The curious case of Olubowale Akintimehin.
Since Wale’s rise to national prominence in the late 2000’s, his career has been nothing short of tumultuous. Between many of the groundbreaking mixtapes and solid albums, lie numerous rants aimed at faceless instigators on social media; as well as that infamous phone call to the Complex office in 2013. One of the most important traits a person must possess when being an artist, is to understand that even though it’s your art, it is still subjective. Wale’s talent is undeniable, but his inability to establish the right relationships in the music industry may have been his Achilles heel. Regardless of how he is viewed personally, it would be hard to argue the quality of work he has put on in 2018. Releasing It’s Complicated and Self Promotion all before the year’s second quarter came to an end, Wale made his presence felt this fall with the 5-track EP, Free Lunch.
In this new age of quick consumption when it comes to music, Free Lunch is an ideal project that is enough to fulfill listener’s needs until Wale’s next album, allegedly set to be released before the new year. The theme of this EP is fitting, especially at the point that Mr. Folarin is in his career. The first crossroads was after his first studio album, Attention Deficit. He’d been dropped from Interscope due to poor record sales, and it was unclear if he would be able to survive this transition. During his time between labels, he gave the world what many believe to be his greatest body of work to date – More About Nothing. Wale is at his best when his back is against the wall; and Free Lunch only reinforces that notion.
The EP begins with “Dummies,” where Folarin talks about his struggle to stay afloat in the music industry due to his unpopularity with the media. It begins with a quote addressing his own mortality in hip-hop; and any successful artist must learn to adapt with the times whether they like it or not. “Ungrateful & Thankful” and “My Boy” are both tracks that remind anyone that has forgotten about Wale’s prowess as a pure lyricist. The latter features J. Cole, who has been atypically visible as of late; appearing on 6LACK’s sophomore album earlier this month also. Whenever these two get on a song together, the finished product is solid a one.
Wale has always been a rapper’s rapper at heart, but he shines his brightest when discussing a topic that we all can relate to – love. “3 Days 3 Hours” is a combination of everything that allows him to stay relevant, even with all his flaws. The track ends with a poem directed towards a long-distance love, an attribute that he possessed early in his career that gave him a unique identity. Free Lunch’s final track, “Right Here,” has an appearance from the talented Eric Bellinger. He lightly elaborates on his journey in the rap game, along with the feeling that he has been overlooked by many people. Lines such as: “Got my city with this hip-hop/ I’m truly infamous, you did it just to get clout,” lets his naysayers know that he has a passion for the culture and isn’t in it for selfish reasons.
At first listen, Free Lunch is an EP more for his non-believers than it is for his supporters. In hearing fresh concepts, well-placed features and a masterful beat selection, his fans will not be disappointed. The people that are indifferent towards Wale can appreciate the effort that he puts in perfecting his craft. Since he entered the genre, he has put so much weight in the opinions of others. Hopefully, if even for a moment, Free Lunch can satisfy his appetite for acceptance.