“As much as I wanted to be minuscule the fact is, they’d only be happy with a minstrel actor, Sorry Mr. Charlie won’t chap dance, and f*ck the radio for tellin’ me to snap jam”
-Wale, “Mama Told Me” (Attention: Deficit, 2009)
Rap, in my view, no longer incorporates deeper messages in its “mainstream” work. Clearly, if you want success, the recording industry requires that you produce club bangers, dance music, and radio singles. This artistic chokehold constricts artistic output. Neil Postman, a media theorist and cultural critic believes complexity “is a superhighway to low ratings.” In the rap world, mainstream artists are compelled to invent catchy yet superficial lyrics, leaving the more “intellectual” lyricist to go underground. Wale, one of my favorite artists, has been around for some years now but continues to straddle the underground/mainstream line because while he is known in the inner circles of the rap world one can’t readily hear him on radio or other popular media. His very stimulating work goes beyond making clever pronouncements about being rich and getting girls. His music tackles everyday issues with creativity with which anyone can relate.
Wale’s criticism of the industry’s hindering of his visibility is a motif throughout his work. He refuses to produce hits solely to entertain and amuse the masses even as he references the late Charlie Chaplin’s famous dance routines. Wale has recently signed with Maybach Music Group, a record label founded by rapper/producer Rick Ross. Though entering a “hostile” territory for his particular brand of artistic expression, Wale tells his fans to “expect the same music, better energy”. It’s apparent through his lyrics that he won’t be compromising his intellectual skills to “chap dance” or “snap jam” anytime soon.
Check this: Video of Wale’s reference to chap dancing
Link to Henry Adaso’s blog about Wale’s signing with Maybach Music Group: