Wale Says Being Dark Skinned Has Played A Part In His Lack Of Recognition In Rap
Around the time that rapper Wale found fame, he was being lauded for his talents among fellow burgeoning rappers like Kid Cudi, and making waves with his peers and associated acts, including J. Cole, Drake, Lupe Fiasco and more. And while his career definitely isn’t anywhere near the toilet, he’s well aware of the fact that he’s not spoken of in the same circles as the aforementioned acts. And while Lupe Fiasco has spent the last few years being a contrarian, and likely cares little about recognition at this point, Wale does. He really does. He’s made that clear for years.
So what is it that has kept him from being propelled in the same way as acts that came out around the same time as him, and in turn, receiving the acclaim?
A fan wondered if it had to do with him being too passionate. He agreed, but Wale also had another idea:
The immediate reaction of anyone who is not a Wale fan is likely a strong eye roll. It probably sounds like a desperate reach to blame colorism for preventing him from having the same success as his peers in hip-hop. But he didn’t say it was the entire reason, just that he believes it has played a part.
I don’t want to altogether call such a comment preposterous because it isn’t. Colorism may not impact men the same way it does women, and may not be as obvious, but it does, and within our culture it permeates in often more subtle ways for guys. So I’ll give him that. And with the fame of J. Cole, Drake, Logic (all biracial and currently popular) as well as white acts dominating the charts like Post Malone and G-Eazy, it’s not far-fetched for Wale to believe he isn’t a “safe” bet.
But what about rappers like Kendrick Lamar? Lil Yachty? Offset? Lil Uzi Vert? Meek Mill? Rick Ross? Skepta? Diddy? 50 Cent? Hell, even currently canceled Kanye West? Granted, the talent of these men isn’t on the same level, but they’re all very popular and of a darker complexion. And honestly, no one is more “passionate” about their craft than Kanye, and that is not what has necessarily been the thing that has tarnished his career, especially since the music is good. It’s the behavior that is now holding him back. And that’s where Wale can take notes.
The truth is, Wale is talented. He has been overlooked at times over the years. But I don’t really think it has much to do with his complexion. I think it has more so to do with the fact that he’s not necessarily passionate about the art, but the recognition and respect he believes he deserves from it. That’s something you can’t force. That’s not something you can call a publication and threaten them to give you. That’s not something you can approach women whose tweets you don’t agree with and demand. And it’s the passion for that which is so evident in the way he carries himself, it’s almost off-putting and inauthentic at times. It can’t be overlooked. It has been so evident, J. Cole dedicated an entire verse to him on the track “False Prophets”:
I got a homie, he a rapper and he wanna win bad
He want the fame, the acclaim, the respect that’s been had
By all the legends, so every time I see him, he stressin’
Talkin’ ’bout, ni–as don’t f–k with him, this sh-t is depressin’
And I know he so bitter he can’t see his own blessings
God–n, ni–a, you too blind to see you got fans, ni–a
And a platform to make a classic rap song
To change a ni–a’s life, but you too anxious livin’ life
Always worried ’bout the critics who ain’t ever f–kin’ did it
I write what’s in my heart, don’t give a f–k who f–kin’ with it
But in a sense I can relate, the need to be great
Turns into an obsession and keeps a ni–a up late
Writin’ words, hopin’ people observe the dedication
That stirs in you constantly, but intentions get blurred
Do I do it for the love of the music or is there more to me?
Do I want these ni–as to worship me?
And not to mention, for all of the aforementioned passion, there hasn’t been a strong evolution in terms of the type of music Wale puts out. It’s not bad, it’s not fantastic. It’s the type of music you hear at day parties. Music you could possibly catch on VH1 Soul (now called BET Soul). Something you’ll definitely hear in D.C. and enjoy. You’ll hear the hooks, sung by some of your favorite crooners, and sing along. It’s music you can bop to, but that you might not feel so inclined to save in your streaming catalog. And truth be told, it’s hard to wholly support someone whose focus is more on wanting your praise, but not necessarily working that hard to diversify the product they’re offering to you to receive it.
So while there may be truth to the idea that colorism and being Nigerian American could have something to do with why he doesn’t have the type of appeal of his cohorts, it also wouldn’t hurt for Wale to evaluate his own behaviors and role in where his career is, as well as why he wants to be in the business in the first place. Because while there’s nothing wrong with passion, but it pays to be passionate about the right things — what you can control. And that’s the music, not the reception to it, or the prominence you obtain from it.