It feels as if he was stamped a “XXL Freshman” so long ago, but in the past two years, Wale Folarin has utilized every possible outlet in order to keep his name within ears’ length. Aided by popular singles “Dig Dug (Shake It)”, “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.” and “Nike Boots”, Wale was thrust into position as the frontman for hip hop stemming from the DMV (D.C., Maryland & Virginia) area. Aided by a string of mixtape releases including the critically acclaimed 100 Miles & Running and The Mixtape About Nothing, the young talent inked a deal with Interscope Records and went into the studio with producer Mark Batson for work on his initial major label release. Attention: Deficit sees Wale largely leave behind his gogo influences, those same influences that made him so reverred in the first place in search of a bigger, more global audience.
The aptly titled “Triumph” sees the quick witted emcee flexing his lyrical prowess over Dave Sitek’s probing, horn-infused beatbreak. Southern veteran Bun B joins Wale on “Mirrors” as the twosome wax poetics on those individuals who choose to “fake it ’till they make it”. The emo record that appears to be prerequisite for hip hop albums nowadays comes in the form of “90210” as Wale touches on females with cocaine addictions and those that suffer from eating disorders such as bulimia. Great idea, but flawed execution bring down the record, however.
“Diary” comes as a refreshing opposing viewpoint of women from “90210” as Wale pens a heartfelt letter to his lady, a woman having a hard time opening up her heart after many failed relationships while the refreshing Marsha Ambrosius glides over The Sleepwalkers’ dreamy backdrop. “TV in The Radio” sees Wale teaming up with K’naan for a quick lyrical blitzkrieg with the latter effortlessly delivering arguably “the” verse of the entire album as well as providing hook duties. The haunting “Contemplate” sees Wale at his darkest aided by Rihanna’s echoing coos contemplating what exactly is his “place” in hip hop before uniting with Roc Nation signees Melanie Fiona & J.Cole on the soulful “Beautiful Bliss”, the smooth, feel good jam of the album.
Producer Best Kept Secret contributes two gems to the project in the form of “Shades” and “Prescription”. The former sees Wale aided by arguably the premier go-to songstress for hook duties as Chrisette Michele provides her nostalgic croons while Wale sincerely recounts issues with colorism he suffered during his childhood, jealous of those with skin lighter than his. The mellow “Prescription” brings Wale’s hyperactive debut to a firm conclusion as the DMV’s frontman searches for just the right “medicine” that hip hop has desperately been in search of.
Critiquing this album can easily find reviewers between a rock and a hard place. It is commonly looked down upon to feature so many artists on an album (especially a debut) as it takes the attention off of the artist whose project it is in the first place. While many features work (Jazmine Sullivan, Bun B), some are out of place (Gucci Mane) and some even overshadow that of Wale’s, specifically J.Cole’s toe-tagging of “Beautiful Bliss” and the desolate wasteland K’naan leaves “TV in The Radio” in. Another issue that proves problematic is the inaccurate sequencing that Attention: Deficit suffers from. On the bright side, there is a little something sprinkled here for everyone: feel good joints, social commentary, potential singles and self-reflection for the man himself. There are alot of great records presented, but Attention Deficit (as a whole) appears to be a water-down carbon copy of the Wale that fans fell in love with, the MC talent who was once inspired by Seinfield to craft a mixtape about “nothing”.