Two years is quite a break between albums. “Chillin” made the rounds for a while at the end of 2009 when I was a junior — the anthemic, stomp-and-clap track off of Wale’s debut Attention: Deficit popping up on every music blog the Hype Machine could throw. That foray in to salad days aside, Wale’s back to support his new release Ambition, aptly titled for a sophomore session. Armed with a slew of new producers, pulling away from Mark Ronson’s English funk sound and sensibilities, Wale threw a show teeming with fresh giddiness in the Halloween hours leading up to the album’s release. He put it best when he said, “This ain’t a show, this is a party!”
Even before Wale hit the stage, The Goonies, Black Cobain and DJ 509 got the Paradise warmed up for the partying spirit. The Goonies, led by Langston Masingale and Peter Cappelli, balanced rock and hip hop for a rich, live sound that got blood pumping. Masingale had the audience throw up “W’s” as Kinyatta King, Andy Willis, and Adam Fisher manned the drums, bass, and guitar respectively, all decked out with calavera skull face paint.
Some time passed before Black Cobain came out; running late thanks to traffic, he got right into his set accompanied by DJ 509—appealing electronic production kept things lively. The twinkly R&B of “Save the Last Dance” got people swaying and the beats of “Busy Now” reverbed through the room and shook one’s body. Cobain urged the audience to tweet at Wale to get the artist to come out, continuing deftly through his own set and coming up with some freestyle verses before he finished.
DJ 509 kept things moving until the man of the hour’s arrival—Wale showed up to great fanfare and excitement; the audience was antsy for his arrival, and he reveled in the atmosphere.
Stopping on occasion to sign a poster or an album, Wale could hardly contain his happiness. He’d mark the hour and minutes until Ambition’s release. “There’re only three cities I’d wanna be” he said, for the night of the release. Boston was one of them, the city where he’d shot his first music video.
Though the night was all about ambition, drive, and achieving your dreams, Wale wasn’t afraid to dip into his past catalog to treat the Paradise with. He opened with the new “Benz 600” but then went right into “Chillin’.” The audience sang along to the charming fame-parable “90210.” He paused to hold up one of his awesome kicks and urged the crowd to do the same, impressively identifying each style before launching into “Nike Boots.” For the new material, the brand new and lovely single “Lotus Flower Bomb” made an appearance, backed with smooth Isley Brothers-type soul and chip tunes. The marching band aesthetic of “Miami Nights” pleased the crowd. Sirens were put to use in the Diplo produced “Slight Work,” a track that recalled the old-school sensibilities of Missy Elliot’s “Work It” and even sampled some bits.
The show was a party, all right—not just a show about pure ambition, but a celebration of a career that is young and full of sparkle.