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Mixtape Review: Wale & A-Trak, Festivus

Mixtape Review: Wale & A-Trak, Festivus

DMV rapper revisits early style on his latest.

Published January 9, 2015

Few rappers have built up as much of a buzz from the mixtape game as Wale

The DMV rapper rose to fame thanks in large part to his early flows on tapes like Paint a Picture, 100 Miles and Runnin’ and the Seinfeld-influenced A Mixtape About Nothing. Now, after a deal with Maybach Music Group and two No. 1 albums, Wale teamed up with A-Trak to revisit the Seinfeld theme with his latest effort Festivus.

Festivus is not only a return to the early stages of his career thematically but also production wise, with less bass-heavy production and more focus on instrumentation starting with the soulful "Intro Stroke of Genius," which features a boastful Wale showing that he has not lost any of his signature self confidence. He did turn up a little bit on the A$AP Ferg-assisted banger “Blood Money 3.5” and and the slightly trap-happy “Loyalty,” which fittingly featured Fat Trel.

The mixtape shifts gears from street tales to party music with songs like the island-infused “Tonight” and “Girls on Drugs” on which the “Lovehate Thing” MC recalls episodes with female admirers.

“I used to pop blues with my little b***h/I call her 'Boo' 'cause a real winner would forget/ Used ta ooh, but it schooled me to SLS/What you expect, a little groupie to see my cred/These n****s ain’t serious/Do you know what type of b*****s I be dealin’ with?/Try to tell me Adderall make her get a rush/Used to use it to study until she fell in love," he raps.

Wale again goes back to females from his past on “Friendship Heights” but this time it’s less about turning up for a hell of a night and more about being relegated to the friend zone. 

One key strength illustrated in Festivus is Wale’s ability to raise his game on collaborations, which is best exemplified on the '90s-influenced “Deep End” with Pusha T, where the two traded hot bars over the melodic, key-heavy track produced by Tone P.

Perhaps the most substantive track on the mixtape is “Chess,” on which Wale painted a picture of his reality from a macro perspective with lines like, “In the grand scheme of life we’re like pieces on a board/Look inside yours you a king or a pawn?/I came from a scene where the kids on water/God forbid they see five, get your things hit the border/Like a Sicilian defense/Go ahead play silly you’ll get Billy-clubbed to death/Welcome to the city ain’t no sympathy for rats/Where whites move first, you go second 'cause you’re Black.”

Festivus winds down on a high and heavy note with "Ab Icee Juggin,’" which features intermittent Drill-style Auto-Tune and rapid-fire snare hitting like the soundtrack to a new age Boyz n the Hood while Wale and Wax go back and forth telling stories from the hustling days before winding down with the bipolar “Outro Narcissis,” which started out mellow before turning up in the last minute with dynamic percussion and a more spirited flow. 

Overall, Festivus focuses on the veteran MC’s strengths, which include his fluent vocal patterns, which sometimes blur the lines between song and spoken word. Wale is one of the rare MCs that can adjust his style for whatever the beat calls for, which is one of the main reasons he is still one of hip hop’s most sought after spitters. 

For fans of his studio albums, Festivus might be a little more toned down than what they’re looking for, but for fans that appreciate the essence of hip hop and strong song structuring, Festivus is a must have. 

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(Photo: A-Trak via Instagram)

Written by Jake Rohn

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