Wale: A D.C. Rapper Finds His Thoughtful Side

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"Nike Boots" demonstrates rapper Wale's great sense of pacing and humor. courtesy of Wale hide caption

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Friday's Pick

  • Song: "Nike Boots"
  • Artist: Wale
  • CD: MP3 Only
  • Genre: Hip-Hop

After releasing a popular mix tape (100 Miles & Running) in 2007, D.C. rapper Wale signed a deal with Interscope; his major-label debut is due soon. Known for rapping over beats from unlikely sources — including French electronic duo Justice and English singer Lily Allen — Wale is a blogger favorite, and the song responsible for much of the buzz is "Nike Boots."

Featuring a dramatic, Southern-tinged beat from producer Osinachi, the song pays tribute to the downtrodden people of the DMV — as in the District, Maryland and Virginia. "Nike Boots" isn't about footwear; instead, it functions as a metaphor for the tough, hardscrabble mentality folks need to endure day-to-day struggles. "Black-on-black Nikes / that represent the lifeless lives / and it reflects the plight of those fighting."

The track also addresses Wale's love/hate relationship with the city, which isn't known for famous rappers — and which, Wale says, often ignores its own: "Rather than buy our songs / they busy cheering the stars." Wale is an enormously promising MC with a great sense of pacing and humor; much of his oeuvre — including his recent, Seinfeld-themed The Mixtape About Nothing — is focused on telling jokes. But "Nike Boots" showcases his thoughtful side to great effect.

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This story originally ran on July 11, 2008.

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