New SOTBMusic: @Wale – SHINE

Like with Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., I gave Wale’s fifth album SHINE quite a few listens before I sat down to write any sort of review. I’m working on zero sleep right now and if I ramble, that’s probably why. However, let’s get it out the way. SHINE is more like More Life than DAMN. for me. That’s kind of what holds me back from being a fan of it. I’ll explain.
See, I’m all for the “playlist” album. It’s a part of our changing climate as rap fans. Single-driven albums are a thing, and they kind of have to be since people have musical ADD more and more these days. 
However, I’m still a sucker for an album that has some semblance of a story to it. The Album About Nothing had a story and themes. The Gifted had themes. Hell, even AD had tracks that connected. Wale, on this one, went the playlist route and said “let’s just make some music for people to get their shine on.” And that’s cool. I rock with stuff off the project.

But, SHINE stumbles and fumbles at times like a crappy running back (and yes, I’m aware of the pun here). When it shines, it shines through. We get Wale throwing bars and concepts every once in a while. The intro track and “Scarface Rozay Gotti,” for instance, bang, because they showcase Wale at his best. Tracks like “Running Back,” “Fashion Week” and all that will probably continue to dominate streams and playlists because that’s what they’re made for. But nothing really sticks long-term for me. It feels like Wale’s doing a project that reflects the “best of the industry” versus doing a project with any sort of substantial weight. In short, it doesn’t really feel like a Wale project, even if it’s one of his most “DMV-like” projects in a while (in terms of the grittiness of the beats and the experimentation a la the experimentation going on in the DMV music scene as a whole).

Now, to be fair, I listened through this project a few times less than I did DAMN. Maybe I missed something. Nevertheless, I’m not as big of a fan of it as I want to be. Is it a “bad” project? Far from it. Like I said, when Wale delivers, it’s hard to be disappointed. And the production hits all the notes that it should for a major release, skipping along styles like stones in a pond. But overall? It’s just okay, borderline “meh.” And that’s sad considering Wale’s exuberant personality and the hype-up tracks (such as “Shine Season” and “Groundhog Day”) we got for the project. 
Even if the album failed to live up to my expectations for it, congratulations are in order for this one. It’s, as mentioned, Wale’s fifth album. Many artists can’t make that claim and Wale, love him or hate him, has done it. So, in some ways, maybe the playlist-y, victory lap vibes are needed. Maybe. I would’ve preferred less of them, though. But, that’s just me.

Here’s the Spotify stream for SHINE. Stream it to your heart’s content.

Speed on the Beat

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