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Wale

Hoping to Make History in D.C.

As Barack Obama makes history with his first term in the White House, D.C. rapper Wale is hoping to do the same. After lighting up the internet with a couple of free mixtapes that had many proclaiming him the "next best thing" in hip hop, the rapper is aiming to put his hometown on the map with his debut LP this spring. He’s already caught the attention of Jay Z, Lil Wayne and producer Mark Ronson, who helped him land a deal with Interscope Records through his Allido imprint label. Wale performs with his band at Mezzanine on January 31st. He spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from Washington the day after Obama’s inauguration.

SF Station (SFS): Did you go to Obama’s inauguration?

Wale: No, It was too crowded. I couldn’t deal with it.

SFS: Did you do anything out of the ordinary that day?

Wale: I went to all of the events that were going on -- the Jay Z show and Jeezy’s party.

SFS: Obama has motivated people in a lot of different ways. Has he changed how you approach anything?

Wale: I try to take a little bit from him. He’s the first black President, and I try to take that whole demeanor that he has and apply it as the first hip hop artist from D.C. to get a record deal and put an album out. I try to take all of the things that he went through and apply them to what I’m going through.

SFS: What was most challenging for you to gain exposure outside of Washington?

Wale: You get questioned a lot, and everyone questions your every move. It took a while to get the support. Everyone was skeptical and didn’t know what to expect.

SFS: At an event in San Francisco, Quincy Jones said hip hop musicians need to make intelligence something that is sexy for music consumers. That seems to be happening with acts like yourself, Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco. Do you feel like it is catching on?

Wale: Ignorance has been the cool thing to do, and if you sound intelligent they put you in a category like backpack or conscious hip hop. If you say the most ignorant thing you can think of, people dig it the most. With Jay Z, they hail him as the greatest writer of the 21st century when he makes a party record, but when he says something that is thought-provoking, they question if he is falling off. That whole mentality needs to change.

SFS: How do you work around that? Are you strategic with how you create your music?

Wale: You just have to be honest with your music and be a little persistent.

SFS: When you started working with Mark Ronson early in your career, you said you wanted to learn as much as you could from him. What have you learned so far?

Wale: I’ve learned more about music theory and other genres and groups that I wasn’t aware off, people like Adele and Duffy and the whole scene that I wasn’t aware of in England.

SFS: How is your debut LP coming along?

Wale: We’re about 85 to 95 percent done. We’re just trying to make more records. We’re sitting on about 60 records right now.

SFS: How will it be different from what we have already heard on the two mixtapes you released last year?

Wale: With the album, we are pushing the envelope of creativity a little more. There is some creative stuff with different kinds of music. I worked with TV on the Radio, Mark Ronson and Cool and Dre. Everybody took their production to another level on the record, so I made sure my lyrics were in line and I stepped it up.

Wale performs at Mezzanine on January 31st. Tickets are $15 and doors open at 9pm.