150 Pop Stars' Real Names

74 Billboard Rating

WALE
"Ambition"
Producers: various
Maybach Music/Warner Bros.
Release Date: Nov. 1

More than any of the other young rappers who emerged at the same time - think of Drake and Kid Cudi, for starters - Wale has seemed resistant to being boxed into a single style. 2008's "The Mixtape About Nothing" showcased an unusually clever wordsmith with ties to Washington, D.C.'s go-go scene; the next year's aptly titled "Attention: Deficit" revealed an arty hipster-rap streak. Now, not long after touring with the earnest Somali-Canadian MC K'Naan, Wale has aligned himself with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group for his sophomore studio disc. "Ambition" nods to Ross' cartoon grandiosity in "Miami Nights," where Wale details his collection of luxury goods over a jubilant horn riff. Characteristically, though, the album heads in plenty of other directions as well: trippy neo-soul ("Lotus Flower Bomb," with Miguel), percolating digital dancehall (the Diplo-produced "Slight Work"), breezy pop-rap ("Sabotage," featuring Lloyd). And if not all of it sticks? Blame the influence of Wale's new boss, the so-called Teflon Don.

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