You were on the Rock the Bells bill this year. What was that experience like for you?
It was like a weird dream. To see Ghostface every weekend and Raekwon every weekend and to see Q-Tip arguing with Phife about sports…On so many levels this was crazy.
Did you improve your stage show seeing those legends perform?
No. That's one thing that I think has always been in tact.
Are artists like Ghostface and Raekwon pretty approachable and cool to be around?
You know what? It's weird. For some reason I feel like I've been anointed as the young nigga that other people say is okay. They don't like any of the young guys but I'm okay. When I approached Method Man he was like, 'Yeah, I know who you are!' And when I approached Ghostface he said the same thing. I didn't really talk to Ghostface until the last show on the tour when we were on the same plane at 4 or 5 in the morning, something crazy like that. It was very awkward.
What's great for me is that I'm at a level where other rappers people know who I am. Even Talib. I met Talib at a party a couple of months ago and we exchanged numbers. I never called him. I lost his number and whatever and at the Jones Beach show, I asked him what's up and he said we had never linked up and he gave me his number again. And when I finished talking to him Mos Def comes up to me and tells me he appreciates what I'm doing and that I'm doing my thing. That shit is crazy for me! When somebody you look up to comes up to you and tells you that they appreciate what you're doing, that's crazy.
What did you think of the fans on Rock the Bells?
Man, they get it. They get it. For motherfuckers to be singing verbatim all of De La's shit and all of everyone else's shit, you can just blend right in with them and it's so crazy because everybody gets it.
Now if you could just get them to buy an album.
Oh, my God! I have that conversation with people all of the time! I'm like, 'This is not fair.' They're going crazy for Ghostface. If you didn't know who Ghostface was and what hip-hop was, you would think Ghostface is the greatest rapper ever and that De La Soul is the Rolling Stones! I don't understand where the translation is. Why are Yung Berg and Ghostface selling the same amount of records? Everybody loves Ghostface! You know what I'm saying! Everybody loves Ghostface! (laughs) Everybody loves Raekwon. Everybody loves De La Soul. Where's the connection? There's 60,000 people singing the words verbatim! 40,000 loud, strong people sing all of the words to De La Soul! In every city! Why is age a factor? Why aren't people supporting? What is it?
It's too easy not to when you can get it for free.
You recently released "Cyphr" with Young Chris, Freeway and Beanie Sigel. From seeing the video of you guys recording it, it seems like it was a lot of fun.
Man, I can't say it enough! That was crazy. Me and Young Chris talk two or three times a day. I feel like me and him are going to be…In a way, he inspires me to go hard. We're the same age. I think he's older than me by a couple of months. He knows what it takes to be the best or to get to the top and I use that as inspiration. I'll text him in the morning like, 'Wake up, nigga! Let's go!' He can be in Philly and I can be in L.A. and I'm telling him to wake up. That's a hungry dude. He's sitting on a thousand songs right now and they're all great. I really think that at the end of '08 and in '09, he's going to reinvent himself and he's going to really pop off. Like, he has all of the qualities to be a major star. He already is a star and it's very unique because people already know who he is. It's not like a label has to force-feed who Young Chris is.
And as far as Freeway, Freeway is a real calm dude. Those dudes don't write, man. I was sitting there writing my shit and they were like, 'Are you ready?' You want to talk about pressure? (laughs) I grew up listening to them. Those niggas are like legends to me, from Chris to Freeway to Beanie. I grew up bumping that shit heavy and now I'm doing music with them on a consistent basis. It's crazy but that's the dream.
It's good to see you guys showing that rappers can have fun with each other instead of worrying about who's outshining who.
If I told you how it happened you wouldn't even believe it, B! I was working on another record and Chris told me this beat was hot. So I hear it and I was like, 'That's dope' and then I go back to writing my other shit. And then Freeway comes in and Freeway was mad quiet. I was like, 'Oh, shit, it's Freeway!' I don't even get gassed with meeting motherfuckers but these are the niggas I used to bump OD. Chris introduced me to Freeway and then they just left. And then they came back in and Chris played the beat again and we were all vibing to it. I was like, 'We need to do a joint.'
Chris was like, 'Let's go.' I was like, 'We need to do a hip-hop joint where we're going back and forth.' When I was writing my first four bars Beanie came in. We hadn't even planned on writing a record and then one of the greatest rappers of all-time came in. We finished our shit and Beanie wasn't writing his shit either. There was a little basketball hoop outside the studio and me and Chris and a couple of producers were out there playing HORSE and Chris beat me at HORSE and shit. By the time we were done Chris said Beanie was going to be on the record. I was like, 'We need to get this on HipHopGame!'
The funny thing is that we were all saying, "HipHopGame is gonna love this shit!" So we did that shit and there you have it, man. I'm looking to do another one, part 2.
That's awesome. Freeway even shouted out HipHopGame in the song.
You know what the funny thing is, B? That's why I fucks with y'all. I fuck with all of the sites. I fuck with DX and AllHipHop but the thing is, I feel like HipHopGame is where it all started. When I was a freshman in college, I used to go look at it and the funny thing is I have not chilled with a rapper or a crew or been around people who don't look at HipHopGame. You know what I mean? When I'm in the studio with Chris and them, everybody is checking HipHopGame. Everybody is checking HipHopGame. It's so crazy! It's the end all and be all for all artists! Even Bleek! Bleek too. I was with Bleek a few days ago and he told me he saw the song on HipHopGame! Everybody checks your shit and that's crazy.
That's great to hear.
Internet is the new world. It's the new shit. It's the new shit like, 'All right, I want to know what the motherfuckers said.'
A lot of artists are using the internet more now but you've always been on your internet grind.
I've always been on the internet! The people who aren't on the internet are important as well because there are so many people who don't know who I am and I'm like, 'Damn, you still don't know who I am?' I'll go on HipHopGame and see how many listens I got and how many listens somebody else got and there are people who will go straight to a "Swagger Like Us" record instead of the "Cyphr" record. And those are the motherfuckers who say, "I know what kind of rapper he is" and they missed "Nike Boots" and everything else. They're trying to categorize me and they missed all these joints I did. They missed all of the records, man.
The whole thing is like, every rapper wants acceptance from as many subculture genres that he can get. That's what it is. Everybody wants to feel like they're musically appreciated and artists are very insecure. It's just a fact. Artists are insecure about the shit they put out and they want to know that it's great. They want to know that people in the real world fuck with their shit as much as people on the internet. And sometimes people underestimate his shit like, 'Oh, he's only popular on the internet.' They're forgetting that it connects with the whole world.
You've got a highly anticipated debut album dropping on Interscope. How's it coming so far?
I'm going to tell you that my album is going to be a big event and my album is going to be a part of something special.
You've worked with rappers like Lil' Wayne and Bun-B, two guys who do a lot of collaborations. Do you think you got 100% from them on the collaborations?
First of all, Lil' Wayne is a freak of nature. He's Bob Marley. You can say whatever you want and people are going to hate and whatever. This nigga has been in the studio for 14 years. It's not a coincidence that he's great. This motherfucker is like…It's to the point where he's about to exceed hip-hop music and turn it into something else! (laughs) So it's like those guys, I don't think Wayne is the type of rapper who's trying to chill during a verse. If he does a verse for an artist and it's not good, it ain't like he's like, 'I'm gonna chill.' He doesn't know how to turn it off and only give them 50% on this. He just raps.
And Bun-B, I talked to him the other day about it and he's like, 'Man, I never got stuck. I never got stuck writing a rap, ever.' And I believe him! (Laughs) He said he's the closer. Motherfuckers give him the album when it's done and they need a feature verse real quick and they'll go to Bun. He's the closer. He's the go-to guy. And the people can see that. I didn't ask to do a song with Wayne because it's Wayne. I think Wayne always comes with it and you can expect that he's going to do pretty good on it.
How far along are you in recording your debut album?
I'm at about 80% now. And the beauty of it is that I get to make songs about stuff. Some motherfuckers be like, 'Why are you doing songs about stuff?' It's all about doing songs about stuff! Songs that have a purpose. I have songs that are just designed to make you feel great. To make you feel like, 'Wow, this shit feels good!' I'll just be harmonizing on the hook but that's what I feel I need at this point.
Do you have a lot of producers trying to get a beat on your album?
See, my thing with producers is I don't take beats anymore! Beats are okay for mixtapes but let's bring our ideas together. Come into my world and tell me what your ideas are for records I can do. Don't just give me a beat. That shit bothers me. That makes you a beatmaker and the day of beatmakers is winding down. We need producers. Shit is a movie, man. Don't just give me a camera and no script.
There was a YouTube clip of you and Travis Barker working together in the studio. What was it like working with Travis Barker in the studio?
He's a real laid back dude and he goes hard. What you saw is not going to be the only Travis Barker appearance you hear on the record. I just hope he recovers back to 100%.
You released The Mixtape About Nothing a few months ago. Do you consider that project a success today?
Yeah. People like it, man. That's the thing. It's a concept and concepts either go over the people's heads or they get it and when they get it then the artist usually gets the accolades. And this album is supposed to be a concept album but it isn't. It's just things that are on my mind. The second album, which is already in the works, is going to be a concept album. This album is more the things that are on Wale's mind and the things he wants to talk about and the things he wants to share with the people. I think the mixtape did pretty good. It served its purpose.
Have you found any new sitcoms to get into since we last talked?
Nah, man. I don't even have the time for it. I really don't. I watch Entourage and football. That's all I watch, really. And Family Guy on the DVR.
Speaking of football, whenever you make sports references in your rhymes, you reference athletes that are not so well-known like Ryan Gatlin and avoid the overused Lebron and Carmelo references.
Yeah. It's just whoever comes out. I don't think about who I'm going to mention. I watch a lot of websites and I talk more on sports forums online than the music forums. I'll be looking at that shit.
Some D.C. artists have said we support you too much and you're not the only representation of D.C. Is that true or are artists just looking to complain?
Well, there's thousands of rappers from New York that haven't gotten any HipHopGame placement. It ain't just me. Some people in D.C. get it and some people in D.C. don't. Yeah, Wale lives in Maryland. And I've actually lived in Maryland longer than I've lived in D.C. I moved from D.C. at 11 and I've been in Maryland for 12 years going on 13. Some people can hate that, like, 'Wale doesn't rep D.C.' Let them hate that. Do you want me to represent Maryland and only Maryland? That wouldn't be me. I have to represent every piece of me and people don't understand.
Some people don't even get me as an artist because D.C. is really fucked up place. It's really fucked up. The streets are really fucked up. The Trinidad community, they're dropping like flies over there. You need an I.D. to get in the neighborhood. It's really bad there. And people are wondering why my music is kind of not doing that but eventually they'll get it. Why don't you paint that picture of D.C. because me, personally, I don't want to. My rhymes are a narrative. I don't say that I sold drugs or that I busted this nigga and the finny shit is that I've been in more shit living in Maryland that these guys in whatever 'hood they say they're from. I get more respect in their 'hood than them because I'm me. I keep it real. I keep it funky.
Yeah I went to school with the whiteboys. Yes I did. Guess what I learned from it? I learned how to talk to white people from it. I used to run with street niggas and now I can be in a room with other people. There's a lot of people mad at me because of those reasons and it's never going to result in any type of altercation. It's not that deep. They're mad in general. But if we had nobody on HipHopGame then they would say they you don't represent anybody. "Why don't you put Wale on? He's out here doing his thing." Now it's that it's only me. But I'll send you something hot and if you like it you'll put it on. That's just how you do it. I didn't have nobody though. When I met you, B, I didn't have nobody. Nobdoy was like, 'You have to play this.' You just had to find out yourself and that's how it happened organically. Motherfuckers have to find out themselves and that's when they can be happy with their artists. If you find an artist yourself you have more of a connection with them because you find out yourself. That's a great statement. I like that one. (laughs)
Let's not forget that you send in some songs of artists you think are dope and need to be heard.
And the funny thing is that I send some of their music without them even knowing. That's one of those things. You learn that you can't make sacrifices for everybody all of the time. That's one of the hardest things to learn. When you're walking out of a club and everybody's trying to speak to you, you can speak to the first two but not the last three because you have a flight to catch and then they talk on the blogs that you're an asshole. That comes with it.
I lost a lot of friends because I couldn't please everybody. That hurts a lot, losing the niggas I used to run with. That shit ain't the same no more. And this one guy I went to school with, I saw him on Boxden and he put my phone number up there. There's a price to fame and I'm not saying I'm famous but there's a price for success. You have to sacrifice things to be in a monogamous relationship and to trust the girl for who you think she might be. There's always going to be some type of tension if you can't keep your relationship to where it was. Your heart might be there but if you're not there they might not be able to see that and there's so much glitz and glamour around everything that they can't see that you're still the same person. You are but you can't be around them as much and the shit just ain't the same. As much as you want it to be it's just not.
It's a big commitment. It's like being in the NFL, man. You have to work so much just to be you and just to maintain yourself. It's a very difficult job, man. It's not for everybody.
How's your LRG mixtape with 9th Wonder coming?
It's not as difficult. A lot of the stuff that's going to be on it is already out. I think it's going to be a dope look and it's going to be real hip-hop. It's going to be some of my new stuff or old stuff with a new verse. It's not necessarily a Best Of mixtape but you can kind of perceive it as that. It's going to be a couple of older joints with new people on it. It's going to be the favorites.
Do more people recognize you now that you have those LRG ads in the hip-hop magazines?
It's been a good look. It's a blessing to be associated with a brand like LRG. It's an incredible look. LRG is like the hood-approved, street wear-approved, it's like the most balanced clothing line ever. You get a lot of experience and you need that. I need that. People see it and they remember they have to check for me. They know it's coming soon. They know what it's about. I'm in, like, five magazines that are out right now. It's unbelievable.
Are you happy with how everything at Interscope is moving for you?
Yeah. That's the machine. It's incredible. I got an opportunity to have a meeting with Jimmy Iovine and that was a great look. He's so on top of it. He's so quick. It's like you mention something and he makes a phone call right on the spot. It's almost to the point where you don't even think he's listening.
Have you built with other guys at the label like Charles Hamilton?
Me and Charles talk all of the time. He's one of the only guys I've gotten the chance to talk to. Some of the guys have been there too long. I talked to Game a couple of times on the Blackberry. But I haven't gotten to talk to a lot of guys on the label.
Charles is a pretty cool guy to talk to.
I don't think people realize how good he is. I don't think people realize. He's like another person who's freaky talented. I would say he's more talented than me. I would give him that because he fucking plays every instruments and he raps like all he does is rap. And he produces! I think "Windows Media Player" is one of the best joints I heard all year. If Lupe would have done that everybody would have been like, 'Oh, my God, this is great! Lupe is a genius!'
I think Charles Hamilton is very talented. He's the shit, man! (laughs) It's just that people don't get it. I don't get the pink shit but it doesn't matter. It's not for us to get. That's his world. I think Charles Hamilton, when his album comes out, it's going to be so critically-acclaimed. That motherfucker has so many ideas in his head. He's a freak. He's on some other shit. And I don't like a lot of new artists to be quite honest. I don't like a lot of artists but I like his shit. I can listen to a whole album of his shit. He can rap. He can rap with the best of them in that upper echelon. I can rap and I can sing in the shower but that's about it.
If a motherfucker can draw, paint and do graf, he's more talented than the person that can paint. Let's just say that he has more talents than me. He's that talented. He has more talents than me. He's a freak. He's not a normal artist. He doesn't rap only. He can play every instrument and I don't think a lot of people understand that.
Let's take Nas and Jay, who are always even. Let's just even say Jay was a better lyricist than Nas for the effect of saying it, but Nas can play the piano, the drums and the guitar. Nas deserves more credit for the whole fact of being an artist. So when I say he's more talented than me, it doesn't mean that he raps better than me. It means that he's a freaky artist. He can do everything exceptionally well. That's what I mean.
That’s cool to hear. What expectations do fans have for your debut album?
It shouldn't be a numbers expectation. It should be a quality of music expectation. You can't control how many people are going to buy your shit. You just can't say. But I can say that the music is great. I can say the subject matter is great. And I can say that the people are going to be satisfied with those things. I can't say it's going to sell 200,000 or 300,000 in the first week but I can say it's going to be great and that the masses are going to agree with the quality of the music.
When's it going to drop?
We got the first quarter next year. I'm submitting my album end of October and it will drop in March irregardless of anything. We set a date and are working back from that.
Are you ready?
Yeah. It is what it is. It's about to be go time and I'm not worried at all. I'm just trying to show people that hip-hop exists for the youth as well as for the older cats.
You know I'm not a huge sneakerhead, but what have you been feeling lately?
These Penny 2 and Penny 3 samples that I got from Nike and my purple Foamposites. I like the Hybrid Penny. It's pretty much basketball shoes I'm on. I don't do Dunks anymore. I stopped doing Dunks about a year and a half ago.
What should we expect from Wale in the next couple of months?
I'm still trying to do creative things for my project and I'm doing a mini tour in November that we will be announcing soon with a very cool sponsor.
Oh yeah, special apologies to my man Pusha T. Let me tell you what happened. Me and Pusha, we're in Norfolk, right? We go to one of these clubs. We're in the club and we're getting fucked up in the club. It's one of those 'hood joints. Pusha is in the building so they just keep feeding us liquor. I took some liquor with me and we were leaving. We're driving and he has a nice-ass car. He has a two-seater Benz joint that we're in, one of those joints where if you know there's Black niggas in there you're going to get pulled over. So I'm drinking my Corona's on the way back to my hotel.
Somehow we got pulled over and he was like, 'What the fuck? You got all this liquor here and you smell like liquor.' He had his gun on him and shit and I was about to be real worried but luckily he had his permit and shit. But they were like, 'Your friend has liquor. What do you want me to do?' So he got his license suspending because of my dumbass. And him and Malice were going overseas. He calls me up like, 'You're my nigga but you got my license suspended! I forgot I was suspended and I went to the airport and I forgot my passport and I'm driving back and I'm speeding and I was like, 'I can go to jail if I get pulled over right now. So I called you, man. It's your fault.' So that's my public apology to my man Pusha. It's all good. We laughed about it but I still kind of felt bad that I got his shit suspended.
You might have to be Pusha's chauffer for awhile.
I know, right! (laughs) Nah, he doesn't want me to drive his shit. He has a nicer car than me. That's a $150,000 car.