as Folarin, emits a higher level of confidence and artistic clarity than his 2009 debut Attention Deficit.
The lyricist starts off with a rendition of "Legendary" and as the bars start flowing out, it's clear that Wale is no longer the rapper he was when he first started out. He has found his voice and truly doesn't give a fuck what others think he should be doing. This project, which he hails as "new black soul," fits him, like a skully from his Wrking Title hat collection.
Throwing in his usual party starters "Chain Music" and "Slight Work," he comes even more alive performing his most recent fan favorites "Bad," "One Eye Kitten" and "Let A Nigga Know" off of his Folarin mixtape. The crowd simmered down when Wale performed "Bricks" and "Simple Man," the lesser-known tracks from his latest offering, but intently listening to the struggles in D.C. he puts on lyrical display.
Before closing out the show with his Nicki Minaj and Juicy J-assisted track "Clappers" (below), he reels in an all star line-up to help celebrate the occasion including Yo Gotti, the LOX, DJ Khaled, Chinx Drugs and even Roc Nation Sports' newest signee/ Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant.
As Wale stepped off the stage, fans seemed frozen in awe of the MC who now had nothing to prove.—Jaz T. Cuevas