Wale Opens Up About Drugs, Depression & Seeking Respect: 'I've Been Through Shit'
"I was depressed... I wasn't sleeping. I was drinking all day and I didn't have anyone to go to. I couldn't fight it."
On paper, you'd expect Wale to be a happy guy. His last album, 2013's The Gifted, topped the Billboard 200, and 2011's Ambition (his first on Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group imprint under Atlantic after an album on Interscope) hit No. 2. His new album, The Album About Nothing, in stores Tuesday, March 31, is inspired by Seinfeld and features Jerry himself. "We'll crack on each other," Wale, 30, says of his relationship with the comedian. "He'll be like, "Oh, you watch [WWE] wrestling? Really?' And then he'll talk about the little dumb shit that he does, like, 'I spent the day watching a documentary on making boots.' And I'm like, 'Bro, really?'" But behind the good times, the D.C. rapper says he's got issues, and they're just under the surface on the deceptively titled The Album About Nothing -- drug and alcohol use, a miscarriage and what he sees as a lack of respect.
What are you talking about on this album that hits closest to home when it comes to your life?
The music industry. You can say I'm sensitive, but music is why I live. Other people have kids or a strong woman in their lives; all I have is my music. I constantly work my ass off and I'm not in these magazines -- all I can go by is the people and what they say. People ask, "Why do you check social-media comments?" But what else do I have, bro? I don't get no major articles. Nobody talks about Wale like that. So what do you do when you're busting your ass and taking pills to stay up and be able to provide the right energy, and you're not seeing the proper response?
What kind of pills?
My confidence was shot, so I'd be taking whatever to keep me in a good mood, to get me in the right mood for an interview. I'm not going into the details as to what I was taking, but there's definitely something for that. Just like there's a fuckin' app for everything, there's a damn pill for everything. Or something you can pour in your glass. I was depressed not being where I wanna be in my career when I've put the work in. I wasn't sleeping. I was drinking all day and I didn't have anyone to go to. I couldn't fight it. Those are some of the demons I talk about on the album.
On "The Matrimony," you rap about going through a miscarriage...
The girl I was with, we tried for a long time to have a child. And when she finally did [get pregnant], she miscarried at 10 or 11 weeks. I was visualizing my child's face. We gave it a name and everything. All of that went away. And a couple of months before that, one of my closest friends died in a car accident, a cousin that was there for me through blood, sweat and tears. So I go through all that and I go online and some white kid is saying, "You dumb ni---r, you'll never be as good as J. Cole." You put all that together…
That's a lot at once.
All these rappers, they do songs about their mothers. I'm Nigerian -- my mother didn't encourage me to do this. Even when [my first album] Attention Deficit came out and I had kind of made it, most parents would have been like, "My baby did it!" but I don't have that. My mom didn't come to my [youth football league] games. I posted a football picture on Instagram the other day. That was my fuckin' rec' coach on my [high school] senior night. My mom didn't come to that. I can't even explain to my mom what my job entails. She just knows that all of her bills are going to be paid. I didn't have one-on-ones with my mom or dad. I was in juvenile facilities a lot. My point is that I grew up with the outside world meaning the most to me. This is in hindsight -- I'm trying to figure out why I'm this way. I rely on the people's opinions, because I don't have much outside of that. I'm already on the side of Meek [Mill] and [Rick] Ross trying to squeeze in the picture. And I'm trying to keep a smile on my face. Imagine how you'd feel if someone who put in less work than you blew up? People say, "You're such a bitch online." That's all I have -- my opportunity to connect with you. I didn't want to be the guy that everyone was like, "He's got such a bad attitude." But I've been through shit.
What else have you been through?
Getting dropped from a label is only fun to people who can't feel it. [Wale was released by Interscope Records in 2010.] Everybody was laughing at Trinidad James when he got dropped. Damn, what if you just lost your job today? What if your friend got shot at and crashed his car and wasn't picking up the phone? I was in tears when Ross got shot at [in 2013]. He doesn't even know that. I was scared. I was thinking the worst. He wasn't picking up the phone. But I was seeing all these people laugh at him on social media. That's my friend! Someone said [on Twitter], "I wish it had been you" when A$AP Yams died. What did I do to you? Is a retweet or laugh that important to you? I'm sensitive, okay? God gave me the ability to feel twice as much so I can write, twice as much maybe.
What did you get from your time from hanging with Kanye West in Paris a few weeks ago?
How organized his shit is. He's very organized and people listen. He has a staff that will listen to him. I have a staff whose mind tends to wander or they'll act like I'm working for them. Even when Kim [Kardashian] is in there, things are centered around the breadwinner and creator. And he has the same thing as me, where he tries to make sure he's not offending anybody. That's something I recognized. He'll say something and then follow it up with, "You know, I wasn't trying to…" And the person will say, "It's all good!' I'm like that too. I want to make sure I don't offend anyone. In this industry, you can be so offensive to somebody and not even know it, like, "Bruh, I could've sworn that I kissed every baby in here."
Your last album hit No. 1. Do you think this album will get you the respect you want?
I gave this my all. I'm not trying to whine about being critically acclaimed or getting in the door, but it breaks my heart. Everyone says, "Be patient. It'll happen." But all signs are showing, "No, it won't happen." I'm okay with people not liking my music but provide an intelligent reason for why you like or don't like something or you're a hater or a dick-rider. This is my fourth album. I want some respect. I want to go to a party and not have Katy Perry tell her security to move me out of the fuckin' way. We do the same thing. I know there's no union in the music industry, but have some respect. I want people to be like, "Your album's just as good as Kendrick [Lamar]'s or Esperanza Spalding or Beck." I work just as hard as them.