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DC Hip-hop and the Wale Effect


Wale‘s rise from virtual unknown to Internet buzz maker is well documented. Also well known is the disappointment around the rapper’s major-label debut, Attention Deficit, which, rather than being a continuation of his mixtape material, presented a somewhat generic (but really not so terrible) album. The closest thing DC has had to a hip-hop star released a new mix tape, More About Nothing, last week. The new mixtape takes off where Mix Tape About Nothing finished: with a liberal use of Seinfeld sound bites, witty rhymes about people, music, and life, and a refreshing self-awareness.

Aside from a few local critics who seem to hold the rapper to impossible standards, Wale’s mixtape has been getting strong reviews. blogger Stone makes an apt observation in his review. Stone writes, “there are mixtape artists and there are album artists and Wale is the former.” Although Stone rightly points out that it’s possible to be successful without the weight of a major label behind you, I think that Wale being a success on the mixtape scene is good on a different level.

DC’s hip-hop tradition is somewhat stunted for a lot of reasons, although go-go’s grip on the music market is often at the top of the list. However, since Mix Tape About Nothing was released in 2008, local rappers in DC have been getting more press. By establishing an appreciation for the mixtape in 2008, Wale has, whether directly or indirectly, brought attention to other rappers like Tabi Bonney and Diamond District. It certainly is a good thing that Wale is a mixtape artist if only because it helps foster a local hip-hop scene that heretofore has been largely unknown.

For example, last year, in an article about the debut of Attention Deficit, The Washington Post presented a run-through of artists on the local scene. Also, in 2009, the Capital City Music Tour brought the District’s hip-hop talent to a wider audience around the area and farther afield. Additionally, underground successes Diamond District received a brief write up in Rolling Stone last year.

With the success of Mix Tape About Nothing and the hype around Attention Deficit, DC has slowly begun to shake its image as a go-go only city. Just as in other locales, once one artist makes it big others seem to pop-up to meet demand for the new Atlanta/Miami/Where ever sound. Here in DC, the “Wale-effect,” whereby a rising tide lifts all boats, er, artists, may reflect larger trends in the city, such as people finally catching on to the fact that we do, indeed, have a bit of culture. However, it can’t hurt that music in the District is attracting more attention. Download More About Nothing, but don’t stop there.