Folarin II - Wale
Wale's seventh studio album, Folarin II is the first he's delivered since 2019's Wow... That's Crazy, which is a pretty great record in my opinion. The emcee hailing from Washington DC has been a touted lyricist for over a decade and signed to Rick Ross's Maybach Music Group. I am a fairly new fan of Wale although his skill is apparent, it's easy to see why he is often left out of the conversation when discussing the best rappers around, his inability to stand out. Though Wale has great lyrics and an amazing fun, his sound can blend into the background as there is nothing distinct about his sound. I was obviously excited for Folarin II as I do enjoy Wale a good bit but also anticipating something new, some upgrade in quality from him.
The intro, New Balances, is not quite the best step in the right direction for Wale, as it kicks the album off with a tired trap beat. His flow is fast and aggressive, rapping about how nothing has changed for him and he's just living. Wale's flow is fun but overall the track does more than conform to the modern soundscape of hip-hop than try to evolve his own style, which is unfortunately a good prelude to the rest of the record. Name Ring Bell spices it up with a more exotic beat with a laid back drum pattern and fun vocal samples. Wale slows down the pace from the emphatic opener, but causes the track to get stale by the second verse, and like New Balances, the track is good but there is nothing that is keeping you coming back to it. Poke It Out is one of Wale's more vocally ambitious tracks, where he exercises the range of his voice often. Unfortunately it falls flat with a generic and poorly-written chorus, and a J. Cole verse I never needed to hear. It's a pretty great verse but I never wanted to hear Cole rapping about girls dancing at the club and it just sounds so out of pocket for Cole and even demeaning at times. Poke It Out has a lot of personality and flair but just ends up sounding like a wannabe club banger.
Wale steps it up on Tiffany Nikes with a catchy and boastful chorus, over a triumphant instrumental. The horn progression on the beat makes Wale's braggadocious raps even more impactful and he is brimming with personality on this lively song. Wale continues his streak of impressive flows over the slowed and intimate instrumental of Caramel. The soulful sample coincides very well with this rap love song from Wale, though it is a weaker lyrical moment on the record. On Fluctuate Wale discusses change throughout his verses; specifically getting into his relationships with friends and peoples opinions of him and how they evolved over time. His chorus is passionate but not too memorable and the beat has a nice sample but nothing here with any real impact. The pace picks up on Light Years, which has a soulful boom-bap beat and Wale's best rapping performance on the record. His lyricism is great, reflecting on his life and career thus far, as well as his time under Rick Ross's Maybach Music Group which he is signed to. Rick Ross brings the heat of course, on a verse that is lavish and commanding as we expected, only classing this track up more.
Angels is another quality song with an upbeat, fun and synth heavy instrumental. Chris Brown gives an amazing chorus and his energy is just infectious as he seems to sing his heart out. Wale gives us solid, lively verses filled with clever bars and good vibes. Dearly Beloved is a complete tonal shift to a grim ballad where Wale confides in us on with his relationship problems. He cues us, the listeners, into the pain he is feeling in a way we can understand easily, but does not dive any deeper than surface level with it. Much Love is another switch to a more exotic sound with a dynamic instrumental, but vulnerable, personal lyricism from Wale remains constant. He raps about feeling like he doesn't know himself, being under appreciated by the industry and overall feelings of loneliness. The chorus can get repetitive and doesn't fit well into the track at all and takes away from what was a deep moment from Wale. The instrumental on Jump In is vibrant and electronic, and Lil Chris's chorus blends into it very well. Wale gives one of his more entertaining performances on the album, using fun flows and dropping clever bars throughout. This song is actually quite enjoyable but is really left field compared to everything else.
Down South is the one true banger than Folarin II has to offer; It has a high tempo and is overflowing with energy. It is produced by none other than Harry Fraud and allows for everyone to shine. Wale's chorus brings energy that we haven't seen yet on this record and his verse certainly matches it and he's the hungriest he's been in awhile. Yella Beezy also brings a lot of energy with his southern flair and lively flow that make up for his lack of lyricism. Maxo Kream keeps up the trend of amazing verses with his distinct delivery and flows and clever lyricism that we saw on WEIGHT OF THE WORLD. Extra Special is a bland track. Ant Clemons chorus is grating on the ears at points and Wale brings some energy but doesn't really leave anything worth coming back for. Fire & Ice is your typical Wale love song with layered vocal samples and a catchy but simultaneously boring chorus. He is able to keep the track entertaining but it is nothing good. The outro track, Beverly Blvd is a triumphant end to the record with a beautiful soul sample woven in. Wale reflects on making it to the top and being in a league of its own, with one of his best lyrical efforts found on Folarin II, as he flashes his once consistent greatness yet again to this closer.
Folarin II is a good album but nothing better than that. The project seriously lacks ambition as Wale has a handful of tracks that sound like club songs and standard trap music, regressing his creative growth compared to his prior records. He does have several highlights like Beverly Blvd, Light Years and Down South but nothing that is too refreshing, just ideas that are executed very well. The production is really devoid of any personality on most of the record, leaving Wale to do the heavy lifting, which he does a good but not great job of. His lyricism is still pretty great here with his flows being the best quality, but not much stands out strongly.