The Album About Nothing

by: Wale

Playing off the ideas and structure of his 2008 mixtape The Mixtape About Nothing, rapper Wale's fourth studio album uses the television sitcom Seinfeld as the framework for an introspective and autobiographical effort, and as odd as that sounds, this is the second time it has worked. It worked better the first time, but much has changed for Wale in the seven years leading up to The Album About Nothing, meaning a rekindled, quirky idea like this could put his fame at risk. It's a fame so huge that Jerry Seinfeld is actually Wale's friend now, and while the sitcom star was sampled for the 2008 mixtape, he narrates this album. Seinfeld guides listeners through the story and sometimes his routines or thoughts inspire the songs, including the key poetic track "The Helium Balloon," where flying free and high becomes a metaphor for talent. A routine about relationships ("When you get engaged it's like starting on the roller coaster...") inspires "The Matrimony" with special guest Usher, but the Jerry device is used as needed, and this ironically titled effort is heavy with Wale's own hopes, dreams, and disappointments, including dealing with a recent pregnancy, then miscarriage. "The Pessimist" with J. Cole tackles race relations and suggests that feeling flossy and/or stoned is just a temporary distraction from the bad news across society, then "The Middle Finger" gets at the helplessness of depression as it rattles off all of the rapper's problems and then drops F-bombs and "Leave me alone" as its chorus. Package all this weighty material with Jerry, George, and Elaine in the mix and the album is a creative triumph, but although Wale's got so much to say, he often says it over the same tempo, and if it weren't for "The Girls on Drugs" (rescued from another Seinfeld-themed mixtape, Festivus) and a couple other kicking moments, the musical spectrum here would be narrow. Still, it's a minor complaint as The Album About Nothing is bigger, bolder, and better than expected. ~ David Jeffries

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