NPR

Wale: From Free Mixtapes To Billboard Hits

Wale performs during the 2012 BET Awards in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

Born to Nigerian parents in Washington, D.C., Wale calls himself the "Ambassador of Rap for the Capital." He first caught the press' eye few years ago with a series of free mixtapes and incendiary live shows.

Then came big record deals. In 2011, he signed with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group to release Ambition, his second studio album. When Ambition's first single, "Lotus Flower Bomb," reached the top of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, it was Wale's biggest hit to date.

Music journalist Danyel Smith says the single has been one of her favorite songs. She says she still plays it three times a day.

"I'm always super-happy when someone says to themselves, 'I don't care what anyone thinks about the kind of record I make. I'm going to make something that makes me feel good,'" Smith says. "That's the attitude I get from 'Lotus Flower Bomb.' It's unabashedly romantic — rare for a hip-hop [song]. And it's rare that someone gets it right — but Wale got it right."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOTUS FLOWER BOMB")

WALE: Rhapsody request...

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Now, the latest in our series Summer Jams where we hear music that's making the charts. Today, a hip-hop love song from the young rapper Wale that reached the top of the hip-hop R&B chart. It's called "Lotus Flower Bomb."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOTUS FLOWER BOMB")

WALE: (Singing) Lotus flower bomb, firefly when I'm low, she take me high. I can teach you all the sounds of love...

MONTAGNE: Wale was in Washinton, D.C. His parents are Nigerian and he calls himself the Ambassador of Rap for the Capital. He first became known, locally, a few years ago for his free mix tapes. Then came big record deals.

Music journalist Danyel Smith, our guide for Summer Jams, says this has been one of her favorite songs, a song she plays several times a day.

DANYEL SMITH: I'm always super-happy when someone says to themselves, I don't care what anyone thinks about the kind of record that I make. I am going to make something that makes me feel good. I am going to be a little bit different and if people don't like it, too bad. This is what I'm doing. And that's the attitude that I get from Wale's "Ambition" album.

And that's particularly the attitude that I get from "Lotus Flower Bomb." It's unabashedly romantic. It's rare in hip-hop, always has been. And it's wonderful when somebody does it right. And Wale did it right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOTUS FLOWER BOMB")

WALE: (Rapping) Easy, baby. You're the bomb and all but I'd be damned if I do not land mine or at least try. Can I speak up? Was it peace out? Can we eat lunch? Can we take shots? What's your flavor? Flat drinks we call A cups. I just think I need one night, slightly more if it's done right. With that gorgeous face, I don't know your name, it ain't important, babe, 'cause I'm going to call you Mine.

MIGUEL: (Singing) We're living in a fantasy....

WALE: (Rapping) Wow.

MIGUEL: (Singing) I feel it when...

SMITH: It's about Wale trying to explain to this imaginary girl that he is the one for her and she should accept him. And Wale is a part of new generation of hip-hop stars that, I think, are into their emotions.

MONTAGNE: That's music journalist Danyel Smith talking about Wale's "Lotus Flower Bomb." And you can hear summer music of the last 50 years at NPRMusic.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOTUS FLOWER BOMB")

MIGUEL: (Singing) Ah-oh-ooh...

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Most Popular